No. 4 Connecticut versus No. 8 Arkansas
Excluding Alabama, the Huskies looked the most impressive of any team over the first weekend but will face their biggest challenge against the lengthy Razorbacks in the Sweet 16. UConn head coach Dan Hurley exorcised his NCAA Tournament demons while Eric Musselman continued to thrive, reaching the second weekend for the third consecutive year.UConn dominated their first two games on the glass, and while Arkansas doesn’t dominate in that area, they have the size to match up and limit the Huskies’ impact on the offensive glass. Limiting the Huskies to one opportunity will be crucial, but slowing down their sharpshooters on the perimeter will decide the game. The Hogs don’t have the firepower to keep up offensively, so slowing the game down will be the key to pulling off another upset out west. The chess match between Hurley and Musselman should be fascinating, especially with how well Hurley has been able to set up his premier shooters early in this tournament. The Razorbacks have the defensive personnel to match up, but there’s a reason they’ve lost 13 games this season despite their considerable NBA talent. In what could be the game of the tournament so far, I think the Razorbacks will get just enough stops to advance to their third consecutive Elite Eight.
No. 2 UCLA versus No. 3 Gonzaga
This is the second weekend matchup that every fan circled when the bracket was revealed last Sunday. The third edition of the Bruins versus the Zags in the NCAA Tournament has the potential to be an all-time classic given its incredible history this century. From Adam Morrison’s heartbreak to Jalen Suggs’ half-court heave, this matchup has delivered in the best of ways in the past. This contest should be no different. Gonzaga’s offense leads the nation in efficiency once again while UCLA boasts a defensive efficiency that ranks second, behind only Tennessee, according to KenPom. The difference is that Gonzaga is fully healthy while the Bruins are dealing with nagging injuries from top to bottom. Without arguably their best defender Jaylen Clark, Mick Cronin will have his work cut out for him trying to slow down the second-fastest offense left in this year’s tournament. Another big time performance from Drew Timme, complemented by a lights-out perimeter effort by Julian Strawther will be too much for UCLA to overcome as the Zags come out on top in an epic rubber match in Las Vegas.
Final Four Prediction:
That leaves us with just No. 8 Arkansas and No. 3 Gonzaga. The Muss Bus ran right through last year’s top overall seed in the Sweet 16 last season, and he’ll have the opportunity to make a lot of noise once again this weekend. With even more talent and length than last year, look for the Razorbacks shock the world and overcome the favorites in their region to advance to their first Final Four in 28 years.