Sweet 16 Matchups: Games Ranked By Excitement

    The Sweet 16 matchups have been set. We rank each of the eight games based on excitement.

    March 21, 2016

    The eight Sweet 16 matchups have been set. We rank them based on their level of excitement.

    Is this the wildest, most unpredictable NCAA Tournament in college basketball history? The argument can certainly be made. The opening round saw the likes of Hawaii, Yale, Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Middle Tennessee State steal the nation’s collective heart with upsets over some of college hoops’ elite programs.

    And that’s just the start.

    This tournament has featured stellar individual performances, neck-and-neck battles, and game-winning buzzer-beaters from as far back as the half court line. 

    As the famous saying from Gladiator goes, “Are you not entertained?” You certainly should be.

    This year in particular, the essence of everything we love about college hoops is being captured in one epic tournament, and that excitement is bound to roll over into the second weekend of the Big Dance.

    With the Sweet 16 set to begin on Thursday, March 24, here are the excitement rankings for the upcoming eight games.

    8. Oregon vs. Duke

    This is the first time these two teams will have met in the NCAA Tournament. They’re both very talented and have the potential to make the Final Four, so why last on the list? 

    Well, Oregon let St. Joseph’s hang around throughout all 40 minutes of the second round matchup, barely pulling away at the end for the win.

    Duke, meanwhile, looked flawless in the first half of its game against Yale. The Blue Devils followed that with a sluggish performance in the final 20 minutes, allowing the Bulldogs to creep back into the contest. Sure, Duke won, but Coach K’s team took its foot off the gas pedal in a big way.

    This will still be a good game, but each team’s previous performances knock it down to the cellar of the Sweet 16 matchups. 

    7. Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin

    Wisconsin’s buzzer-beating three pointer was breathtaking. The Badgers are on cloud nine right now, especially in comparison to the measly 47 points they dropped in their first-round matchup.

    Similarly, the Fighting Irish barely escaped the 14-seeded Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, finishing the game in nail-biting fashion.

    This will undoubtedly be a fun Sweet 16 matchup, but after Notre Dame’s narrow victory and Wisconsin’s extremely disheartening first-round performance, this ranks near the bottom.

    6. Virginia vs. Iowa State

    What happens when the nation’s best defensive unit goes head-to-head with one of college basketball’s most dynamic offenses?

    Fans win.

    The Cyclones have the likes of Georges Niang, Monte Morris, and Jameel McKay to aggressively attack the rim, control the boards, and stretch the floor. But no one executes such suffocating defense quite like the Hoos. Virginia’s defensive abilities are good enough to give any team in the country fits.

    So why isn’t this game ranked higher? Virginia’s defensive abilities are just too good. Iowa State is great, but the Hoos’ defense should handily win the battle against the Cyclones’ offense, taking away from some of the game’s luster.

    5. Gonzaga vs. Syracuse

    The Zags and the Orange have emerged in the Midwest bracket.

    Wait, what?

    A squad in serious jeopardy of snapping its current 18-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances and a team that everyone, except the committee, had on the outside looking in are in the Sweet 16?

    You better believe it. Eleventh-seeded Gonzaga looked excellent in wins over 6-seed Seton Hall and 3-seed Utah. Tenth-seeded Syracuse pulled off the nice upset over Dayton and handled a Middle Tennessee State squad that made history over Michigan State days prior.

    Two double-digit seeds. Two teams exceeding all expectations. This will be a fun game.

    4. Kansas vs. Maryland

    This may come as a surprise to some people. Why would the nation’s hottest team, Kansas, not be ranked at the top of the list?

    Well, that’s exactly it: the Jayhawks are playing so well right now, they’re going to be favored pretty heavily.

    Maryland is a fantastic team and Melo Trimble is one of the best players in the country, but the Jayhawks are just on another level right now. No one can compete with them at the moment, and faith in the Terps is slowly dwindling, especially after letting Hawaii stick around for so long.

    3. Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M

    Before anything else, everyone take a moment to stop and truly appreciate Texas A&M’s comeback win over Northern Iowa that simply defies logic. The Aggies were down 10 points with just over 30 seconds to go, and somehow, someway, won it in double overtime.

    It doesn’t make sense. Even when you watch the replay, it doesn’t make sense. But it happened. Just let that sink in.

    Okay, with that said, this will be a very entertaining Sweet 16 matchup. Both teams boast a balanced offense, play with a ton of heart, and constantly make the highlight reels. The slight edge has to go to Oklahoma, though, because Buddy Hield. But don’t count the Aggies out. If they can beat UNI given the circumstances they faced, they can do anything.

    2. Villanova vs. Miami

    Villanova has made it back to the Sweet 16 and seems to have silenced all the doubters. But can the Wildcats further prove their legitimacy with a win over a talented Miami Hurricanes squad?

    It won’t be easy, but the Cats have the talent to do so. Ryan Arcidiacono is a true floor general, and Villanova boasts a very balanced scoring attack that is key in this time of year. In their blowout win over Iowa, the Cats received hefty contributions from virtually every player that saw the court.

    Miami, meanwhile, has two bonafide stars in Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan. These two operate as one of the most dynamic duos in college basketball. The real question for the Canes is whether or not the remaining cast can do enough to support its superstars.

    This isn’t quite the caliber of the next game on the list, but it will surely make for one heck of a battle.

    1. North Carolina vs. Indiana

    The last time these two teams met in the NCAA Tournament some guy named Michael Jordan was suiting up for the Tar Heels, and a couple of guys named Dean Smith and Bob Knight were roaming the sidelines. Heard they had pretty good careers.

    If this is anything like the Hoosiers’ matchup against Kentucky, we are in for a special treat. These are two teams that are more than capable of reaching the Final Four, and it’s a shame that this matchup is coming when it is.

    The battle of Marcus Paige vs. Yogi Ferrell is going to be the talk of the town, and rightfully so. After such an exhausting battle against Tyler Ulis last week, does Yogi have enough in the tank to take on another elite point guard like Paige? It’s never a good idea to underestimate the Indiana star, but it’s an area of concern.

    What is not an area of concern, though, is the intensity of this game. Two of the nation’s most dynamic offenses will square off in the best Sweet 16 matchup this year, and there’s virtually no way to confidently guess who will prevail. You won’t want to miss this one.

    MORE: Sweet 16 Schedule And Predictions


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