If you're a fan of tradition, tonight's games are going to run especially deep. Some of the most recognizable names in college basketball are on the docket for tonight in compelling match ups full of superstars.
The East and South Regionals take center stage with live action from the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY and NRG Stadium in Houston, TX tonight, respectively. That makes it ironic then that our first game will feature two powerhouses from the west coast. 11th-seeded UCLA is in the midst of a Cinderella run, but the road to Indianapolis goes through the second-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Although a more recent team on the national stage, especially in comparison to the historic dynasty of the Bruins, the Zags are in their 17th consecutive national tournament, 18th overall. They've been a top three seed five times, but they've made it past to the Elite Eight only once: as a #10 seed in 1999 when they lost to top-seeded UConn. This is their first trip to the Sweet Sixteen since 2009, when they lost, 98-77, to North Carolina.
They face UCLA, a team known for its string of seven consecutive national championships. This is their 39th trip to the national tournament, their 25th time to the Sweet Sixteen. That said, this is the lowest-seeded Bruins team to make the regional semifinals.
That gives way to an all-ACC matchup between the East's eighth-seeded NC State Wolfpack and fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals. NC State, a team Boston College defeated late in the season, upset top-seeded Villanova in the Round of 32. This is their first trip to the Sweet Sixteen since 2012, but they haven't advanced to the Elite Eight since 1986. They're hoping to keep this ride going into the Final Four, where Jim Valvano's 1983 "survive and advance" national championship remains the last appearance.
As for Louisville, their first year in the ACC granted them a #4 seed in the east regional. The national champions in 2013, Rick Pitino's team struggled with 13th-seeded UC Irvine in the Round of 64 before defeating Northern Iowa in the Round of 32. In order to advance, they'll have to defeat some recent demons: the Cardinals lost to NC State during the regular season and lost their only other appearance in the Carrier Dome when they lost 69-59 to Syracuse.
The night caps begin with Utah taking on Duke in Houston. Duke's the only top seed playing tonight as they seek their 20th trip the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils haven't been to the Final Four since 2010, when they won the national championship over Butler. They're also looking to belie some past history, although they've exorcised some of it by advancing through the bracket's first weekend this year.
The Utes haven't been to the Sweet Sixteen in 10 years, but a win will send them to their first Elite Eight since 1998. In 1998, they advanced to the national championship game, where they lost to Kentucky.
And in the final game of the day, Michigan State plays Oklahoma. The Sooners last played in the Sweet Sixteen in 2009, which was also their last trip to the Final Four. The road goes through the Spartans, a team known for never being out of any game at any point in any time in the postseason under Tom Izzo. Sure Sparty's a #7 seed, but would you bet against them?
Here's the full lineup with TV station information for tonight's games:
|Friday, March 27, 2015||Time (ET)||TV|
|(11) UCLA Bruins vs. (2) Gonzaga Bulldogs||7:15 PM||CBS|
|(8) North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. (4) Louisville Cardinals||7:37 PM||TBS|
|(5) Utah Utes vs. (1) Duke Blue Devils||9:45 PM||CBS|
|(7) Michigan State Spartans vs. (3) Oklahoma Sooners||10:07 PM||TBS|