Thursday’s NCAA tourney Sweet 16 caps

Four teams will move into the Elite Eight on Thursday night. Here’s a look at the four regional semifinals to be played.

All four games match “power conference” schools against each other. All four Big East teams still alive play Thursday, while three of the remaining four Big Ten teams will be in action. The only “interloper” is the SEC’s Florida. Three of the four games are Big East-Big Ten matchups.

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East Region
Where: TD Garden, Boston
Announcers: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Bill Raftery analyst
No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 4 Wisconsin
Time: 7:15 p.m.
The spread: Syracuse by 3.5
Records: Syracuse 33-2, Wisconsin 26-9
How they got here: Syracuse beat No. 16 UNC Asheville 72-65, beat No. 8 Kansas State 75-59. Wisconsin beat No. 13 Montana 73-49, beat No. 4 Vanderbilt 60-57.
The buzz: Wisconsin games can be painful to watch, so imagine what it must be like to play against the Badgers. The slower the pace, the better for the Badgers in this one. Wisconsin’s 3-point shooting is going to be important; the Badgers hit 36.3 percent from beyond the arc, but Syracuse’s zone limits opponents to 30.7 percent. The soft spot in the zone is at the foul line, so it’s worth watching to see which player(s) Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan feels comfortable with there. Syracuse forces 16.4 turnovers per game, and the Orange thrives in transition. But Wisconsin commits the second-fewest turnovers per game (9.0) in the nation. Finally, watch the rebounding battle. Syracuse is outrebounded by 1.5 per game, and the zone leaves the Orange susceptible to offensive boards. Wisconsin isn’t overly tall, but the Badgers are bulky and don’t mind throwing their weight around.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Cincinnati
Time: 9:45 p.m.
The spread: Ohio State by 7.5
Records: Cincinnati 26-10, Ohio State 29-7
How they got here: Cincinnati beat No. 11 Texas 65-59, beat No. 3 Florida State 62-56. Ohio State beat No. 15 Loyola (Md.) 78-59, beat No. 7 Gonzaga 73-66.
The buzz: This is just the 10th meeting in history between these in-state schools, with the last coming in the John Wooden Tradition tourney in 2006. Cincy has won two national titles in basketball, and beat the Buckeyes in the final both times (1961 and ’62). Both teams can be physical, but Cincy has the edge in that category over the Buckeyes. The big-man matchup between Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Cincy’s Yancy Gates should be extremely entertaining. A big key for the Bearcats is keeping Ohio State PG Aaron Craft under control. Craft is a, well, crafty point guard who is an excellent passer; he also is a pesky on-ball defender. Cincy needs some 3-pointers from Sean Kilpatrick and/or Cashmere Wright. Ohio State usually pounds foes on the boards, so that bears watching.
West Region
Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix
Announcers: Kevin Harlan play-by-play, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller analysts
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville
Time: 7:47 p.m.
The spread: Michigan State by 5
Records: Louisville 28-9, Michigan State 29-7
How they got here: Michigan State beat No. 16 Long Island 89-67, beat No. 9 Saint Louis 65-61. Louisville beat No. 13 Davidson 69-62, beat No. 5 New Mexico 59-56
The buzz: No rest for the weary – Spartans coach Tom Izzo goes from matching wits with SLU coach Rick Majerus to matching wits with Louisville’s Rick Pitino. Both teams will be comfortable with any pace, and both are fully capable of winning ugly. Michigan State hammers foes on the boards, and that has to worry Pitino. Louisville doesn’t appear to have anyone who will be able to handle Michigan State F Draymond Green, the best all-around player left in the tourney. Louisville’s backcourt, though, has a quickness advantage. The Cardinals need a consistent game from G Peyton Siva. If he is at his best, getting into the lane and hitting some outside shots, the Cardinals can pull the upset. The Cardinals could also use some 3-pointers from Chris Smith, who has 10 games with at least three 3-pointers this season.
No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 7 Florida
Time: 10:17 p.m.
The spread: Marquette by 1.5
Records: Florida 25-10, Marquette 27-7
How they got here: Florida beat No. 10 Virginia 71-45, beat No. 15 Norfolk State 84-50. Marquette beat No. 14 BYU 88-68, beat No. 6 Murray State 62-53.
The buzz: This is all about Florida’s 3-point shooting; the Gators hit 38.3 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, but the Golden Eagles’ perimeter defense has been solid all season. Marquette isn’t big, but it is more physical than Florida. Still, the Golden Eagles aren’t great on the boards. Florida’s defense has been excellent in the tournament, but Marquette poses far more problems than a Virginia team overly reliant on one player (Mike Scott) and a Norfolk team that was lucky to be there. Marquette F Jae Crowder was the Big East player of the year, and the Golden Eagles have a nice offensive duo in Crowder and G Darius Johnson-Odom; the Gators need to make sure that one of them has a tough night. This is Marquette’s fourth SEC opponent of the season; the Golden Eagles hammered Ole Miss but lost to Vanderbilt and LSU (seriously). The Gators split with Vandy and rolled past LSU.

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