NCAA Tournament bracket 2022: Ranking the Sweet 16 games as March Madness rolls on to the regional semifinals

One of the beautiful aspects of March Madness is that you never know which games are going to be the best in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Arizona’s thrilling 85-80 victory over TCU on Sunday, for example, was the final game of the tournament’s first weekend and ended after much of America had gone to sleep. But it was without a doubt the most captivating finish to the first two rounds.

Then, of course, there was No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s amazing No. 2 seed Kentucky in a first round game last Thursday. Some genius at CBS Sports ranked the last among first round games participated in the Big Dance, and it turned out to be one of the biggest disruptions in the history of the NCAA Tournament. That’s why they call it March Madness.

Now that we know the protagonists of this NCAA tournament a little better, it might be easier to predict exactly which Sweet 16 matchups will be most captivating. With four matches set for Thursday and four more set for Friday, the regional semi-final will once again require viewers to make difficult choices for TV viewers. Even if you turn off your second TV again, you will have to select a game for the main screen and decide which one to have the sound on.

So here’s a look at the Sweet 16 matches, ranked in descending order and building against the best as we prepare for another great weekend of college basketball.

Friday, 21:59 | TBS, March Madness Live

It’s just random. This feels like a matchup that would otherwise only happen in November at a tropical resort inside a ballroom that has been transformed into a basketball arena. Alas, it’s a Sweet 16 showdown at the Chicago United Center. Miami has never reached the Elite Eight, but coach Jim Larranaga has experience taking a double-digit seed all the way to the Final Four. He did so with George Mason in 2006. Iowa State, meanwhile, is looking to continue its historic turnaround under first-year coach TJ Otzelberger after the Cyclones only won two games last season.

Thursday, 19:29 | TBS, March Madness Live

Is Michigan the most talented No. 11 seed ever? With five-star rookies Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate playing alongside elite 7-foot sophomore Hunter Dickinson, it’s certainly possible. While fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks brings a critical element of veterans to this group, the Wolverines will have to play beyond their collective years against Villanova. Pointguard Collin Gillespie played a key role from the bench on ‘Nova’s 2018 national team with the title that beat who in the last match? Michigan. Yep, this is a rematch of the 2018 final, which adds another layer of intrigue. But between Gillespie and Villanova’s other veterans, the Wildcats are a much more seasoned team.

Friday at 19.29 | TBS, March Madness Live
If your team has been eliminated, you are definitely rooting for Saint Peter’s now. But if the Peacocks lay an egg in the first half against Purdue, then turn it over to this one. Providence may end up being this console’s last hope to prevent a Final Four full of the sport’s big brands. If Friars can get it done vs. Kansas, then it is guaranteed that the winner of the Midwest Regional will have their first Final Four appearance in at least 35 years. Miami has never been to a Final Four, Iowa State participated in late 1944 and Providence reached late in 1987. Kansas was there just four years ago.

Friday, 21:39 | CBS, March Madness Live
To the extent that blue blood programs can be dormant, that’s what these two teams are. UCLA played second fiddle to Arizona in Pac-12 this season, and North Carolina needed a late rally just to make it to the NCAA Tournament. These programs have won a total of 17 national titles, but with none of them seeded particularly well, the expectation that the number will reach 18 this season is minimal. But with No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 2 seed Kentucky already eliminated from the East Regional, the winner will have an excellent chance of advancing to the Final Four.

Thursday, 19:09 | CBS, March Madness Live
Mark Few and Eric Musselman are only two years apart in age and look like they could be brothers. But they are quite different. Few have spent their entire careers in one place and are reserved for a college basketball coach who allows his players – when he looks at you Drew Timme – to bring the jokes with them. Musselman is one Twitter junkie and sideline fireworks whose resume sounds like a concert tour schedule. Gonzaga is clearly the more talented team, but you could have said the same thing last season about Baylor, as Arkansas took any national champions down to the line in an Elite Eight match.

3. East: (3) Purdue vs. (15) Sankt Peters

Friday, 19:09 | CBS, March Madness Live
Saint Peter’s vs. Kentucky came in as No. 32 in the rankings for the first round. Oops! That mistake will not be repeated as the Peacocks try to keep their magic run alive against Purdue’s infamous offensive attack. Saint Peter’s needs a monster offensive game to keep up with the Boilermakers. But even if that does not happen, it’s just going to be fun to see one of the best NCAA tournament stories ever on the floor again. The Peacocks have strutted their stuff this month and will have the nation – minus Purdue fans – behind them on Friday.

2. South: (1) Arizona vs. (5) Houston

Thursday, 21:59 | TBS, March Madness Live
Chaos. That should be the expectation for this one as Houston and its fierce, physical fire face Arizona’s high-flying attack. There is a certain desperation that both of these teams are playing with and that should make it a captivating game. Even if someone jumps double-digit ahead, you can be sure that there will be a comeback. It’s two chaos teams, and if the end is similar to Sunday’s end between Arizona and TCU, it’s going to be worth it to be up late to see, even if you’re going to work in the morning.

Thursday, 21:39 | CBS, March Madness Live
The following schools are among the locations that Texas Tech’s Mark Adams has trained during Mike Krzyzewski’s 42-year run at Duke: Clarendon College, Wayland Baptist, West Texas A&M, Texas-Pan American, Howard College and Little Rock. After Duke survived a second-round fight with the legendary Tom Izzo of Michigan State, it would be pretty ironic if it was Adams, a junior college coach in rural Texas just a decade ago who finished Coach K’s career. The styles on the field here lend themselves to a fantastic match between Duke’s excellent offensive and Texas Tech’s rough, tenacious defense.

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