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Men's NCAA Sweet 16 Preview

Men's NCAA Sweet 16 Preview
Photo: Greg Fulks
The NCAA men's tournament's round of 16 kicks off in Athens, GA, on Thursday and features two rematches from the ITA National Indoor Championships held earlier this season. Here's a look at what to watch for in each match.

No. 1 Wake Forest vs. No. 16 Stanford
Match start: 7 PM ET
Wake Forest and Stanford will face off for the first time in the round of 16 at the NCAA championships. The No. 16-seeded Cardinal have won 17 NCAA championships, while the top-seeded Demon Deacons are new to the big stage. This is the first year that Wake Forest has won the ACC season title, and its never won an NCAA title.

No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 14 Oklahoma
Match start: Noon
Ohio State has made it to the NCAA sweet 16 for the past 12 years, while Oklahoma has made it to the round of 16 for the past five years. The two teams have faced off twice this season already. The No. 3 seed Buckeyes beat the No. 14 seed Sooners in both matches. Oklahoma played the first match against the Ohio State with No. 1 player Andrew Harris and lost 4-0. In the second matchup, the Sooners didn't have Harris and lost 4-0. The Buckeyes are the clear favorites here. Ohio State was the No. 1 team earlier this season and is headed up by No. 2 Mikael Torpegaard.

No. 8 Cal vs. No. 9 UNC
Match start: 7 PM
This will be a rematch of the ITA National Team Indoor quarterfinal match. You may remember this match from the play that made it onto SportsCenter's Top 10 -- Ronnie Schneider's epic point. Let us refresh your memory:

UNC came out on top and defeated Cal 4-2. Schneider did play out of his mind to beat Florian Lakat, though, so it might be a closer match this time.

No. 6 TCU vs. Illinois
Match start: Noon
Illinois is the only unseeded team to make it through the regional rounds. The Illini upset No. 11 seed Oklahoma State 4-3 to advance to the round of 16. They are coming off a huge momentum-building win. Illinois won its only team NCAA title in 2003 (the Illini won the triple crown, winning the team, singles, and doubles NCAA titles) and are back after not make it into the round of 16 last year.

TCU and Illinois have already played each other this season. The sixth-seeded Horned Frogs won their match 5-2 in March. Cam Norrie, the current No. 1 singles player in the country, is heading up TCU in his last collegiate tournament (he's turning pro after this year), but Illinois' Alex Vukic handed Norrie his only loss this season.

No. 5 UCLA vs. No. 12 Texas A&M
Match start: 4 PM
UCLA had a solid season but is playing the tournament without its top player, Gage Brymer. The fifth-seeded Bruins have a huge hole to fill, and Brymer's absence will make things a lot more difficult in Athens. UCLA and Texas A&M have only played each other five times total. In their last meeting, the Bruins upset the Aggies at the ITA National Team Indoor championships last year, and Brymer clinched that match for UCLA. The Bruins have an impressive NCAA record and are the only team to make an appearance in every single NCAA tournament since its inception in 1977. They've also reached the quarterfinals in each of the past 21 years.

Texas A&M is sending both of its men's and women's teams to Athens. The No. 12-seeded Aggies have made it to the third round 14 times and have only made it to the quarterfinals three times.

No. 4 USC vs. No. 13 Georgia
Match start: 4 PM
While Georgia is hosting the NCAA tournament and definitely has the home-court advantage, USC is usually unfazed by postseason travel. The fourth-seeded Trojans have won three of their last five titles in Athens, GA -- most recently in 2014. Before that, USC won four consecutive team titles from 2009-12, when ATP star Steve Johnson was on the team. The two teams have played once this season, and USC swept Georgia 4-0. However, that was early in the season and a lot has changed since then. The Bulldogs barely lost to No. 1 Wake Forest 3-4 and have beaten a few of the top 16 seeds already. Georgia recently dismissed its assistant coach for undisclosed reasons. Hopefully, this won't distract the Bulldogs during the tournament.

No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 15 Florida
Match start: 9 AM
Virginia is going for its third straight NCAA team title this year. The Cavaliers have been flip-flopping with Wake Forest (and Ohio State occasionally) all season long for the top spot. They are here to prove that they're the best and are an extremely dangerous team. This is legendary coach Brian Boland's last year at Virginia, so his team is extra motivated to win this tournament.

Florida has struggled a little bit this year to be consistent. The Gators have beaten top 10 teams such as USC and UCLA but lost to rivals Florida State and Georgia. Virginia and UF played earlier this season, and the Cavaliers took the match 5-2.

No. 10 Texas vs. No. 7 Baylor
Match start: 9 AM
It's always a bummer when teams like Texas and Baylor have to face each other in the early stages of tournaments. Classic rivalries are fun, but it's also a little annoying because they play each other all the time. The No. 7 seed Bears beat the 10th-seeded Longhorns 4-1 in their last meeting this season, but Texas is only 1 of 3 teams to beat Ohio State this year. Both Baylor and UT ended with a 2-3 Big 12 record. This one is a toss-up.
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