March Madness 2024: Ranking all Sweet 16 games as NCAA Tournament moves to regional semifinals
March Madness 2024: Ranking all Sweet 16 games as NCAA Tournament moves to regional semifinals

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament provided a taste of everything that makes March Madness so amazing. There were upsets, overtimes, unforgettable finishes and heroic individual performances. But when the dust settled, Cinderella was nowhere to be found.

With teams like No. 14 seed Oakland and No. 13 seed Yale falling in the second round after big wins, the second weekend of the Big Dance is shaping up to be a meeting session for the sport’s big boys. While No. 11 seed NC State is an unexpected guest, the Wolfpack is an ACC program with two national titles in its past. That’s hardly the same as a No. 15 seed like Saint Peter’s or Oral Roberts reaching the Sweet 16 as we’ve seen in recent years.

But the lack of a true Cinderella has its advantages, as it creates a series of powerhouse matches involving big brands and elite talent. All No. 1 seeds and No2 seeds are part of the action. So are the big brands like No. 4 seed Duke and No. 5 seed Gonzaga. Outside of NC State, no one worse than No. 6 is still in the running. That means we have to prepare for some heavyweight battles as NCAA Tournament action continues.

As the action approaches, let’s take a closer look at which games are the most compelling by ranking the Sweet 16 games in terms of viewership. Games are ranked in descending order.

All times east

8. South: (2) Marquette vs. (11) NC State

Friday, 19:09 | CBS, March Madness Live
NC State is the lowest-seeded team left in the bracket. If you’re looking for an underdog, the Wolfpack are your team. But after defeating No. 6 Texas Tech and No. 14 Oakland, North Carolina will have its work cut out for Marquette’s dynamic offense. Of course, the Golden Eagles will have to figure out a way to slow down NC State superstar big man DJ Burns, who is a nightmare to break down people and matchups.

Thursday, 19:39 | TBS, March Madness Live
The rematch of the 2023 national title game will offer San Diego State the chance to make the biggest splash of the weekend and secure revenge. The Huskies cut down the nets last season after beating San Diego State 76-59, and a handful of key Aztecs were part of that loss. While Jaedon Ledee is a superstar in the frontcourt, it doesn’t look like the Aztecs have the firepower around him to handle UConn.

Thursday, 19:09 | CBS, March Madness Live
The Caleb Love experience rarely disappoints. Arizona’s leading scorer is a Jekyll and Hyde offensive player. Clemson is a Jekyll and Hyde team. As a result, this is perhaps the most unpredictable matchup of the Sweet 16. Either team can win by double digits. Yes, even Clemson. Arizona has lost several upsets this season, and the Tigers are feeling good after beating No. 3 seed Baylor in the second round.

5. Midwest: (1) Purdue vs. (5) Gonzaga

Friday, 19:39 | TBS, March Madness Live
We’ll find out how much Gonzaga has truly improved over the past four months since falling 73–63 to Purdue on Nov. 20, 2023. The Bulldogs are certainly on the rise, but the Boilermakers were in destruction mode against Utah State in the second round on Sunday, winning 106-67. Let’s hope these teams combine to shoot better than the 10-of-49 from 3-point range they did in the first meeting.

Friday, 30 minutes after Purdue vs. Gonzaga | TBS, March Madness Live
Creighton commits just 11.4 fouls per game, the fewest in the nation by a significant margin. Tennessee is used to scoring 20.1 percent of its points at the free throw line, but will need to make shots from the floor to keep going. Considering the Volunteers shot 33.8% from the floor and 3-of-25 from 3-point range in their second-round win over Texas, it will be interesting to see if they’re up for the challenge.

Thursday, 30 minutes after Arizona vs. Clemson | CBS, March Madness Live
Watching undersized scorers R.J. North Carolina’s Davis and Alabama’s Mark Sears facing off should make for some fascinating offensive theater. The Crimson Tide is No. 1 nationally in points per game at 90.7 and the Tar Heels are No. 20 at 81.8. North Carolina’s defense and supporting cast are better, but if Bama gets hot from deep, it could be a shootout.

Thursday, 30 minutes after the end of UConn vs. San Diego State | CBS, March Madness Live
Oil meets water. Illinois is No. 1 nationally in offensive efficiency, while Iowa State is No. 1 in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. The contrast in styles creates a fascinating match. Iowa State has never faced a team with this much offensive momentum in the Big 12, and Illinois has never faced a team this relentless on defense in the Big Ten.

1. South: (1) Houston vs. (4) Duke

Thursday, 30 minutes after the end of Marquette vs. NC State | CBS, March Madness Live
A year ago, Duke was eliminated in the second round by a Tennessee team that was simply more physical. Now comes a matchup with perhaps the most physical team in college basketball. Are the Blue Devils better prepared to get their season on the line this time around? Seeing this question answered in real time will make it a game you can’t miss.

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