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Sweet 16 Friday preview: UCLA and Kentucky set for mega-showdown

Aaron Holiday and UCLA will take on Kentucky Friday night.

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Friday, at least on paper, features the sexiermatchups in the Sweet 16 - highlighted by thedream meeting of No. 2 Kentucky (31-5) vs. No. 3 UCLA (31-4) in Memphis (9:39 p.m., CBS).

The Sweet 16 seems like it is way too early to have these national title contenders squaring off, but you can't complain. Regardless of who loses, you can guarantee that many future NBA players will compete in their final collegiate game in that one. Freshman shooting guard Malik Monk was the SEC Player of the Year so he’s due to break out for the Wildcats after quiet performances vs. Northern Kentucky (12 points) and Wichita State (14 points). Bruins senior shooting guard Bryce Alford plays for his father Steve and he’s one of the best shooters in the country.Alfordhad 16 points in UCLA’s 79-67 win over Cincinnati in the second round.

Another Friday game features everyone’s favorite underdog No. 4 Butler (25-8) vs. No. 1 North Carolina (29-7) in Memphis (7:09 p.m., CBS) in the South region.

College hoops will also take over Madison Square Garden this weekend as No. 3 Baylor (27-7) opposes No. 7 South Carolina (24-10) at 7:39 p.m. (TBS) followed by No. 4 Florida (26-8) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (27-9) in the East region.

The Bears are known for their early round exits but they staved off USC, 82-78, in the second round. The Gamecocks had never reached a Sweet 16 in program history before now and how they did it no doubt gained them many additional fans.They eliminated Duke, 88-81, in a second round thriller in Greenville, South Carolina. Baylor junior power forward Johnathan Motley has put up double-doubles in both tournament games this season: 19 points and 10 rebounds vs. USC and 15 points and 10 rebounds vs. New Mexico State (both in under 30 minutes of action).

RELATED: March Madness schedule

Perhaps nobody has been better in the first two games than South Carolina point guard Sindarius Thornwell, who posted29 points and 11 rebounds in a first round win over Marquette. That was followed by 24 points, six rebounds and five assists in the game of his life against Duke.

It feels weird to say since they’ve both become such brand name schools, but not many expected No. 4 Florida (26-8) or No. 8 Wisconsin (27-9) to still be here. The Gators were thought to be overrated from a down SEC, yet they remain alive along with two other teams from their conference (Kentucky and South Carolina). Meanwhile, you should never underestimate the Badgers in March as they dispatchedNo. 1 overall seed Villanova last weekend, 65-62, in the second round. The over/under for that contest is 131.5 points so don’t expect too many easy buckets or pretty basketball.

Senior power forward Nigel Hayes was a big part of Wisconsin’s team that made it to the national championship two years ago and he doesn’t want his college career to end as he had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the first round win vs. Virginia Tech then 19 points (including the most important basket of the game) and eight rebounds in their fantastic win vs. Villanova. Gators junior small forward Devin Robinson has been immense with 24 points and seven rebounds vs. East Tennessee State then 14 points and 11 rebounds in their blowout of Virginia,65-39.

 
 
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