March Madness: Viewing guide to the Sweet 16, TV time, odds, and game info
The regional semifinal round at the NCAA Tournament begins Thursday night.
Arkansas and Gonzaga get us rolling out of the gates, the first of four games on Thursday night. Arizona, the top seed in the South Region, will take on 5-seed Houston in the nightcap.
On Friday, 4-seed UCLA headlines the action when it takes on 8-seed North Carolina.
Here’s all the info you need for the games.
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 5 Houston
Time: 6:59 p.m. PT, Thursday
Site: San Antonio, TX
Odds: Arizona -1.5, O/U 145
At over 84 points a game, Arizona fields one of the country’s very best offenses, but don’t let the pace-and-space style and the high-flying athletes fool you into thinking this is just a glitz-and-glam team. Arizona has proven time and again this season it can win close and win gritty. The Wildcats certainly proved that against a nasty ninth-seeded TCU squad in the second round.
Arizona is 5-1 in close games this season, per Bart Torvik. It could be in for another lengthy fight against the Cougars, who rank second in KenPom. Arizona, though, has the mark of a legitimate national title threat and despite the buzz leading up to this game that the under-seeded Cougars are the more complete team or the more likely team to win or whatever else has been said, the Wildcats are the more talented team.
Since 2002, only two teams have won a national championship without both a top-20 offense and a top-20 defense. Using KenPom’s adjusted efficiency numbers, 14 of 19 national title winners have had both a top-15 offense and defense. Arizona currently sits seventh and 17th. At times this season, the Wildcats have been in the top five defensively. For practically the entire season they’ve been inside the top 10 offensively. Houston (10th and 10th) will pose one of the toughest challenges yet, but Arizona has passed just about every test it has been presented with so far this season.
The Wildcats have also won eight straight. And they have the second-best field goal percentage defense in the country (using true shooting). Should be a fun one.
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 8 North Carolina
Time: 6:39 p.m. PT, Friday
Site: Philadelphia, PA
Odds: UCLA -2.5, O/U 141.5
North Carolina is the classic “got blisteringly hot at the perfect time” team you see every March. They’ve scored 95 and 93 points in their first two games at the NCAA Tournament. The frontcourt pairing of Brady Manek and Armando Bacot has been remarkable.
UCLA is the tested title threat. The Bruins are one of four teams left in the field with both a top-15 offense and a top-15 defense in KenPom. They’re a little banged up, but they have a malleable defense and no shortage of options to throw at the Tar Heels to try and slow them down.
The Bruins execute well, are coached well, and don’t give the ball away. They’re 21-0 this season when holding their opponent to 65 points or less. When teams score more than 65 points, UCLA is 6-7, including 1-5 when teams reach 70. UNC averages 78.5 points per game. In 5 of their 9 losses, the Heels failed to reach 70.
UCLA can absolutely dictate the pace of this game. If it does, the march back to the Final Four should continue.
The rest of the field
The Thursday games:
- No. 1 Gonzaga (-9.5) vs. No. 4 Arkansas: tipoff at 4:09 p.m. PT on CBS
- No. 2 Villanova (-5) vs. No. 11 Michigan: tipoff at 4:29 p.m. PT on TBS
- No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (-1): tipoff at 6:39 p.m. PT on CBS
And the Friday games:
- No. 3 Purdue (-12.5) vs. No. 15 St. Peter’s: tipoff at 4:09 p.m. PT on CBS
- No. 1 Kansas (-7.5) vs. No. 4 Providence: tipoff at 4:29 p.m. PT on TBS
- No. 10 Miami (-2.5) vs. No. 11 Iowa State: tipoff at 6:59 p.m. PT on TBS