Even when he dunks in practice, Perry Jones III looks like he's doing it in such a nice way. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE
In case you missed them last night, Sweet 16 games of some importance actually took place in the East and West regions, with the Syracuse-Wisconsin tilt ending up strangely as the highest-scoring game of the bunch. SBNation's tournament page has a recap of last night's action available if you need a refresher. Here is an updated printable bracket showing where things are after last night.
That bracket shows that the Elite 8 matchups in two regions are now set with #4 (seed) Louisville playing #7 Florida in the West Regional Finals on Saturday afternoon (probably) and #1 Syracuse facing off against #2 Ohio State in the East. The latter is obviously more predictable than the former; I don't think many people had both Michigan State and Missouri missing the Elite 8 from the West. Even if you did, you probably thought Marquette, who many believed to be a sleeper team in that region, would beat Florida last night and take advantage. That the game wasn't really all that close by the end was pretty shocking, at least to me.
Tonight's games should prove to be a little more exciting given who is in action on both sides of the bracket. In our region, the #1-overall seed Kentucky Wildcats face the same Indiana Hoosiers team that actually beat Kentucky earlier this season at the final buzzer, and the Midwest Region sees #2 Kansas square off with #11 NC State and #1 North Carolina (either with an injured Kendall Marshall or without him completely) face #13 Ohio in the Midwest. Most importantly for us, obviously, our #3 Baylor Bears play the #10 Xavier Musketeers also play starting at 6:15 PM CST. That lineup may not have the same seed value from last night, but I actually like the matchups better, particularly UK vs. IU.
If I were a betting man, which I certainly am, and I was asked to pick the winners of those four games, I'd probably wuss out and go all chalk. Even though NC State is playing really well right now, I don't think they have enough to beat Kansas. The same goes for Ohio against UNC even without Kendall Marshall playing a single minute. UK probably ends the feel-good Hoosier Renaissance tonight to earn a date with Baylor on Sunday after I think Baylor dispatches Xavier behind a resurgent Perry Jones III. Baylor has played well in this tournament without him, and with him I don't think Xavier, despite the best efforts of Tu Holloway, can hang with the Bears. Let's hope I'm right on that and wrong on Kentucky; nothing would make me happier than a combination of Baylor and Indiana wins tonight no matter what happens on the other side of the bracket.
Head below the jump for more about tonight's game, including links from around the web (read: more reputable opinions than mine) and previews.
 Baylor (29-7) vs.  Xavier (23-12)
March 23, 2012 | 6:15 p.m. CDT
Atlanta, Ga. | Georgia Dome (35,000)
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- First on the docket is the official preview from BaylorBears.com, which is always put together extremely well and provides a wealth of statistical and historical information. Did you know that Baylor and Xavier have only played once before and it was as recently as 2009? I didn't, but someone at Baylor did. That's why they get paid the big bucks, I guess.
- ESPN's preview (from the AP) says that Baylor vs. Xavier is wrongfully considered the undercard tonight but should be recognized as a great game on its own. I like this quote from Perry Jones III:
"Baylor's been talked down upon, and we want to show everybody that we are a basketball team that's capable of winning the championship, capable of winning games," he said. "A lot of guys question our toughness, our toughness inside, our toughness outside, everything. We just want to show everybody we're a tough team, and we can play with the best."
- Steve Brischke from Baylor's Scout site (BearsIllustrated.com) shared his thoughts on the game tonight, as well, including his belief that Xavier's Kenny Frease isn't as good as he looked against Lehigh.
- Andy Katz doesn't think Perry Jones III needs to dominate to help Baylor beat Xavier tonight because his mere presence opens things up for everyone else on the floor. I actually agree, and I think it is beneficial for Perry when he doesn't think he has to control the game from the get-go. Of course, I say that while simultaneously hoping he is aggressive to start the game, so I may have no idea what I'm talking about.
USA Today's game preview basically tracks my own thoughts, questioning whether Xavier will have the scoring punch against Baylor's zone to be able to keep up with the Bears. USA Today also ran a feature story today about mercurial forward Perry Jones III and his role with the team that is worth reading if you have time.
- Behind the subscriber wall at the Dallas Morning News' online site, Chuck Carlton says that the backcourts will be the keys for both teams tonight with Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip on one side and Tu Holloway on the other.
- In case you were wondering what the line was for tonight's game, the mothership says that it is -6.5 at most books as of this writing.
- Finally, because I wanted this story to get the attention it deserves, Ohio's D.J. Cooper retracted his previous statements about coaches for Baylor and Tennessee contacting him about transferring from Ohio after last season. For his part, Baylor coach Scott Drew issued a statement saying that the Baylor Athletics Compliance Office conducted an investigation and determined that no phone calls of any kind were made to Cooper, his family, or anyone associated with them.