Around March Madness: Gonzaga-UCLA highlights huge second weekend of NCAA Tournament


The NCAA Tournament has been so exciting through the first two rounds, with four games happening at once. But, for the high stakes, the second weekend is way better. You’re able to focus on the games instead of flipping through CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. In this article, we’ll look ahead at the games this weekend. 

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Kansas State (6:30 p.m., TBS) 

There are two matchups in this game to look out for: Michigan State guard Tyson Walker against K-State’s Markquis Nowell, and the coaching battle between Tom Izzo and Jerome Tang. Michigan State is currently a two-point favorite to advance to the Elite Eight, but Kansas State is a tough battle in the Big Apple. Kansas State will need to get big games out of Nowell and All-American forward Keyontae Johnson. These two teams last met in 1996, with the Spartans improving to a 5-2 record against the Wildcats. Michigan State has won 10 of its last 13 Sweet 16 games, while Kansas State has won the last three Sweet 16 games, but has not made a Final Four since 1964. 

No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 4 UConn (7:15 p.m., CBS) 

Eric Musselman and Dan Hurley on opposing sidelines should already be enough to get you excited about this game, as they are the two most animated head coaches in college basketball. The Huskies will need to get over their slow starts if they want to get to the Elite Eight. Both teams have top 15 defenses according to KenPom’s adjusted efficiency category, while UConn’s offense ranks third in the country. Even with the results in close games this season, I do believe the Huskies have the potential to get a close win in Las Vegas. Arkansas is looking for three straight Elite Eight appearances. UConn has made the Elite Eight, and eventually the Final Four the last three times and has not lost in the Sweet 16 since 2003. Don’t miss this one, there’s a lot on the line. 

No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 4 Tennessee (9 p.m., TBS) 

Florida Atlantic has made an improbable run to the Sweet 16, but Tennessee will be their most difficult challenge yet with Tennessee’s top-tier defense. The Vols are looking for just their second Elite Eight, falling to Michigan State in 2010. FAU has never made it this far in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a top 25 matchup inside Madison Square Garden, with one team advancing to Saturday’s regional final. 

No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA (9:45 p.m., CBS) 

When you think of Gonzaga-UCLA, two absolute classics come to mind. First is the 2006 Sweet 16, where UCLA came back after being down 17 to beat Gonzaga. Then we fast forward to the 2021 Final Four, where Jalen Suggs beat UCLA at the buzzer to advance to the National Championship game, keeping their undefeated season alive. Gonzaga and UCLA are two of the best teams in the country. The matchup will be decided when the Zags have the ball, as they have the top offensive efficiency according to KenPom, while UCLA has the second-best defensive efficiency. The last meeting happened in this exact building on Nov. 23, with the Bulldogs overwhelming the Bruins. Despite the success the program has had, they have only been to the Elite Eight five times. Expect another classic between these two schools. 

No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Alabama (Tomorrow, 6:30 p.m., TBS) 

Alabama is a big favorite at 7.5 points going into a Sweet Sixteen matchup in Louisville against San Diego State, one of the best defensive teams in the tournament. The primary focus of the Aztecs will be how they can defend Brandon Miller. Alabama can defend as well, so if it’s close late in the game I wouldn’t be surprised if it was low-scoring. Alabama is trying to make its first Elite Eight since 2004, losing to eventual national champion UConn. San Diego State has been in the Sweet 16 three times but have never gone further than that. Their last time was in 2014. 

No. 5 Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 1 Houston (Tomorrow, 7:15 p.m., CBS) 

Two of the best guards in the country face off: Houston’s Marcus Sasser and Miami’s Isaiah Wong. Miami’s defense is what concerns me in this matchup but both teams have strong offenses as they face off on Friday night. That doesn’t mean Houston has a guaranteed win, as they’re not 100% healthy with Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead playing banged up. Houston is trying to make three straight Elite Eights while Miami seeks back-to-back appearances. Jim Larrañaga and Kelvin Sampson have both made Final Fours, but one of them can get one step closer to another appearance on Friday night in Kansas City.  

No. 15 Princeton vs. No. 6 Creighton (Tomorrow, 9 p.m., TBS) 

Princeton is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1967, when they ended up losing to North Carolina in overtime. Creighton will be a tough team to upset for the Tigers, as they are top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom. It’s the second time these two teams face off, the last time coming in 1961. Will the slipper still fit for the Cinderella team or will Creighton get to the Elite Eight for the first time since the NCAA Tournament went to 64 teams? Find out Friday night in Louisville. 

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 2 Texas (Tomorrow, 9:45 p.m., CBS) 

The Big 12 Tournament champions made their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2008, and they will take on Xavier, a team with a prolific offense. The last two times they made it to the Sweet 16 they went to the Elite Eight. Xavier is looking to make their first Elite Eight appearance since 2017, the last time they got to the regional semifinals as well. Expect two strong teams to face off against one another, with Marcus Carr and Souley Boum facing off in the backcourt. 

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