Now that the original 64 college basketball teams have whittled down to a mere 16, the NCAA 2012 March Madness is starting to heat up. Each team knows it's sweet to still be around, but that doesn't mean they aren't striving for more. This week will see those 16 dwindle to a mere eight teams. Who will survive and how will your bracket fair? Check out The Christian Post's previews for everything you need to know before Thursday and Friday's Sweet 16 match-ups.
In the Midwest:
North Carolina (1) v. Ohio (13)
Game Time: 7:45 p.m., Friday (March 23)
Where the Action Is: The story of this game will be whether the lack of North Carolina's point guard Kendall Marshall will allow Ohio to stay alive in the tournament.
In the waning minutes of UNC's round of 32 win, Marshall went down with a fractured right wrist. It is doubtful that he will play in tomorrow night's Sweet 16 game. Without Marshall, the UNC Tar Heels will be forced to shift their offense and rely more on their big men in the paint.
But that doesn't mean the Ohio Bobcats will have an easy victory by any means. The Tar Heels have a triple-threat down low with their three forwards, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, and Harrison Barnes. In fact Barnes leads the team in average points per game with 17.4.
Ohio is a much smaller team than UNC with just two big men in the starting line up. Ohio's offense usually revolves around guards Walter Offutt and D.J. Cooper. To win this game the Bobcats have to keep the ball away from UNC's big men. On offense their guards have to be aggressive and strike the Tar Heels where they're weak.
Players to Watch: Tar Heel leading scorer Harrison Barnes will be on center stage Friday night, as he will be relied upon all the more with Kendall Marshall side-lined. It will also be interesting to watch how Marshall's replacement, back-up point guard freshman P.G. Stilman White will step up and attempt to fill the much need role.
For Ohio, expect big things from D.J. Cooper. The Bobcat point guard averages 14.6 points per game and 5.7 assists per game-and there's a chance he could perform even better on Friday night. Attacking the hole left by Kendall Marshall will rest on Cooper's shoulder as he will be marking up with Marshall's replacement.
Christian Post Pick: UNC Tar Heels. Even without Marshall, UNC is a solid team, and Ohio just doesn't have the big men to fend the Tar Heels off.
Kansas (2) v. North Carolina State (11)
Game Time: 10:17 p.m., Friday (March 23)
Where the Action Is: Weaving a Cinderella story, North Carolina State is fresh off upsetting the three-seeded Georgetown in the round of 32. They came back from a 10-point deficit at halftime to squeak by and win the game by just three points. And the N.C. State Wolf Pack might just have another upset victory in them.
Especially considering that Kansas' star big man Thomas Robinson isn't having the best tournament. In last round's game against Purdue, Kansas was nearly knocked off. They ended up winning by three points. The Kansas Jayhawks struggled because Purdue centered their defense around containing Robinson. Thomas Robinson hit just two of 12 shots from the field, and finished with a total of only 11 points-it's his fourth worst scoring performance all year.
Players to Watch: Of course it will be interesting to see how Kansas' Thomas Robinson will perform. Can N.C. State's defense be as detrimental to him as Purdue's was? Also take notice of Kansas Jayhawk's point guard Elijah Johnson. It was because of his personal offensive rally that Kansas was able to overcome Purdue.
Keeping it interesting on N.C. State's side will be C.J. Leslie. The sophomore forward will mot likely match up against Thomas Robinson and will be responsible for much of the burden of stopping him.
Christian Post Pick: Kansas Jayhawks. N.C. State has had an impressive run, but there's little evidence that they can overcome the Jayhawks. Just because Purdue could slow Thomas Robinson down doesn't mean N.C. State can do the same.