Sports

The Biggest X-Factors in Every Sweet 16 Game

2018 Men’s NCAA Tournament

After the first weekend of the tournament, the term March Madness has never been more appropriate. But there’s still more to come.

Here’s what the Sweet 16 matchups look like:

South Regional

Atlanta

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KENTUCKY (5) vs. KANSAS ST. (9)

Decisive battle
Half-court game

Kentucky has seemingly bought into the idea of being a defensive-minded team in the second half of the season, which will be put to the test against a K-State team that will try to slow the tempo of this one to a crawl.

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NEVADA (7) vs. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (11)

Decisive battle
Loyola’s defense vs. Nevada’s offense

Loyola is going to try to slow the tempo with its pack-line defense that has been a recipe for success, but Nevada has averaged 83 points per game this season. Something has to give.

West Regional

Los Angeles

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GONZAGA (4) vs. FLORIDA ST. (9)

Decisive battle
Offensive efficiency

These two teams have deep benches and rosters that are stocked with athletic wing players. It will come down to which offense can build some momentum and limit turnovers.

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MICHIGAN (3) vs. TEXAS A&M (7)

Decisive battle
Michigan’s post defense

The Wolverines will have to handle four big bodies in the paint in the Aggies’ rotation: Robert Williams (6’10”), Tyler Davis (6’10”), Tonny Trocha-Morelos (6’10”), and DJ Hogg (6’9”).

East Regional

Boston

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VILLANOVA (1) vs. WEST VIRGINIA (5)

Decisive battle
Offensive efficiency vs. defensive intensity

This matchup will see arguably the most efficient offense in the nation in Villanova go toe-to-toe with a West Virginia team built around its full-court press. Whoever wins that battle wins the game Friday — it’s as simple as that.

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PURDUE (2) vs. TEXAS TECH (3)

Decisive battle
Interior defense

The health of Purdue’s Isaac Haas plays a big part. It’ll be up to him to control the paint against a Tech team that likes to attack the basket. A healthy Haas could also create matchup problems for the fairly undersized Red Raiders.

Midwest Regional

Omaha

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KANSAS (1) vs. CLEMSON (5)

Decisive battle
Kansas’ offense vs. Clemson’s defense

Kansas ranks No. 5 in KenPom’s offensive efficiency ratings. Clemson’s defense ranks No. 7 in defensive efficiency ratings. This might be the single best strength versus strength matchup of the Sweet 16.

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DUKE (2) vs. SYRACUSE (11)

Decisive battle
Syracuse’s three-point shooting

Syracuse won’t be able to rely on on their 2-3 zone defense alone. They’ll have to get something going from beyond the arc to beat the Blue Devils.