Breaking Down Thursday Night’s NCAA Hoops Action

The Florida Gators are led into the Sweet Sixteen by guard Scottie Wilbekin.

Here are the match-ups for the opening night of the Sweet Sixteen.

Florida (-4.5) vs. UCLA – The Gators have been college basketball’s most consistent team in my opinion all year and they once again showed why when they held Pitt to just 45 points to advance to the Sweet 16. The Florida defense ranks third in the country in defensive scoring and the challenge for the UCLA Bruins will be immense.

I think the Bruins’ success against the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 tournament will serve them well against Florida because the Wildcats played excellent defense as well. My concern for Florida is whether they can score enough if the defense isn’t clicking. The Bruins rank 12th in the country in scoring so something will have to give in this game.

My gut feeling tells me this will be the one game that really challenges the Gators and should they come through it, the title could well be in reach. I like them to win, but I think its razor thin so take the Bruins getting the points.

Former Duke Standout Johnny Dawkins has Stanford playing extremely well entering their game with Dayton.

Dayton (+3) vs. Stanford – 11th seed Dayton takes on 10th seed Stanford in the only match-up of double-digit seeds in the tournament. The Flyers are the definition of “survive and advance” as they won their two tournament games by a grand total of three points over Ohio State and Syracuse.

Devin Oliver is the catalyst for Coach Archie Miller’s team. He leads in assists, rebounds and is second in scoring at 12 points per game.

The Cardinal hasn’t exactly had blowout wins in their first two games either. They’ve defeated New Mexico and Kansas by a total of eight points. Head Coach Johnny Dawkins seems to have his team peaking at the right time. Dayton has been a great story so far in this tournament but there’s a reason the Pac-12 has done decently. I like Stanford to cover and move on.

Baylor (+3.5) vs. Wisconsin – The Baylor Bears entered the NCAA Tournament as hot as almost any team and so far they’ve stayed that way. I have to believe this may be the most athletic team Wisconsin has seen in some time if not all season.

There’s no secret as to what the Badgers will be aiming to do on Thursday night. They will play excellent team defense, will rebound and will be patient and efficient on the offensive end of the court. Baylor cannot afford to get frustrated by the pesky Badgers who play a very ‘in-your-face’ style of defense.

The coaching match-up is fascinating with the veteran Bo Ryan and the rising coaching star in Scott Drew. ways concerns me with Coach Ryan is that he has teams that seem talented enough to get to the Final Four but they always seem to fall short. This is odd considering his four titles at lower levels of NCAA basketball.

I like Baylor getting the points because of their ability and athleticism but I always think the Badgers will miss being close to home as they were last weekend.

San Diego State (+6.5) vs. Arizona – These two West Coast teams actually hooked up once already this season. It was a 69-60 win for the Wildcats but it was way back on November 14th of 2013. Much has changed in that time for both teams in terms of player personnel, injuries and experience gained.

That was the Aztecs second game of the season and they wouldn’t lose again until February 22nd. I guarantee you that Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller is not overlooking this game in any way, shape or form.

The Wildcats will ride their defense which is ranked fifth in nation in points allowed. The Aztecs will counter with guard Xavier Thames who runs Coach Steve Fisher’s offense superbly. I really won’t be a bit surprised if SDSU pulls this out but I do like them getting the points in an overall victory for Arizona.