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NCAA Basketball March Madness

2013 NCAA Tournament: Top Eight Match-Ups to Watch For in the Sweet 16

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Eight Sweet 16 Match-Ups to Watch For

Rick Pitino
Jamie Rhodes-USA Today Sports

It has been quite the wild ride over the course of the past week or so. CBS announced that the viewership for the 2013 NCAA Tournament was at its highest peak in 23 years during the bracket's opening weekend.

That's a testament to excitement, parody and unexpected occurrences that have taken place since the beginning of the First Four round. Now however, we are down to 16 teams and things are only about to heat up even more so.

From the show-stealing Florida Gulf Coast Eagles to the disappointing Gonzaga Bulldogs, we have seen the good, the bad and the exciting to the fullest extent here in 2013.

In the East Region, the top four seeds advance, so it's clear that some hard-nosed, well-coached match-ups are on the horizon.

In the South Region, we will find out if Kansas can get by Michiga and if Florida can put an end to FGCU's Cinderella run.

In the West Region, a nine seed and a 13 seed will do battle for a trip to the Elite 8, while Ohio State looks to solidify its proof as a Final Four and national championship contender.

In the Midwest Region, an epic coaching match-up between Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski will take place while Louisville looks to continue its early dominance.

All the story lines aside, it's time to dive into the match-ups. Which one-on-one situation will turn into the biggest key and largest determining factor?

Let's find out.

Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS

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Russ Smith (Louisville) vs. Dominic Artis (Oregon)

Russ Smith
Debby Wong-USA Today Sports

Russ Smith is leading the postseason in steals per game, averaging 5.0 per contest. Most likely, he will be squared up against Oregon freshman Dominic Artis. Artis runs the point guard position and has made the Ducks much better this season, but he will need to handle the pressure and sneaky intensity that Smith brings to the table.

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Mason Plumlee (Duke) vs. Derrick Nix (Michigan State)

Mason Plumlee
Howard Smith-USA Today Sports

In Duke's third round victory over Creighton, Mason Plumlee found himself in foul trouble for most of the second half. It didn't prove costly for the Blue Devils, but Michigan State is a much better team. Plumlee must avoid foul trouble in this one, so let's see if the Spartans go inside early and often with Derrick Nix.

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Malcolm Armstead (Wichita State) vs. Tyreek Duren (LaSalle)

Malcolm Armstead
Steve Dykes-USA Today Sports

It's a point guard battle. Malcolm Armstead has the ability to score in bunches, but LaSalle relies on Tyreek Duren's ability to run the show. The Explorers can be a handful in the back court with Ramon Galloway as well, so Armstead could be crucial in determining this end result.

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Mark Lyons (Arizona) vs. Aaron Craft (Ohio State)

Mark Lyons
Steve Dykes-USA Today Sports

We saw what Aaron Craft did on the defensive end to Iona's Lamont "MoMo" Jones. Then we saw what Craft did on the offensive end late in Ohio State's win over Iowa State. Arizona point guard Mark Lyons is just another big-time scoring point guard, so we will see if Craft is up for yet another challenge.

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Jeff Withey (Kansas) vs. Mitch McGary (Michigan)

Jeff Withey
Peter Aiken-USA Today Sports

Jeff Withey has been a defensive nightmare through the first two games of the tournament, but Michigan's Mitch McGary has been a work horse, doing a number of little things for the Wolverines in their run to the Sweet 16. McGary isn't going to wow anybody on offense, but can he find a way to score on Withey with some second chance points and keep him off the glass with his size and strength on defensive? McGary's production could once again be key.

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Brett Comer (Florida Gulf Coast) vs. Scottie Wilbekin (Florida)

Brett Comer
Howard Smith-USA Today Sports

Will the Cinderella story of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles continue against the Florida Gators in the Sweet 16? Well, it could very well come down to the point guard battle. Scottie Wilbekin will need to slow down Brett Comer at the point of attack and limit an offense and transition spectacle that has simply become known as "Dunk City." Comer is averaging 12.0 assists per game in the tournament thus far, so can Wilbekin slow him down?

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Cody Zeller (Indiana) vs. Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse)

Cody Zeller
Brian Spurlock-USA Today Sports

This might not be an individual match-up because of the fact that Syracuse plays their infamous 2-3 zone. However, it's a collective effort that start with Rakeem Christmas and his production down low. Christmas could be an x-factor in this match-up, but on the defensive end if he does not slow down and limit Zeller's touches, could be in trouble. If Zeller gets going inside, the Orange zone will collapse which could open up the perimeter for an Indiana squad that shoots 40.8% as a team from distance.

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Shane Larkin (Miami FL) vs. Junior Cadougan (Marquette)

Junior Cadougan
Jim Cowsert-USA Today Sports

Marquette point guard Junior Cadougan is not going to wow anybody on the offensive end, but he's more than capable of getting in a stance and defending. There may be no bigger impact performer than Cadougan and his ability to at least attempt to slow down Shane Larkin could be crucial.