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The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament provided a taste of everything that makes March Madness so incredible. There were upsets, overtimes, unforgettable finishes and heroic individual performances. But when the dust settled, Cinderella was nowhere to be found.

With teams like No. 14 seed Oakland and No. 13 seed Yale bowing out in the second round after big wins, the second weekend of the Big Dance is shaping up as a hangout session for the sport's big boys. While No. 11 seed NC State is an unexpected guest, the Wolfpack are an ACC program with two national titles in their past. That's hardly the same as a No. 15 seed like Saint Peter's or Oral Roberts reaching the Sweet 16, as we saw in recent years.

But the absence of a true Cinderella has its advantages by creating a series of powerhouse matchups featuring big brands and elite talent. All of the No. 1 seeds and No. 2 seeds are part of the action. So are big brands such as No. 4 seed Duke and No. 5 seed Gonzaga. Outside of NC State, no one worse than a No. 6 seed is still standing. That means we should be in store for some heavyweight battles as NCAA Tournament action rolls on.

As the action approaches, let's take a closer look at which games are most compelling by ranking the Sweet 16 games in terms of watchability. Games are ranked in descending order.

All times Eastern

8. South: (2) Marquette vs. (11) NC State

Friday, 7:09 p.m. | CBS, March Madness Live
NC State is the worst-seeded team remaining in the bracket. If you're looking for an underdog, the Wolfpack are your team. But after taking out No. 6 seed Texas Tech and No. 14 seed Oakland, NC State will have its hand full with Marquette's dynamic offense. Of course, the Golden Eagles will have to figure out a way to slow down superstar NC State big man DJ Burns, who is a human wrecking ball and matchup nightmare.

7. East: (1) UConn vs. (5) San Diego State

Thursday, 7:39 p.m. | TBS, March Madness Live
A rematch of the 2023 national title game will offer San Diego State the chance to pull the biggest upset of the weekend and secure revenge. The Huskies cut down the nets last season after outlasting San Diego State 76-59, and a handful of key Aztecs were part of that loss. While Jaedon Ledee is a superstar in the frontcourt, it doesn't look like the Aztecs have the necessary firepower around him to keep up with UConn.

6. West: (2) Arizona vs. (6) Clemson

Thursday, 7:09 p.m. | CBS, March Madness Live
The Caleb Love experience rarely disappoints. Arizona's leading scorer is a Jekyll-and-Hyde offensive player. Clemson is a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. As a result, this is arguably the most unpredictable matchup of the Sweet 16. Either team could win by double digits. Yes, even Clemson. Arizona lost some head-scratchers this season, and the Tigers are feeling good after taking out No. 3 seed Baylor in the second round.

5. Midwest: (1) Purdue vs. (5) Gonzaga

Friday, 7:39 p.m. | TBS, March Madness Live
We'll find how much Gonzaga truly has improved over the last four months since falling 73–63 to Purdue on Nov. 20, 2023. The Bulldogs are certainly trending up, but the Boilermakers were in destruction mode against Utah State in the second round on Sunday, winning 106-67. Let's just hope these teams combine to shoot better than 10 of 49 from 3-point range, which is what they did in the first meeting.

4. Midwest: (2) Tennessee vs. (3) Creighton

Friday, 30 minutes after the conclusion of Purdue vs. Gonzaga | TBS, March Madness Live
Creighton commits just 11.4 fouls per game, which is the fewest in the nation by a significant margin. Tennessee is accustomed to getting 20.1% of its points at the free-throw line but will have to make shots from the floor to advance. Considering the Volunteers shot 33.8% from the floor and 3 of 25 from 3-point range in their second round win over Texas, it will be interesting to see if they are up for the challenge. 

3. West: (1) North Carolina vs. (4) Alabama

Thursday, 30 minutes after the conclusion of Arizona vs. Clemson | CBS, March Madness Live
Seeing undersized scoring guards RJ Davis of North Carolina and Mark Sears of Alabama square off should make for compelling offensive theater. The Crimson Tide rank No. 1 nationally in points per game at 90.7, and the Tar Heels No. 20 at 81.8. North Carolina's defense and supporting cast are better, but if Bama gets hot from deep, this could be a firefight.

2. East: (2) Iowa State vs. (3) Illinois

Thursday, 30 minutes after the conclusion of UConn vs. San Diego State | CBS, March Madness Live
Oil, meet water. Illinois ranks No. 1 nationally in offensive efficiency, while Iowa State ranks No. 1 in defensive efficiency, per The contrast in styles makes for a fascinating matchup. Iowa State never faced a team this offensively dynamic in the Big 12, and Illinois didn't face a team this defensively ruthless in the Big Ten.

1. South: (1) Houston vs. (4) Duke

Friday, 30 minutes after the conclusion of Marquette vs. NC State | CBS, March Madness Live
A year ago, Duke was eliminated in the second round by a Tennessee team that was simply more physical. Now comes a showdown with arguably the most physical team in college basketball. Are the Blue Devils better equipped to hang with their season on the line this time around? Seeing that question answered in real time will make this a can't-miss game.