The first rounds are behind us and things are about to get really interesting in the NCAA Tourney. This is my favorite part of the playoffs, when we get down to the Sweet Sixteen and the games start getting tougher. Can the surprise survivors keep the streak going? Will the top seeds live up to their billing? Who has what it takes to make the Final Four?
I still think the most contested battles will be found in the Omaha, Nebraska Regional. All four seeded teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen so we should see some great matches. No. 5 Oregon will face No. 12 BYU, which should be interesting, but I'm especially excited to watch Nebraska take on Washington again, not just because their two coaches almost brawled two years ago, but because this match is usually pretty exciting and both teams have something to prove.
Nebraska probably felt cheated two years ago and followed that up with an early exit from the tournament last year despite a high ranking. Washington probably wants to prove they can beat Nebraska in the Cornhuskers' home state without any help from the officials. This one should be good.
I'm also interested to see how Purdue does when they host No. 8 Minnesota on their home floor. The Boilermakers have had a great run so far, but beating Minnesota will not be an easy feat no matter where they're playing.
There's a little in-state rivalry game going on out in the Berkeley, California Regional as Michigan State will take on Michigan in the first semifinal, a match up I'm sure few saw coming. Michigan State took out defending champs UCLA in a surprising four sets while Michigan eliminated No. 10 Louisville to make the Regional.
The Regional Semifinals begin on Friday. Here are the rest of the match ups:
West Lafayette, Indiana Regional - December 7th
No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 16 Kentucky
No. 8 Minnesota vs. Purdue
Omaha, Nebraska Regional - December 7th
No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 12 BYU
No. 4 Nebraska vs. No. 13 Washington
Austin, Texas Regional - December 7th
No. 6 USC vs. Wichita State
No. 3 Texas vs. No. 14 Florida
Berkeley, California Regional - December 7th
Michigan vs. Michigan State
No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 15 Iowa State