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Sweet 16 Thursday Previews, Schedule, Odds, Open Thread

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Who will win on the play-hard chart tonight?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-San Diego Practice Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Half of the Elite 8 will be set by midnight tonight; who ya got?

SCHEDULE (All times Central)

11 Loyola vs 7 Nevada, 6:07 PM, CBS, Atlanta, GA

This is basically a pick ‘em game, with Loyola a 1-point favorite at 5Dimes but Nevada a 1.5-point favorite at Bovada. Loyola hasn’t seen an Elite 8 since 1963, when they won the whole darn thing, although the NCAA Tournament only sported 25 teams at that time. (Fun fact, Allen Fieldhouse hosted the Midwest Region that year.) Nevada has never played in an Elite 8 game, and this is their second ever appearance in the Sweet 16 (2004).

Dumb Prediction: Nevada has a top-10 offense (per KenPom) and a very mediocre defense. Additionally, the Wolfpack are the best team in the country in taking care of the ball, with a 13.5% turnover rate. Meanwhile, Loyola is a top-30 defense, with a top 10 mark in Effective FG percentage, as they finished in the top-15 in both 2P% and 3P%. Both teams can shoot, so let’s roll with the team that can stop people occasionally. Loyola 88, Nevada 83.

7 Texas A&M vs 3 Michigan, 6:37 PM, TBS, Los Angeles, CA

The Wolverines are a pretty consistent 2.5-point favorite across the board in this one. Michigan looks to return to the Elite 8 for the third time in six years, while Texas A&M has never made it past the Sweet 16.

Dumb Prediction: A&M is another one of those great defense (top-10) with an average offense teams, most of which didn’t make it out of the first weekend (looking at you, Virginia and Cincinnati). One more thing the Aggies do well is rebound their misses, at 34% for the year. Meanwhile, Michigan has a top-5 defense to go with a top-40 offense. The Wolverines also don’t turn the ball over much, ranking 4th in turnover percentage at 14.0%. The numbers say Michigan wins, and I agree. Michigan 77, Texas A&M 66.

9 Kansas State vs 5 Kentucky, 8:37 PM, CBS, Atlanta, GA

The Wildcats are favored by 5 in this one. Er, the Kentucky Wildcats, that is. This particular battle of generic mascots will tip off 30 minutes following the conclusion of Loyola-Nevada. Despite mediocre regular seasons, both of these teams look to take advantage of a busted bracket and get to a Final Four through a region that has seen its top 4 seeds already eliminated. K-State hasn’t seen the Elite 8 since 2010, while Kentucky is looking for its seventh Elite 8 in the last nine years.

Dumb Prediction: This game comes down to how Kentucky plays - sorry, K-State fans. If Kentucky brings it’s A game, and maybe even it’s B+ game, KSU won’t stand much of a chance against Kentucky’s height, length, size, and athleticism. If K-State can figure out how to turn this into rock fight, they may have a chance, but they’ll have to keep Big Blue under 70 points. If anyone can figure it out, it’s Bruce Weber, but does he have enough to work with? Kentucky 75, Kansas State 62.

9 Florida State vs 4 Gonzaga, 9:07 PM, TBS, Los Angeles, CA

The Zags are a 6-point favorite to advance over the Seminoles in the late game Thursday evening. After a run to the title game last year, Gonzaga looks to make it three Elite 8 appearances in four years, while Florida State hasn’t seen the Elite 8 since 1993.

Dumb Prediction: Gonzaga is one of those vaunted top-20, or in their case, top-15 offensive and defensive teams per KenPom. The Seminoles aren’t slouches themselves, ranking in the top-60 in both of those categories. Plus, Florida State is one of the best shot-blocking teams in the country. The Zags played several high-majors in non-conference play (Ohio St, Florida, Texas, Okla St, Nova, Wash), so they should have a frame of reference for FSU’s length. Gonzaga 85, Florida State 76.