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Vitale: Sweet Sixteen Preview (Friday Edition)


The second half of the Sweet 16 is going to be exciting. Friday night's action will finalize the Elite Eight.

Here is a look at the showdowns:

Kansas vs. Villanova

The Wildcats have been a surprise as Jay Wright's squad got into the tournament as one of the last at-large invitees, thanks in part to a blowout win over Syracuse at the Big East tournament.

Villanova has continued to play well, knocking off Clemson and Siena. The Wildcats are young on the perimeter but very talented. Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes must come up big against the pressure defense employed by Kansas.

The Jayhawks' defense helps create a lot of offense in transition. Bill Self has the best group on the perimeter in college basketball in Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and Sharron Collins.

Inside, they have balance with Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson.

Can Reynolds put enough points on the board to keep Villanova in this contest? If the 'Cats can stay close, who knows? Maybe Cinderella can strike again?

Wisconsin vs. Davidson

What a match-up featuring two purists in the world of coaching. Bo Ryan and Bob McKillop have labored hard over the years, attempting to get to the top of the mountain. Ryan was in Division III for a long time before getting his chance in Madison, while McKillop has been so close for many big jobs but has never gotten the chance.

Let me tell you, Davidson's coach is highly thought of.

A key to this game will be Wisconsin's defense going up against the talented backcourt duo of Stephen Curry and Jason Richards. The Badgers have a dynamic defender in Michael Flowers. So far nobody has slowed down Curry; he has been the best player over the last decade in the NCAA tourney at producing big-time points at the right moment. Can Flowers neutralize Curry?

Wisconsin is a well-drilled team that executes. It is so efficient on both ends of the court. This club knows the importance of shot selection.

A key for Ryan's squad is the inside presence of Brian Butch, as well as Greg Stiemsma off the bench. They could be major factors in this contest.

Memphis vs. Michigan State

This is my linguini special, two guys I truly love in paisons Tom Izzo and John Calipari.

You can talk about Drew Neitzel, Chris Douglas-Roberts or Derrick Rose as the key player in this match-up. I feel it will be Joey Dorsey; he must be brilliant on the glass and in the lane like he was against Mississippi State before foul trouble hit. Dorsey is going against four very physical frontcourt players for the Spartans Goran Suton, Drew Naymick, Idong Ibok and Marquise Gray. You can also factor in Raymar Morgan in this equation.

If Dorsey is rebounding, and doing the things he can physically on the interior, Memphis will be tough to beat. The Tigers are athletic and can run.

Calipari may be concerned with the fact Douglas-Roberts is from the Motor City. Will the superstar try to play beyond himself because of bragging rights against all of his buddies from Michigan State.

Even though he denies it, free throw shooting could be an Achilles heel for Memphis. So far in the tournament, the Tigers have missed 30 from the foul line. Will it eventually catch up with them?

The Spartans need Neitzel and Kalin Lucas to duplicate their performance enjoyed against Pittsburgh. If they struggle, they will get blown out. If that duo plays to its potential, this could be shock city.

Texas vs. Stanford

The Cardinal found a way to win even with head coach Trent Johnson sidelined after a first-half ejection against Marquette. Doug Oliver did a phenomenal job keeping this team poised in that situation.

The Lopez brothers were sensational in helping lead Stanford to the win over the tenacious, well-coached Marquette team of Tom Crean's.

Now the Cardinal has to go down to Houston, and the place will be backed with Longhorn fans. Texas has an outstanding backcourt as A.J. Abrams has been on fire, scoring 26 points in each of the tournament games. D. J. Augustin has been All-Solid Gold this season and he has been passing the rock beautifully in the tournament.

It comes down to great backcourt play vs. solid interior performances from the Stanford big men. College basketball has become so perimeter-oriented and if Abrams can make the trifecta, watch out.

The player in this game that gets little ink, but I can assure you he is dynamite, is Damion James. He is so athletic and he could be a difference maker after posting a pair of double-doubles in the first two rounds of the big dance.

Look for Texas to march on with perimeter play being too strong for Stanford.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.