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Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images/TNS.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images/TNS.

Previewing Friday's men's Sweet 16 games: No. 1 seeds Houston, Purdue face tough tests

The Cougars will face No. 4 seed Duke while the Boilermakers square off against No. 5 seed Gonzaga.

The lack of upsets in the second round of the NCAA tournament may be a blessing in disguise, creating entertaining matchups between power conference teams. 

Friday’s set of games is possibly even better than Thursday's. The only Cinderella-esque team, No. 11 seed NC State, faces No. 2 seed Marquette, while the No. 1 seeds have incredibly hard matchups. No. 2 seed Tennessee versus No. 3 seed Creighton might be the best game of the entire Sweet 16.

Here's what you need to know about Friday's matchups.

South Region (Dallas)

No. 2 seed Marquette vs. No. 11 seed NC State
7:09 p.m. ET Friday, March 29 on CBS

The lone double-digit seed remaining, NC State, plays in the first Friday matchup. The Wolfpack will face Marquette. Both teams have had some scares along the way, which makes them battle-tested.

The Wolfpack, after winning five games in five days to win the ACC tournament, have now won two straight in the NCAA tournament. D.J. Burns Jr. has been the star, scoring 16 points in the first round against No. 6 seed Texas Tech and then 24 in the second round against No. 14 seed Oakland.

NC State has benefited from great performances from D.J. Horne, Jayden Taylor, Casey Morsell and Mohamed Diarra.

The Golden Eagles trailed in the second half in both of their matchups last weekend. However, they hung on both times, mostly because of point guard Tyler Kolek’s impressive performances. He scored 20 points against No. 15 seed Western Kentucky and 21 against No. 10 seed Colorado, while having 11 assists in back-to-back games. Kam Jones, Oso Ighorado, David Joplin and Stevie Mitchell were solid in the first two rounds, helping Marquette avoide upsets en route to the Sweet 16. 

Based on seed, Marquette is the strong favorite. NC State, though, is very familiar with being an underdog and could continue its surprise run with more heroics from Burns and the rest of the Wolfpack.

No. 1 seed Houston vs. No. 4 seed Duke
9:39 p.m. ET Friday, March 29 on CBS

Houston will face what could be its toughest test of the tournament in Duke. The talent on their rosters should make for one of the best games of the entire tournament.

Duke, the underdog in this matchup, has about as much talent an underdog can have. It dominated its two games and Jared McCain looks like a March Madness star in the making. He scored 15 points in the first-round matchup against No. 13 seed Vermont then absolutely caught fire in the second round against No. 12 seed James Madison. He scored 30 points and made eight of 11 threes.

Kyle Filipowski has been a star for the entire season for the Blue Devils, while Tyrese Proctor, Jeremy Roach and Mark Mitchell have been major contributors.

Houston is definitely equipped to end Duke's season. The Cougars had a major scare in the second round against No. 9 seed Texas A&M but they narrowly escaped due to the clutch play of Jamal Shead. Shead scored 21 points and assisted 10 times against the Aggies. That followed his solid 11-point, nine-assist performance in the first round against No. 16 seed Longwood. His veteran leadership has been huge for Houston, alongside players like L.J. Cryer, Emmanuel Sharp, J’Wan Roberts and Ja’Vier Francis. Houston has been one of the best teams the entire season. 

Both these teams could be the eventual national champion.

Midwest Region (Detroit)

No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 5 Gonzaga
7:39 p.m. ET Friday, March 29 on TBS

In yet another game that has an argument for being the best game of the Sweet 16, Purdue faces Gonzaga. Both teams have looked dominant in the tournament.

Despite arguments that the Zags were over-seeded, Gonzaga has crushed its competition so far. Anton Watson has been a huge part of that. He scored 21 points in the Bulldogs’ second-round game against No. 4 seed Kansas after scoring 15 in the first round against No. 12 seed McNeese. He has been great and the team as a whole has shot lights-out in both wins.

Ryan Nembhard, Noah Hickman and Ben Gregg have caught fire from three, while Graham Ike has been great in the post. This team has been as sound as any this tournament and if it plays as well as it has, it should have a great shot at upsetting Purdue.

After losing in the first round last season, the Boilermakers dominated their first two games of the tournament. This success can be attributed to Zach Edey, as the star big man has exceeded expectations for a National Player of the Year, as crazy as that might sound. He scored 30 points against No. 16 seed Grambling, while also grabbing 21 rebounds. He followed up that performance with 23 points and 14 rebounds against No. 8 seed Utah State, which was more of a team performance. The Boilermakers scored 106 points thanks to Lance Jones, Trey Kaufman-Renn, Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith and Camden Hiede. They came together to play possibly Purdue’s best game all season.

Both Gonzaga and Purdue are Final Four-caliber teams.

No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Creighton
10:09 p.m. ET Friday, March 29 on TBS

This is expected to be a high-scoring, high-intensity game. Both teams have great guard play and can shoot well.

Creighton has Baylor Scheierman, who was very productive in the Bluejays’ two tournament games so far, scoring 15 points against No. 14 seed Akron, with three 3-pointers, while scoring 19 against No. 11 seed Oregon with four threes. Ryan Kalkbrenner had been great down low for Creighton. Trey Alexander and Steven Ashworth are great scoring threats.

This team was heavily tested in its double-overtime game against Oregon, narrowly escaping Jermaine Cousnard and the Ducks.

The Volunteers boast a talented lineup led by Dalton Knecht. The SEC Player of the Year started his tournament with 23 points against No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s and 18 against No. 7 seed Texas. His performance against Texas was not the strongest shooting-wise, like the rest of his team. If the Vols can steer away from it just being the Knecht show and incorporate the rest of the team in a more balanced offense, they should have a great shot here.

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