NCAA Tournament 2014: Best and worst from Thursday's Sweet 16 games

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't exactly the action-packed Thursday we were all imagining during that miserable three-day stretch without basketball, but that's cool, we'll try again.

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

After three long, dark, cold, lonely nights without any NCAA Tournament hoops, the sports world got its fix Thursday night. It wasn't exactly Grade A stuff -- three of the evening's four games were decided by double digits -- but it got the job done.

There were some pretty lofty expectations set by the tournament's opening weekend, but you can't expect to take time off and then jump right back into things as if nothing ever changed. You've gotta tip that toe back in first.

Here's a look at all the toe-dipping that took place on Thursday...I hope you didn't just see this without reading the two paragraphs before it, because it looks inappropriate on its own. It's not inappropriate. Whatever.

BEST GAME

(1) Arizona 70, (4) San Diego State 64 (West)

The only game of the evening that was able to keep the nation's focus for the entirety of its 40 minutes was the one that most people figured would be the lowest-scoring of the night. That distinction wound up belonging to Wisconsin/Baylor, although the Wildcats and Aztects didn't exactly light up the scoreboard. Not that it made this one any less enthralling.

SDSU did everything right in the first half, including holding Pac 12 Player of the Year and Naismith Award finalist Nick Johnson to 0-for-7 from the field and no points. Meanwhile, the Aztecs' own league POY, Xavier Thames, was having no trouble putting the ball in the basket and carrying his team to a 32-28 halftime advantage.

The tide of a back-and-forth second half changed completely when Johnson saw one of his shots -- a layup with 2:45 left in the game -- go through the net for the first time. The All-American wound up scoring Arizona's next 13 points, and his 10-for-10 free-throw shooting kept San Diego State from having any shot at pulling off a furious rally.

Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson chipped in 15 points each for the Wildcats, who will now look to beat Wisconsin and earn their first trip to the Final Four since 2001. Thames finished with a game-high 25 points for SDSU.

Team That Won It Best

Florida

This could have easily been Wisconsin, but we'll go with Florida because I think they faced a superior opponent that gave a superior performance (don't throw anything at me, UCLA fans).

Four was the number of the night for the Gators, who beat UCLA for the fourth time in as many NCAA Tournament meetings and advanced to the Elite 8 for a fourth straight season. Now they have to hope that four is again the number of the night on Saturday, as they look to make it back to the national semifinals for the first time since their last championship in 2007.

I hate making statements like this, but I'm going to do it anyway: through three rounds (or three and-a-half, whatever), Florida is the only team that looks like the national champion. Now maybe that changes tonight or this weekend, but so far, there hasn't been another team that makes me visualize them cutting down the nets in Dallas when I watch them play.

They're moving the ball better than any team still standing (22 assists last night), Scottie Wilbekin is playing like the best guard in the country, Michael Frazier is knocking down any borderline clean look he gets from the outside, and they're so deep in the post that they can beat a good team by 11 points on a night where they get virtually nothing from Patric Young. As it stands right now, Florida is the clear favorite to win the national title.

Biggest Disappointment

Baylor

For the past several weeks, all the talk about Wisconsin has been centered around the idea of these "new Badgers," who are capable of putting a three-digit number up on the scoreboard on any given night. It was almost like Bo Ryan took this as a challenge and decided to show everyone Thursday night that he can win any way he damn well pleases.

Less than a week after humiliating third-seeded Creighton in a 30-point blowout, Baylor couldn't keep Wisconsin from exposing the middle of its vaunted zone, and the Bears had even less success on the other end of the floor against the stifling Badger D. When it was all over, Baylor had missed 39 of its 57 field goal attempts, scored a season-low 52 points, and lost by a season-high 17 points.

All-Sweet 16 Thursday Team

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

Big Frank destroyed the middle of the Baylor zone, hitting 8-of-11 shots and finishing with a game-high 19 points. Next up is leading the Badgers to their first Final Four since 2000.

Xavier Thames, San Diego State

The Mountain West Player of the Year dropped 25 in his final collegiate game, the most of anyone on Thursday.

Michael Frazier, Florida

The outside assassin was on point during the biggest stages of the game, and finished with five treys, 19 points and six rebounds.

Jordan Sibert, Dayton

The Flyers' leading scorer hit 7-of-12 from the field and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc to score a team-high 18 points.

Dwight Powell, Stanford

Dayton did all they could to minimize the impact of the Stanford big man, but he still finished with a workmanlike 17 and 9.

Three Thursday Cheers

1. The University of Dayton

There's no longer any doubt as to who the Cinderella of the 2014 tournament is, as the Dayton Flyers have become just the sixth 11 seed ever to crash the Elite 8, and are one win away from becoming the fourth 11 seed to make the Final Four.

It's safe to say that the UD students are fully embracing their moment.

2. The West Region

Upsets and madness are all fine and dandy, but good on the West for handing us the only No. 1 seed vs. No. 2 seed regional final showdown of the tournament. There's something to be said for staying true to form, especially in this day and age.

I don't even know what that means.

3. Charles Barkley

This may have been the best thing that happened on Thursday:


Three Thursday Jeers

March Madness

1. The officiating at the end of Arizona/SDSU

It was going to be hard to top an official hitting Johnny Dawkins with a technical from across the court while Dawkins was talking to another official, but this did it.

In the final minute of Arizona/SDSU, the Wildcats had the ball with 32 seconds on the shot clock following a pass that had been deflected out-of-bounds. After seven seconds ran off the clock and Zona failed to clear midcourt, an official hit them with a 10 second violation, apparently not realizing that the 10-seconds reset whenever there's a stoppage in play. A quick meeting reversed the call and gave the Wildcats possession back, but it cost SDSU a few precious seconds.

That's a pretty unforgivable mistake at any point in the season, let alone during a Sweet 16 game.

2. Bo Ryan's ability to keep a poker face around Aaron Rodgers

The Packers' QB decided to venture down to the Wisconsin locker room to do a little celebrating, and Bo could not contain his excitement.

3. The lack of competitive games

Seriously, we just came home after serving three (days), and you gave us hand-holding.

Best Dunk

Aaron Gordon has a future in professional basketball.

Gordonkaboom

Three Notable Thursday Quotes

1. "We couldn't mess with the mojo. The best thing about Marty is that there isn't one thing you can point at that is his strength. He's good at everything you want a driver to do. We're glad he's with us down here." --Dayton Operations Director Eric Farrell on making sure the team had the same bus driver in Memphis that they did last week in Buffalo

2. "When you win in the tourney, it's almost like being on steroids. When you win again you build muscles." --Arizona coach Sean Miller

3. "They are extremely poised. They hold the ball until they see a shot they feel is the right one. They don't take a lot of bad shots. They rarely have a bad possession. On defense, they had each other's backs. You could see the experience." --UCLA's David Wear on Florida

Your Friday Night Schedule

Plenty of reason to be excited/neglect loved ones for another weekend evening.

REGIONAL SEMI-FINAL GAMES

FRIDAY, MARCH 28 (7:00 PM-12:00 AM, ET)

Tip (ET)

Network

Site

Game

Play-by-Play/Analyst//Reporter

Producer/Director

7:15 p.m.

CBS

Indianapolis I

Michigan vs. Tennessee

Jim Nantz/Greg Anthony//

Tracy Wolfson

Mark Wolff/Bob Fishman

7:27 p.m.

TBS

New York I

Iowa State vs. Connecticut

Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery //Allie LaForce

Bob Mansbach/Suzanne Smith

After conc. I

CBS

Indianapolis II

Louisville vs. Kentucky

Nantz/Anthony//Wolfson

Wolff/Fishman

After conc. I

TBS

New York II

Virginia vs. Michigan State

Lundquist/Raftery//LaForce

Mansbach/Smith

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