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Tom Crean finds March Madness success after starting season on hot seat
0:42 | College Basketball
Tom Crean finds March Madness success after starting season on hot seat
Thursday March 24th, 2016

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Half of the Elite Eight field is set. The other half will join on Friday. The East and Midwest regions weren’t quite as chalky through the first two rounds as the South and West, but we still have some great matchups. In Philadelphia the ACC regular season and tournament champion, North Carolina, will square off against the Big Ten regular season champ, Indiana. In Chicago there is a meeting of powerhouses-turned-Cinderellas, when No. 10 Syracuse meets No. 11 Gonzaga. Among other teams in action are the No. 1 team on kenpom.com (Virginia), and the only team to reach the Sweet 16 each of the past three years (Wisconsin). Combine that with name-brand programs in Iowa State and Notre Dame, and Friday promises to be another exciting day in what has already been an excellent tournament.

7:10 p.m. ET on CBS
Midwest Regional: No. 1 Virginia (28-7, 13-5 ACC) vs. No. 4 Iowa State (23-11, 10-8 Big 12)

MORE: Everything you need to know about: Virginia | Iowa State

One of the greatest tests of wills in the Sweet 16 kicks off Friday’s action in Chicago. Virginia is fourth in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, while Iowa State is second in adjusted offensive efficiency. Both teams have top-tier go-to scorers in Cavaliers senior guard Malcolm Brogdon and Cyclones senior forward Georges Niang, and both have a strong foundation of veteran leadership. This game could really come down to tempo. Virginia plays at the slowest pace in the country, while Iowa State ranks among the top seven percent of the nation's fastest teams. Whichever one is able to control tempo on Friday will likely march on to the Elite Eight.

Georges Niang
David Zalubowski/AP

7:27 p.m. ET on TBS
East Regional: No. 6 Notre Dame (23-11, 11-7 ACC) vs. No. 7 Wisconsin (23-12, 12-6 Big Ten)

MORE: Everything you need to know about: Notre Dame | Wisconsin

These teams each survived a thrilling second-round game, with the Fighting Irish getting a tip-in from backup Rex Pflueger with 1.5 seconds left to beat Stephen F. Austin and the Badgers needing a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Bronson Koenig to knock out No. 2 seed Xavier. Neither team plays fast, as Notre Dame ranks just 321st in adjusted tempo, just barely in front of Wisconsin’s 345th. Both of these teams shoot the three well and struggle at defending it, so we could see monster performances from Koenig and the Irish's V.J. Beachem. The key to the outcome, however, could come in the frontcourt. Wisconsin hasn't gotten much yet from Nigel Hayes and yet they are back in the Sweet 16 anyway, while Notre Dame's Zach Auguste has had games of 10 points and 12 rebounds and 16 points and 15 rebounds in the tournament so far.

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9:40 p.m. ET on CBS
Midwest Regional: No. 10 Syracuse (21-13, 9-9 ACC) vs. No. 11 Gonzaga (28-7, 15-3WCC)

MORE: Everything you need to know about: Syracuse | Gonzaga

It’s the Sweet 16 matchup everyone expected to emerge from the bottom half of the Midwest Region, right? With all due respect to the Orange, no team had an easier path to the Sweet 16 than their route through No. 7 Dayton and No. 15 Middle Tennessee. Gonzaga, meanwhile, had to beat No. 6 Seton Hall, the Big East tournament champion, and No. 3 Utah to get here. In the latter game, the Bulldogs dismantled a Utes team led by a surefire lottery pick in 7-foot sophomore forward Jakob Poeltl. Moreover, the pairing of 6'11" Domantas Sabonis inside and 6'10" Kyle Wiltjer outside could be the perfect way for the Zags to counter Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone. Essentially every predictive metric favors Gonzaga in this game, meaning it could take a Herculean effort from someone like Michael Gbinije or Malachi Richardson for the Orange to continue their improbable run.

9:57 p.m. ET on TBS
East Regional: No. 1 North Carolina (30-6, 14-4 ACC) vs. No. 5 Indiana (27-7, 15-3 Big Ten)

MORE: Everything you need to know about: North Carolina | Indiana

This is an appropriate capper to the Sweet 16, with two of the country’s most storied programs—each of which have won five NCAA tournament titles—fighting for a berth in the Elite Eight. These are two extremely efficient offensive teams, with North Carolina ranking fifth and Indiana eighth in adjusted efficiency. The Hoosiers are fifth in both two- and three-point, while the Tar Heels are dominant on the inside thanks to 6'10" All-America Brice Johnson, 6'8" wing Justin Jackson and 6'9" post players Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, all of whom shoot 54.4% or better on at least 200 two-point attempts. As great as senior point guard Yogi Ferrell is, the key for Indiana just might be freshmen big men Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby. They have to find a way to slow down North Carolina’s interior scorers if the Hoosiers are going to pull off the upset.

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