The NCAA tournament enters its second week on March 27. While the first week had the most games and the third will decide the winner of the NCAA tournament, the second week bridges a very important gap. The Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight will forge the Final Four over the next four days, yet it all starts tonight with eight teams and four games kicking off the Sweet 16.
The South and West regional semifinals serve as a kind of under card for the Sweet 16, as it turns out. The East and Midwest regionals have a bit more star power, with showdowns ahead such as the Kentucky Wildcats facing the Louisville Cardinals, and the Virginia Cavaliers taking on the Michigan State Spartans. While those battles have gotten most of the hype this week, the ones in the South and West are more under the radar.
This can change in the South, if anyone other than the Florida Gators advance to the Final Four. The Gators were already favored, as the No. 1 seed that hasn't lost since Dec. 2013. But if Florida beats the UCLA Bruins in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in the last decade, it would only have to beat the 10'th seeded Stanford Cardinal or 11'th seeded Dayton Flyers to reach the Final Four.
The route is somewhat tougher for the top seed in the West, as the Arizona Wildcats would face a second seed or a sixth seed if they beat their own fourth seeded challenger. But the Wildcats do have to focus on beating the San Diego State Aztecs for the second time this season, before looking ahead to facing the Wisconsin Badgers or Baylor Bears in the Elite Eight.
The Gators and Wildcats have largely breezed through the regular season, and survived tougher than expected games against No. 16 seeds before cruising in the round of 32. Things seem to still be breaking Florida and Arizona's way in the NCAA tournament, even as it hasn't for other favorites so far. If that continues for one more week, their seemingly inevitable Final Four berths will be a reality.
The accompanying list details the eight Sweet 16 teams in action tonight, the route they took to get here, and the route still ahead as the Final Four is right on the horizon.