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NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: Midwest And South Regions

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Be honest. You have no plans for Friday night. These are your plans, because you have money riding on the games and all your friends have disowned you because of your horrific gambling problem. Cruel, isn't it? well, screw 'em all, you don't need them. You have Northern Iowa and the points.

MARCH 26, MIDWEST REGION, ST. LOUIS

7:07 p.m.: (2) Ohio State vs. (6) Tennessee — Quick, name all the only school that beat both Kansas and Kentucky. (It could be Northern Iowa if everything goes according to The Master Plan, but I'm talking about presently.) That'd be none other than the Men in Orange. They can make stops and defend the perimeter, and on a friendlier day I'd declare this an All-Big Ten regional final.

But the Vols have had such an odd season, this seems like the type of game that belongs to them. Tennessee 73, Ohio State 66

Ali Farokhmanesh / SI9:37 p.m.: (5) Michigan State vs. (9) Northern Iowa — So now we have the best buzzer-beater of the tournament against the best upset. And they're going in different directions, too. MSU lost Kalin Lucas for the tournament to an Achilles' tendon injury, while UNI's Ali Farokhmanesh made the cover of Sports Illustrated thanks to his huge ones (which are not at all ruptured).

This also seems like an odd time to give a coach an extension, but UNI coach Ben Jacobson sure as hell earned it. He'll be in Cedar Rapids for 10 more years, and hopefully it's for his body of work and not just because of the Kansas win. I mean, it was a great shock to our collective reality, but 9s have beaten 1s before, and it will happen again. What's more, Sparty will be hurting with no Lucas at the point, but his replacement, sophomore Korie Lucious, was the one who drained the buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Maryland, so I think they'll be all right. Michigan State 65, Northern Iowa 60

MARCH 26, SOUTH REGION, HOUSTON

7:27 p.m.: (3) Baylor vs. (10) Saint Mary's — I would have no problem if this game were simply a one-on-one showdown between Baylor's shotblocker Ekpe Udoh and SMC's leading scorer Omar Samhan (who also is the top scorer of all tournament participants). But, alas, the rules dictate that eight other men in uniform play the game concurrently.

Nonetheless, the key will be these two large people. Udoh once had a triple double this year: 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 blocks. But Samhan once almost single-handedly beat Villanova. Actually, this was last weekend. You might remember it. Saint Mary's 71, Baylor 68

Duke Blue Devil / Getty Images9:57 p.m.: (1) Duke vs. (4) Purdue — When the top seed always wins, every regional semifinal game is 1 vs. 4 or 2 vs. 3. And if you've been paying attention, this is the only game in which that occurred, and more than half of Yahoo! bracket contestants had Texas A&M. Purdue was the least popular 4-seed, being in only 30 percent of brackets. However, one of those people is an 17-year-old autistic boy, Alex Hermann, who had the first two rounds exactly correct. He also has Purdue winning the national championship.

I think most people gave the Boilermakers the cold bracket shoulder because of that 11-points-at-halftime performance against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament and are playing without junior guard Robbie Hummel. They were right to think that, but I can't explain how they got this far. Fortunately, they're not getting past Duke. They're too tall and experienced to let an autistic kid preemptively show them who's boss. Duke 74, Purdue 61

(Accept these predictions for what they're worth; I went 2-2 in picks last night.)

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