The Second Half Of The NCAA Sweet 16 Is Epic

Remember us? We're the defending National Champions, and we don't plan to give the trophy back! Louisville will continue their attempts to defend their title tonight in the Sweet 16. - David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Today, the second half of the "Sweet 16" games in the 2014 NCAA Tournament unfolds. All 3 of the Pac-12 teams to advance to the Sweet 16 played yesterday, and though Stanford lost by 10 to Dayton, 82-72, and UCLA by 11 to Florida, 79-68, Arizona did push through to Saturday, rallying from behind behind a strong game down the stretch by Nick Johnson, who scored 13 in a row, to down San Diego St. 70-64.

But there's still some general interest in today's games, especially given the circumstances surrounding them.

The Midwest Regional, which is being played in Indianapolis, IN, couldn't have scripted a much better pair of matchups.

The Tennessee Volunteers (24-12, and the 11 seed in the Midwest) takes on the Michigan Wolverines (27-8, and the 2 seed) in the day's first game, at 7:15 PM EDT (4:15 PM PDT), providing an SEC-Big 10 clash.

Tennessee is also the only team that had to play in one of the play-in round games that cut the field from 68 to 64, and so we have the biggest underdog of the weekend, as well as one of the iconic programs in college sports, in Big Blue.

And that's just a warm-up.

The second game in Indianapolis matches the Kentucky Wildcats (26-10, and the 8 seed) of the SEC against their most heated rivals, the defending National Champion Louisville Cardinals (31-5, and the 4 seed) from the American Conference (briefly, before they move on to the ACC next year, another automatic rival to the SEC), tipping at about 9:45 PM EDT (6:45 PM PDT).

Kentucky ended Wichita St.'s run at a perfect season last weekend, and of course, Louisville isn't interested in the fact that most folks see someone else taking the title from them. Just in case this rivalry needed anything to enhance it.

If Kentucky and Tennessee both advance, then Indy gets another epic rivalry game on Sunday, another intriguing twist to a regional that has all 4 teams actually from relatively close by, which should ensure a massive crowd.

If you aren't going, you can catch this one on CBS, which has both halves of the double header.

The East Regional has some great matchups as well, but the real story is the NCAA Tournament returning to Madison Square Garden, long the bastion of the NIT Tournament, for the first time since 1961. It puts the eyes of the nation once again on one of the iconic venues in the country.

And the folks at the Garden got a cross-section from 4 of the countries' Power Conferences to help make it a special occasion.

The opener sends the Connecticut Huskies (28-8, and the 7 seed in the East) against the Iowa State Cyclones (28-7, and the 3 seed) at 7:27 PM EDT (4:27 PDT). UConn is now from the American Conference, but the Huskies are very well known in New York from their Big East Days. Iowa St. represents the "new" Big XII, as in the not from Kansas basketbell component.

The evening's nightcap tips at almost 10 PM EDT (scheduled for 9:57 PM EDT (6:57 PM PDT), but likely to slide a little when the first game runs on), and matches the Michigan St. Spartans (28-8, and the 4 seed in the East) against the Virginia Cavaliers (30-6, and the 1 seed).

B1G fans are still looking for a Michigan-Michigan St. National Championship showdown in Arlington, TX.

Pac-12 fans will identify with Virginia coach Tony Bennett, known to us as the former coach at Washington St.

TBS has the coverage of both halves of the classic event from the Big Apple.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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