68 teams began their quest for a championship starting with the First Four on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the now that field is down to just sixteen. Here is a preview of what to watch for during the next eight games of the 2015 NCAA tournament.
Midwest Regional Semifinal 1: #1 Kentucky vs. #5 West Virginia
Kentucky is off to the best start in NCAA history at 36-0, but they’re not done yet. Their next opponent will be the fifth-seeded Mountaineers, led by coach Bob Huggins. An extremely under the radar statistic in this matchup is the surprising fact the Huggins is 8-2 all time against Calipari, the best winning percentage of anyone against him with at least three matchups. West Virginia comes out of a battle-tested Big 12 conference, and can create the type of full court pressure to take the opponent’s offense out of rhythm. However, the scary part about this Kentucky team this year is that they are so good, they can win games without even being at their best. They are a well-balanced machine with freakish athletes led by Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, and the Harrison twins. They have the length to block and alter shots which has resulted in a historic opponent shooting percentage of 35%, in addition to deadly three point shooters and efficient big men in the paint on offense. West Virginia will hang around at times in this matchup, but Kentucky will advance to the Elite 8.
Midwest Regional Semifinal 2: #3 Notre Dame vs. #7 Wichita State
ACC champion Notre Dame faces off against MVC champion Wichita State in a battle of veteran teams. Both of these teams are coming off of victories against in-state rivals, with Notre Dame pulling out a thrilling overtime win against Butler and the Shockers claiming the battle of Kansas over the Jayhawks. Notre Dame has caught the attention of many by defeating both Duke and UNC multiple times this season, and has the capabilities to make a deep run behind veterans Pat Connaughton and Zack Auguste. However, Wichita State still has much of the team that led them to the Final Four in 2013 and a 35-0 start last year, including Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Gregg Marshall’s team will be determined to win this game and potentially turn the tables on Kentucky in the Elite 8, which ended the Shockers’ undefeated season a year ago.
West Regional Semifinal 1: #1 Wisconsin vs. #4 North Carolina
This matchup has the potential to be one of the best games in the tournament: two outstanding coaches in Bo Ryan and Roy Williams, two star players in Frank Kaminsky and Marcus Paige, and two teams that both have the capability of making Final Four runs. Wisconsin has been consistent all season long. After a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the Final Four last year, player of the year candidate and senior forward Frank Kaminsky is determined to lead his Badgers to Indianapolis for a shot at glory. Meanwhile, North Carolina has been inconsistent at times and posted double digit losses on the season, but has played better toward the end of the year. In a suddenly strong ACC featuring Duke, Virginia, Louisville, and Notre Dame, the Tar Heels have gone under the radar at times. This could be a dangerous matchup for Wisconsin since North Carolina has the talent to pull off the upset. The Badgers will need to control the tempo early and limit turnovers in order to advance.
West Regional Semifinal 2: #2 Arizona vs. #6 Xavier
Many people thought Arizona should have earned a #1 seed for this tournament, while many also overlooked Xavier as an overseeded team out of a relatively weak Big East conference. Now the Musketeers, led by Matt Stainbrook’s 12 points and 7 rebounds per game, are the lone representative of the Big East after the likes of Villanova, Butler, and Providence have fallen. Meanwhile, Brandon Ashley and the Arizona Wildcats are hungry for a potential Elite 8 rematch with Wisconsin, with last year’s game ending in a heartbreaking overtime loss. Arizona should win this game and is very much a threat to reach the Final Four.