NCAA Sweet 16 Friday games and what you need to know

The second day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Sweet 16 is Friday, beginning just after 7 p.m, ET. By the end of the night, the Elite Eight pairings will be set.

Here is everything you need to know regarding coverage, along with must-watch storylines as we close out the Sweet 16 of March Madness.

Take a look at the updated bracket. 

MUST-READ STORIES:

– While the country has been transfixed on Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, UNC freshmen duo Coby White and Nassir Little have been pivotal, too.

– Virginia Tech starting guard/forward Ty Outlaw will play against Duke in the Sweet 16 on Friday after being charged with marijuana possession.

– With its head coach suspended, LSU is equipped to handle the turmoil because interim head coach Tony Benford who has been the top man before.

– Houston’s Corey Davis Jr. says he began wearing his shorts, well, shorter almost on a whim. “That’s his swag,” sophomore guard DeJon Jarreau says.

East Regional

Washington, D.C.

No. 2 Michigan State (30-6)  vs. No. 3 LSU (28-6)

Time, TV: 7:09 p.m. ET, CBS

Why Michigan State will win: The Spartans have a blend of youth and experience, led by junior point guard Cassius Winston (18.9 points, 7.5 assists). And they’ve been dominant on the boards, averaging 40.9 rebounds per game, which ranks eighth in the country.

Why LSU will win: The Tigers have displayed nice offensive balance, with four players averaging double figures. They’ve also been clutch in close games, winning 10 of their 14 games that were decided by five points or fewer, including a win over Maryland in the Round of 32.

MORE: LSU interim coach the right fit with Tigers

No. 1 Duke (31-5) vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech (26-8)

Time, TV: approx. 9:39 ET, CBS

Why Duke will win: Zion Williamson. He’s the best player in college basketball and the likely No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. While he has a talented supporting cast, Williamson’s ability to carry the team through tough stretches is huge.

Why Virginia Tech will win: Only four teams have beaten Duke this season, and the Hokies are one of them. Never mind that Williamson was sidelined at the time; Virginia Tech senior point guard Justin Robinson, who returned March 17, missed that first game, too. The Hokies will be at full strength. The school announced Thursday that starting guard Ty Outlaw will be available to play after being charged with marijuana possession. Outlaw was charged in connection with a search warrant that was executed on his apartment last week, when he and the Hokies were playing in the first two rounds of the tournament.

MORE: Virginia Tech’s Outlaw will play after arrest for marijuana possession

Midwest Regional

Kansas City, Missouri

No. 1 North Carolina (29-6) vs. No. 5 Auburn (28-9)

Time, TV: 7:29 ET, TBS

Why North Carolina will win: Nassir Little has found his groove. The freshman seemed to struggle down the stretch in the regular season, a downturn coach Roy Williams blamed on his sprained ankle. But he’s been the catalyst for the Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament, shooting almost 71 percent — yes, you read that right — in the first two rounds. His 19 points against Iona and 20 against Washington were the first time in a month he reached double figures in consecutive games.

Why Auburn will win: Long-range shooting. Auburn leads the country in 3-point shooting, having made 421, and is shooting almost 38 percent from beyond the arc. That rises to 40 percent in the last five games, including a 13-for-30 effort in the 89-75 beatdown of Kansas that got Auburn to the Sweet 16. North Carolina ranks 99th in the country in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 33 percent.

OPINION: North Carolina has a freshmen duo that is phenomenal, too

No. 2 Kentucky (29-6) vs. No. 3 Houston (33-3)

Time, TV: 9:59 ET, TBS

Why Kentucky will win: Depth. P.J. Washington’s status (sprained foot) remains undecided, and coach John Calipari said it’s obvious Kentucky is better with its leading scorer. But the Wildcats have become accustomed to shuffling their lineup. Washington missed the first two games of the NCAA tournament, while Reid Travis missed the last five games of the regular season with a sprained knee. Their absences meant other players — E.J. Montgomery, Nick Richards and Jemarl Baker Jr. — got more minutes, and that kind of experience can be invaluable at this time of year. 

Why Houston will win: Defense wins championships, and the Cougars have a nasty one. Houston leads the country in field goal (36.6 percent) and 3-point (27.8 percent) defense, is fifth in rebounds per game (41.08) and is seventh in scoring defense (61 points). Only five teams have managed to score 70 or more on Houston.

MORE: Houston standout brings unique swag to Sweet 16

Contributing: Nancy Armour, Tom Schad.

 

 

 

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