Last weekend was potentially the most thrilling ofirst- and second-round action in NCAA tournament history, but the second weekend is when the Big Dance is typically its very best. We wouldn’t have madness without upsets, but we get the best matchups of the tournament from the Sweet 16 through the championship game. Just look at Thursday’s slate, which features no team seeded lower than fifth, the No. 1 overall seed (Kansas) and the regular season champions from the Big 12 (the Jayhawks), Big East (Villanova) and Pac-12 (Oregon), plus the defending national champions (Duke) and the likely national player of the year (Oklahoma's Buddy Hield). Get ready for another thrilling weekend.
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7:10 p.m. ET on CBS
South Regional: No. 2 Villanova (31-5, 16-2 Big East) vs. No. 3 Miami (27-7, 13-5 ACC)
These teams are near mirror images of one another. They both play at a slow pace, with Villanova ranking 257th in the country in tempo, according to kenpom.com, and Miami at 276th. The Hurricanes start three seniors and two juniors, while the Wildcats have three upper classmen in their starting five. Miami is great inside the arc and at the free throw line; Villanova is elite at both. The difference could come at the three-point line, where the Hurricanes, at 36.9%, are slightly better than the Wildcats (35.1%) from three-point range and do so on about seven fewer attempts per game. Expect a close game.
7:37 p.m. ET on TBS
West Regional: No. 2 Oklahoma (27-7, 12-6 Big 12) vs. No. 3 Texas A&M (28-8, 13-5 SEC)
The Sooners may be the No. 2 seed in the West, but they’ve been seen as the favorite to come out of this region since Selection Sunday, and despite getting closer than expected games against Cal State-Bakersfield and VCU, that is still the general consensus. The Aggies, meanwhile, had to pull off the biggest comeback in the history of college basketball just to get here. They erased a 12-point deficit in the final 44 seconds of regulation against Northern Iowa in the second round and then won in double overtime. Still, here they are, with the task of slowing down Buddy Hield to get to the Elite Eight. Can A&M's defense, ranked 12th by adjusted efficiency, contain Oklahoma from behind the arc? The answer to that question could decide the outcome.
9:40 p.m. ET on CBS
South Regional: No. 1 Kansas (32-4, 15-3 Big 12) vs. No. 5 Maryland (27-8, 12-6 Big Ten)
Maryland, which is 6.5-point underdogs against Kansas, has not won a game this season in which it wasn’t favored. That’s bad news when you’re playing the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. The Terrapins certainly have the individual talent in point guard Melo Trimble, shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon and center Diamond Stone to hang with the Jayhawks, but that hasn’t helped them against top-tier competition all season. Kansas, which is now going on two months since its last loss, is incredibly balanced on both ends of the floor, with stars in Wayne Selden on the wing and Perry Ellis down low, and it will present Maryland arguably its toughest defensive challenge of the season.
9:55 p.m. ET on TBS
West Regional: No. 1 Oregon (30-6, 14-4 Pac-12) vs. No. 4 Duke (25-10, 11-7 ACC)
Thursday night wraps up with what should be an electrifying offensive show between the Ducks and the Blue Devils. Neither of these teams is all that interested in playing defense, while both are among the top-11 teams in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. Duke has the two best players in the game in Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen, but Oregon can absolutely abuse the Blue Devils on their defensive glass, and they’re not exactly hurting for individual talent with forwards Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook and freshman guard Tyler Dorsey in the lineup. The team that is able to get stops in the last few minutes of the game will likely march on to the Elite Eight.