2017 NCAA Tournament: Preview & Predictions For Friday's Sweet 16 Games

The final half of the Elite 8 will be set tonight with four Sweet 16 matchups on deck. The South Region provides us with the best matchup of the tournament to this point in UCLA vs. Kentucky, along with another marquee game with UNC vs. Butler. In the East Region - the region of Cinderellas - the stage is set for chaos. South Carolina is looking to continue their momentum from knocking off Duke against Baylor, while Wisconsin is looking to do the same against Florida after beating Villanova.

So, what will tonight's games have in store, and who will advance one step further to the Elite 8? Here is a preview and prediction for all four games:

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Butler, 7:09 p.m. ET
South Region | FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tenn.

Of all the games on tap tonight, this has the best chance to be a blowout. Butler is a team full of guards, and North Carolina is a team full of big men. The deciding factor in this game will be on the inside. Butler is one of the worst rebounding teams in the entire country (32.3 pre game - 325th), while North Carolina is the very best (43.8). That's a huge advantage for the Heels that I don't think Butler will offset. Not only that, but UNC has more length on the perimeter and is much more athletic than the Bulldogs. 

Prediction: North Carolina

No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 7 South Carolina, 7:29 p.m. ET
East Region | Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.

This is going to be a sneaky good game. Both teams are excellent on the defense end, and both have struggled to score at times this year. Baylor has much more size - they're basically just a bigger, longer, more athletic version of South Carolina - but the Gamecocks have been excellent offensively in this tournament (90.5 ppg). As much as I would love it for South Carolina to win, this offensive outburst is an anomaly for them. It will be close (SC +3 sounds really good to me), but I think Baylor's size will be the difference late in the game.

Prediction: Baylor

No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 UCLA, 9:39 p.m.* ET
South Region | FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tenn.

The game of the tournament features two blueblood programs with first round picks all over the floor. Their regular season matchup was one of the most entertaining of the entire year, and watching Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf go up against De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk will be extremely fun to watch again. However, UCLA wins this game for two reasons.

First, this is going to be an up-tempo game - and no one plays that style better or more efficiently than UCLA. Secondly, if this game is close (which it will be), Ball is the best clutch player in the country.

Prediction: UCLA

No. 4 Florida vs. No. 8 Wisconsin, 9:59 p.m.* ET
East Region | Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.

Similar to Baylor-South Carolina, these are two really good defensive teams - but they actually have pretty good offenses to match. It will be another back-and-forth game, and that is exactly why I think Wisconsin will win. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes have come through big in the clutch like clockwork throughout their four-year careers. As the two sides trade punches, look for those two to throw the last one.

Prediction: Wisconsin

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Related Topics: NCAA Basketball, NCAA Tournament, March Madness, 2017 NCAA Tournament