A road map to the Sweet 16



How did Stanford outlast Kansas? What fresh horror did Baylor unleash upon Doug McDermott? What are Kentucky and Tennessee doing differently? What should we expect from public favorites Florida, Arizona, Louisville and Michigan State? Why is Virginia's defense so good?

Oh, also: Dayton? Huh?

Faster than you can pronounce Bison with a Z, the 2014 NCAA tournament has whittled its 68 hopefuls to a taut 16. How did the scattered surprises pull off their upsets? What did the big boys do to stay on track? And what can we expect from the remaining teams in the field as they play their second straight two-game tournaments in Memphis, Anaheim, New York and Indianapolis?

The answers, and much more, await in your Sweet 16 scouting report:


Dayton vs. Stanford (Thursday, 7:15 p.m. ET); Florida vs. UCLA (Thursday, 9:45 p.m. ET)

No. 1 Florida

How they got here: Florida is a Sweet 16 regular; the Gators have been eating at the same table in this joint each of the past four years. The difference now is that Florida is its region's clear favorite, a more balanced and intelligent team than any of the three Elite Eight groups that preceded it. Consistent, incremental progress has kept Florida unbeaten since Dec. 2,  when the Gators, still juggling injuries and suspensions, took a six-man rotation to fellow Sweet 16 participant UConn and lost just 65-64. Back then, forward Casey Prather emerged as the Gators' star; last weekend, Scottie Wilbekin's brilliant play carried Florida's offense past Pitt. Their balance is borderline unfair.

Key trait: Billy Donovan's team enters the weekend ranked No. 2 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. Save blocking shots, there is nothing Florida's defense doesn't do extremely well. And, according to Ken Pomeroy's possession data, the Gators' grinding man-to-man defense frustrates opposing offenses into the second-longest possessions (20.2 seconds; rank: 350th) in the country. Every trip downcourt is a nightmare.  

No. 4 UCLA

How they got here: Disguised by the less-than-warm welcome Steve Alford (and his crazy contract) received last April was the talent Alford inherited when he arrived in Westwood. Chief among it: one-of-a-kind point forward Kyle Anderson and uber-productive shooting guard Jordan Adams. Alford also has managed to coax some defense out of a group that played almost none of it a year ago. The result? Two wholly impressive, never-in-doubt, early-round wins against Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin, and a crack at Florida in the Sweet 16.

Key trait: UCLA is a brilliant finesse offense. The Bruins don't draw many fouls or chase down their own rebounds, but they turn it over on just 14.6 percent of their possessions, shoot 38.6 percent from 3 and 53.0 percent from 2, and average 15 seconds per offensive possession, among the 15 fastest teams in the country. How that style -- and Anderson and Adams' ability to get shots from anywhere -- holds up against Florida's stagnation-by-design defense will likely be the difference in the game.

No. 11 Dayton

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