Breaking down Friday’s showdowns in the men’s tournament Sweet 16

The Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament continues Friday. The night’s action tips off in Dallas for the South Regional, with the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis getting the slightly later staggered start times. The regionals are headed by Houston playing in its home state and Purdue playing in a neighboring state, but the path to the Final Four is hardly easy for either of them.

Once again, we’re here to provide all the viewing information you need to take in the action, with a brief breakdown of the matchups. We expect many of you will have your own rooting interests, but our main hope is for exciting finishes and few monitor reviews.

No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 11 North Carolina State, 7:09 p.m. ET, CBS

The evening begins in Big D, where the Golden Eagles seek their first trip to the Final Four since Dwyane Wade made Milwaukee famous in 2003. Standing in the way are the Wolfpack, who’ve gone from unlikely ACC champs to even unlikelier bracket buster. Marquette is a scrappy bunch, and Tyler Kolek and Cam Jones lead a dynamic backcourt that can score with anyone. The Eagles might not have an answer inside for N.C. State’s D.J. Burns, but lockdown defender Stevie Mitchell could bother the Wolfpack’s D.J. Horne.

No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 5 Gonzaga, 7:39 p.m. ET, TBS

In terms of recent history, Gonzaga is the most accomplished program to reach Detroit as it participates in its ninth consecutive Sweet 16. The Bulldogs will nevertheless be underdogs as Purdue will look to continue its redemption tour with the home crowd on its side. This game is actually a rematch of a November meeting at the Maui Invitational, a 10-point win for the Boilermakers en route to the tourney title. The Zags had no answers for Zach Edey in that encounter, though they’re hardly alone in that regard. Gonzaga’s offensive efficiency has improved over the latter half of the campaign, and they’ll need Nolan Hickman to keep knocking down threes in order to stay with the Boilermakers. When Purdue struggles to close it is usually because of turnovers, but Braden Smith has done better against heavy ball pressure as a sophomore.

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No. 1 Houston vs. No. 4 Duke, 9:39 p.m. ET, CBS

The nightcap in Dallas features a pair of programs with recent Final Four trips, though the Cougars are still seeking that elusive first championship. Houston still owns the nation’s stingiest defense, and Jamal Shead is one of the hardest working men in the game at both ends of the floor. The experienced hands of Jeremy Roach could help the Blue Devils weather the Cougars’ press, but what Duke might need most is a big game from Kyle Filipowski in the paint.

No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Creighton, 10:09 p.m. ET, TBS

The last contest of the round could be the best. The Bluejays look to reach the Elite Eight for a second consecutive season, while the Volunteers hope to get at least one step farther than they managed in 2023. How this game will unfold is a bit of a mystery. The fire power is there on both sides for a track meet to break out, but it could also bog down into a defensive struggle. It largely hinges on whether Tennessee’s first few three-point attempts go. Dalton Knecht and Josiah-Jordan James are capable of matching daggers with Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman and Trey Alexander, but the Volunteers are also equipped to clamp down on defense if their shots aren’t falling. If it comes down to a battle of the boards, Bluejays big man Ryan Kalkbrenner could find himself outnumbered.

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