We still have the same top-three in the SOJ bracket pool, so there isn't much to update there after Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Arizona pulled off wins last night that they were more or less expected to happen (Wichita State were actually slight favorites).
The Shockers weren't that bad last night, but Notre Dame really put the pressure on after they fell behind in the second half and played fantastic offensive basketball. Wichita State pressed a bit after going down a few possessions and just didn't have the firepower to overcome.
Kentucky effectively put their game with West Virginia to bed before the first media timeout and Wisconsin-UNC played a really great game that went down to the final possessions before the Badgers made their free throws and executed over the last two minutes better than the Tar Heels.
I didn't catch the final game of the night, but the Big East's final team in Xavier put up a fight in their loss to Arizona.
Sweet 16 Previews
(11) UCLA vs (2) Gonzaga - 7:15et, CBS
One has to think UCLA's improbable run comes to an end tonight. Gonzaga beat UCLA by 13 on the road in December in a game that was all but over early in the second half. The Bruins haven't faced the toughest opposition in SMU and UAB and will be up against a stout Zags team that is really playing well. Kyle Wiltjer is a matchup nightmare Przemek Karnowski, is a brute in the paint while sixth man Domantas Sabonis is a more than a serviceable 6-10 sixth man. Unless Kevin Pangos gets shut down, I don't see how the Zags lose this one.
(8) NC State vs (4) Louisville - 7:37et, TBS
Which neutrals outside of Duke/UNC fans are rooting against NC State in this one? The Wolfpack have been so much fun to watch in their wins over LSU and Villanova and bring a ton of entertainment value. Lead guard Anthony "Cat" Barber can blow by just about any defender in the country and should battle against Louisville's Terry Rozier, who had a big-time performance in the Cardinals' win over Northern Iowa.
In the paint, a pair of youngbloods in freshman Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya will test their might against Montrezl Harrell; the three forwards more or less offset in the first meeting, a nine-point road win for NC State. I think the Wolfpack have the edge in bodies up front, but they are a little foul prone; regardless, expect a multitude of dunks. I think the Wolfpack advance to the Elite 8.
(5) Utah vs (1) Duke - 9:45et, CBS
The party line for Utah is that they are a two-pronged attack between future NBAers in guard Delon Wright and freshman center Jakob Poeltl, but a balanced scoring effort with five guys in double figures propelled them past Georgetown. That will need to be the case if the Utes want to pull off the upset tonight in a game that will feature a handful of future NBA players.
Poeltl against lottery pick Jahlil Okafor is a mouth-watering duel as is Wright vs Quinn Cook and/or Tyus Jones. I think Utah will make this closer than most expect, but Duke has more talent from their third through sixth-best players.
(7) Michigan State vs (3) Oklahoma - 10:07et, TBS
It's never safe to bet against Tom Izzo and Michigan State in the NCAA tournament and tonight is no different. The Sooners' path to the Sweet 16 is similar to UCLA's in that it wasn't all that strong, while Sparty took down a tough Georgia team and obviously two-seeded Virginia. Lead guard Travis Trice and forward Branden Dawson have been Michigan State's go-to guys this tournament while scoring guard Buddy Hield and forward TaShawn Thomas are the guys to watch on Oklahoma.
Not a particularly good outside shooting team, the Sooners came out on fire from three against Dayton and it helped them on their way despite the Flyers doing their own damage from long range. This one has the feeling of a game that will be won more within the arc although the Spartans are an efficient 13 of 30 (43%) from three in the tournament. Oklahoma was able to push the pace and wear down a thin Dayton team, but I don't think Michigan State will let that happen tonight and will advance as a result.