After an exciting first weekend, the 2016 NCAA Tournament heads to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds this weekend.
In the South regional, the action shifts to Louisville, Kentucky. Regional semi-final games will be played at the KFC Yum! Center on Thursday, March 24, followed by the final on Saturday, March 26. The South regional consists of the Kansas Jayhawks, Villanova Wildcats, Miami Hurricanes, and Maryland Terrapins.
The last time Kansas and Maryland faced off in the NCAA tournament, the teams did so in the 2002 Final Four. Maryland went on to win that match-up and the national championship. The Terrapins — under former Jayhawks player Mark Turgeon — will attempt to repeat that outcome in hopes of advancing beyond the Sweet 16 for the first time in 14 years.
Meanwhile, Miami is looking to advance beyond the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. To do so, the Hurricanes will have to defeat a Villanova squad that has advanced to the Elite Eight round 10 times since 1970. The Wildcats are looking to make their fifth Final Four appearance by winning the South region.
The following is game previews of the two Sweet 16 match-ups.
No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (32-4) vs. No. 5 Maryland Terrapins (27-8)
Kansas reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 16 Austin Peay in the first round and No. 9 Connecticut in the second round. Wayne Selden, Jr. has become the Jayhawks’ go-to player this post-season, scoring 14 points in the opening round blowout and 22 points in the victory over the Connecticut Huskies. Perry Ellis is also getting into the act for his last NCAA tournament, adding a combined 42 points through the first two games. Kansas – who came in as the team picked to win the NCAA Championship in one out of every four brackets filled out by ESPN users – continues to have favorable match-ups with the remaining South teams to reach the Sweet 16.
Maryland reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 12 South Dakota State in the first round and No. 13 Hawaii in the second round. The Terrapins use an attacking-style offense to get to the basket, forcing their competition into 40 personal fouls during their 2016 NCAA Tournament games. Maryland has converted their opponents’ defensive miscues into points, going 52-of-58 from the free throw line in the two games leading up to the Sweet 16. Sophomore guard Melo Tremble has been the standout for Maryland during the team’s first and second round contests, scoring a combined 43 points and gathering 11 rebounds in the victories. The team will need to continue to attack the basket and convert at the free throw line in order to knock off the No. 1 team in the country in the Sweet 16.
No. 2 Villanova Wildcats (31-5) vs. No. 3 Miami Hurricanes (27-7)
Villanova reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 15 UNC Asheville in the first round and No. 7 Iowa in the second round. For the first time since 2009’s Final Four run, the Wildcats have reached the Sweet 16. But ending their March woes was just the first step for Jay Wright and his Villanova squad. Now, the experienced Wildcats will look to advance beyond the Sweet 16 by continuing their torrid shooting – better than 57 percent in the first two contests. Offensively, the team has been balanced throughout 2016 NCAA Tournament contests, as each starter scored between 22 and 30 points in the blowout victories.
Miami reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 14 Buffalo in the first round and No. 11 Wichita State in the second round. To advance past the Sweet 16, the team will continue to rely on their talented point guard Angel Rodriguez, who scored 24 and 28 points in their wins over Buffalo and Wichita State, respectively. In his fifth season, Jim Larranaga has brought his Miami Hurricanes this far in the NCAA tournament before, falling in the Sweet 16 just three years ago. The team will play in a familiar setting, having played there last February.
To view the Sweet 16 East preview, click here.
To view the Sweet 16 Midwest preview, click here.
To view the Sweet 16 West preview, click here.
Which team from the 2016 NCAA Tournament South Region do you expect to advance beyond the Sweet 16 and make a Final Four run this season? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
[Photo by Maddie Meyer & Patrick Smith/Getty Images]