March Madness: 5 storylines to watch for in Sweet 16 round

Final Four teams will be known after this weekend

GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 16: A general view of the court with a March Madness logo is seen during a practice session ahead of the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2023 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) (JARED C TILTON, 2023 Getty Images)

So, are you tired of watching exciting NCAA tournament games after four consecutive days of them?

If you’re like us, of course not!

After a three-day pause, the madness will resume on Thursday with the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.

Here are five storylines to follow.

1. Brotherly rivalry

Thursday’s East region contest between Florida Atlantic and Tennessee will certainly have an interesting dynamic.

Florida Atlantic athletic director Brian White and Tennessee athletic director Danny White are brothers.

2. SEC! SEC! chant for hoops?

Fans of Southeastern Conference schools love chanting SEC! to boast about their superiority as a conference during football and baseball seasons.

Those fans don’t often get a chance to do the same chant during men’s basketball season, but there is reason to do so now.

The SEC is tied with the Big East for most teams still remaining at three. Not only are Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee still alive, but each one has a path to the Final Four that’s achievable, also.

If the SEC gets three teams in the Final Four, fans around the country will never hear the end of the chant.

3. The best matchup is one you might not think

When glancing over the Sweet 16 matchups, Gonzaga vs. UCLA and Xavier vs. Texas appear to be the best ones on paper because they are No. 3 seeds playing No. 2 seeds.

But the best matchup is Arkansas vs. Connecticut in a West region contest of teams way more talented than their seeds.

Arkansas might be a No. 8 seed and was erratic most of the season, but it knocked off defending national champion Kansas in the round of 32 and has two likely NBA first-round draft picks in Anthony Black and Nick Smith.

UConn might be the most complete team left in the tournament. There’s a reason many pundits predicted them to get to the Final Four, or even win the title despite being in the tough West region as the No. 4 seed.

The Huskies have size, depth, shooting and playmakers all along the perimeter. The only thing that might be missing for UConn is a true point guard, but it’s hard to find a weakness otherwise.

4. Texas-sized showdown looming?

If Houston can beat Miami and Texas can knock off Xavier on Friday, the two will meet in a titanic regional final showdown for more than just bragging rights on Sunday.

The battle would not only be for a trip to the Final Four, but for the right to play in the Final Four in their home state since the event will be held in Houston this year. In a state where everything is usually bigger, it wouldn’t get much bigger than that.

5. Paying tribute to Fairleigh Dickinson

OK, this doesn’t have much to do with the Sweet 16 round, although Fairleigh Dickinson did possibly impact the bracket with its historic upset of No. 1-seeded Purdue in an East region first-round game on Friday.

Despite losing to Florida Atlantic on Sunday, how many chills did that give everyone (besides Purdue fans of course) on Friday?

It was only the second time a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed, and Fairleigh Dickinson normally wouldn’t have even been in the tournament.

The only way teams from small conferences can get into the tournament is if they win their conference tournament, and the Knights didn’t do that.

Merrimack beat Fairleigh Dickinson in the Northeast Conference final by one point, but Merrimack was ineligible for the NCAA tournament because they are in the midst of a transition from Division II to Division I.

Fairleigh Dickinson was given the conference’s automatic bid as the runner-up, and the rest is history.

On a side note, if you ever underestimate what athletics can do for a university, look at the publicity (and millions-worth in free advertising) a little-known institution like Fairleigh Dickinson has gotten since that victory.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.