<
>

Sixteen questions for the Sweet 16

We have cut down the NCAA tournament field from 68 to a very Sweet 16.

There have been so many great moments already, with buzzer-beaters, overtime thrillers and upset city showings. The greatest three weeks in sports continues as we get closer to a trip to the Dallas area for the Final Four.

Here are 16 questions leading up to the Sweet 16:

1. Will Dayton be the Cinderella story a la Wichita State last year?
The Flyers were battling just to get into the tourney a few weeks back. Coach Archie Miller has done a great job, and the defense held both Ohio State and Syracuse below 60 points. The Flyers face Stanford in the surprising No. 10 vs. No. 11 South showdown for a spot in the Elite Eight. Defense will be the story, as the winner may not reach 60 points. This is a great story, and Dayton has a chance.

2. Is Shabazz Napier pulling a Kemba Walker-like run?
Walker willed Connecticut to the national title in 2011, and Napier was a freshman on that team. The Huskies beat Saint Joseph's in overtime before upsetting former Big East foe Villanova. Napier put up 24 and 25 points, respectively, in those contests.

3. Can Keith Appling have a greater impact for the Spartans?
Appling's confidence seems down. He claims he is healthy, but he has totaled a mere six points in the first two NCAA tournament games. Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Gary Harris have shined at times. Appling needs to be more productive.

4. Will Florida's defense keep stopping opponents?
The Gators held Albany and Pittsburgh below 60 points and 40 percent from the field. Florida has held nine straight foes to 65 points or fewer. These veterans have bought in to Billy Donovan's defensive concepts. After three straight exits in the Elite Eight, Florida wants a trip to AT&T Stadium for the Final Four. The defense will carry the Gators far.

5. Can anyone slow down Wisconsin's Ben Brust?
While Frank Kaminsky gets some publicity, Bo Ryan is counting on a red-hot Brust, who hit a pivotal trifecta in the win over Oregon. Outside shooting is vital at this stage, and Brust shot over 50 percent from long range (8-of-15) in the first two games of the tournament.

6. Will Russ Smith find his groove?
The Louisville senior guard has not shot well in the tournament, hitting just 6 of 19 shots. Louisville has survived and advanced, and you can bet Smith will keep firing away. He is still very confident.

7. How important is Glenn Robinson III for Michigan?
Nik Stauskas has been getting the headlines, but keep an eye on Robinson. He has played well and is averaging 14 PPG in the tournament. I believe Wolverines coach John Beilein would tell you Robinson is quite vital to their chances.

8. Will Xavier Thames become a household name?
San Diego State's leading scorer has been the star of stars so far in the tournament, scoring 23 against New Mexico State and 30 vs. North Dakota State. Now he gets a rematch against Nick Johnson and Arizona. He had 19 in a loss to the Wildcats earlier this season.

9. Will Michael Frazier warm up?
The Florida sharpshooter has made just 4 of 15 shots from the field in the tournament. He will have to step up and score more consistently in the later rounds.

10. How wild will the Kentucky-Louisville matchup be?
Indianapolis will be a sea of red and blue. John Calipari's team won the first meeting 73-66 as Julius Randle hit 7 of 8 shots from the field and the Harrison twins combined for 28 points. Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell, who scored six points in that game, is a different player now. This should be a great game.

11. Can Tennessee be the second coming of VCU in 2011?
The Rams won five in a row to make the 2011 Final Four. The Vols have knocked off three foes (Iowa, Massachusetts and Mercer), but Michigan is next. The Wolverines will be a tough opponent. Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes believe they can keep this roll going.

12. Can Virginia's Akil Mitchell stop Michigan State's Adreian Payne inside?
This should be a great matchup in the interior. Payne could step out on Mitchell in what should be a real Maalox Masher.

13. Will Baylor test Wisconsin?
The Bears have strength up front with Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin. It is a good test for the Badgers. Look what Baylor did with Doug McDermott, shutting him down for over a half before he got going a little late.

14. Which Harris will win at Madison Square Garden?
It's Virginia's Joe Harris against Michigan State's Gary Harris. I think this is one of the best matchups in the Sweet 16, and I give the slightest of edges to the Spartans.

15. Does coaching experience matter in the Sweet 16?
Just look at the five guys who have won national titles and are still in this field -- Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Steve Fisher. Then there is John Beilein, who was in the national championship game last season. Coaching matters.

16. Where are North Carolina and Duke?
For the first time since 1996, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils are both missing from the Sweet 16. In 1996, Duke lost in the first round to Eastern Michigan while North Carolina lost in the second round to Texas Tech.