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2016 NCAA Tournament Thursday Sweet 16 Preview and Predictions


Thursday night’s Sweet 16 games feature four matchups full of teams that all have the potential to make the national championship game in Houston on April 4. Here is a breakdown of what to expect on Thursday night.

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NCAA Tournament Thursday Sweet 16 Games

Note: All times Eastern, some start times are approximate

No. 3 Miami vs. No. 2 Villanova

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, CBS

Site: Louisville, KY (South Region)

Preview: Guard play is going to be the name of the game when the Hurricanes and Wildcats face off on the banks of the Ohio River. Jim Larranaga’s ‘Canes have been up and down in terms of consistency all season long, and the offense goes as point guard Angel Rodriguez goes. Rodriguez was outstanding on Saturday night against Wichita State, putting up 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting against probably the best defense in the nation. The test doesn't get any easier for Rodriguez against ‘Nova. The Wildcats boast a top-10 defense and offense in terms of adjusted efficiency.

It has always been said that March is won with guard play, and Jay Wright’s has what is the most productive backcourt in the nation. The hard part for Miami will be matching up defensively against a ‘Nova team that essentially starts four perimeter players. The Wildcats’ offensive floor spacing and passing is the best in the nation and a huge reason why they have six “significant contributors” offensive according to KenPom. The Wildcats’ balance on both ends of the floor should send them to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2009.

Prediction: Villanova 75-70

Related: Miami Hurricanes vs. Villanova Wildcats Preview and Prediction

No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

TV: 7:37 p.m. ET, TBS

Site: Anaheim, CA (West Region)

Preview: After the most improbable comeback in college basketball history, storming back from a 12-point deficit with 35 seconds left in regulation against Northern Iowa, the Aggies have the pleasure of trying to shut down the nation’s best player in Sooners guard Buddy Hield! Congratulations! But don’t worry Aggies, the Sooners are going to have to find an answer for one of your own, Danuel House.

House was shut out in the first half against Northern Iowa but responded with 22 points in the second half and both overtimes to help overcome the Panthers. Even with the Aggies’ remarkable comeback still lingering, all eyes are going to be on Hield — and rightfully so. He has been making the argument all season long that he is the best player in the nation, but nothing might have been as convincing as his 29-point outburst in the second half against VCU. Aside from Hield, the Sooners offer more depth than Texas A&M with Ryan Spangler in the post and Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard as complementary pieces to Hield on the perimeter.

While I give the slight edge to the Sooners, I’m fully expecting this game to go down to the wire.

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Prediction: Oklahoma 75-72

Related: Texas A&M Aggies vs. Oklahoma Sooners Preview and Prediction

No. 5 Maryland vs. No. 1 Kansas

TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, CBS

Site: Louisville, KY (South Region)

Preview: We’re about to find out what the Terrapins are all about. Many claim that Maryland has underperformed this season with the likes of Diamond Stone and Melo Trimble in the lineup. But if the Terps can knock off the best team left standing in Kansas and advance to the Elite Eight, there is no way this season could be labeled a disappointment for Mark Turgeon’s club.

As it stands right now, the Jayhawks are the best team in the Sweet 16, by a slim margin over North Carolina. Bill Self’s squad is the complete package. The Jayhawks are a lock-down defensive team, allowing on average 67.9 points per game. Kansas may not have the star power, or NBA lottery pick talent that others in the Sweet 16 have, but this team has the depth and chemistry needed to win a national title. Per 40 minutes, the Jayhawks have 11 players that average a minimum of 12 points per game, and rank in the top 10 in offensive and defensive adjusted efficiency.

Prediction: Kansas 78-70

Related: Maryland Terrapins vs. Kansas Jayhawks Preview and Prediction

No. 4 Duke vs. No. 1 Oregon

TV: 10:07  p.m. ET, TBS

Site: Anaheim, CA (West Region)

Preview: The bracket may have saved the best game of the day for last as the Blue Devils and Ducks battle late out west. Duke looked absolutely spent after nearly blowing a 27-point lead against Yale the second round, while the Ducks proved their mettle against a feisty St. Joseph’s team this past Sunday.

Coach K’s squad isn’t the same as last year’s national champion, as the Blue Devils rely heavily on Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram on the perimeter. After losing senior captain, and ultimate glue man Amilie Jefferson in the post, getting this Duke team to come together and form a new identity on the run, especially after falling out of the Top 25 earlier in the season, has been one of Coach K’s better coaching jobs. Krzyzewski and his staff will have their hands full defensively stopping the balanced scoring attack of Dana Altman’s Ducks, led by Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks.

Oregon is extremely athletic and uses its length and depth to keep teams guessing by interchanging players at different positions. Duke and Oregon rank fourth and 11th, respectively, in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, so scoring shouldn't be an issue in this one. This game is going to come down which team can get stops in crunch time. And after Duke’s near meltdown against Yale, it’s going to be hard betting against Oregon, which is fighting to prove it belongs with the blue bloods of college basketball. Give me the hungry Ducks in a high-tempo toss-up.

Prediction: Oregon 82-81

Related: Duke Blue Devils vs. Oregon Ducks Preview and Prediction