You don't need extra storylines for Sweet 16 matchups, but the East Regional in Philadelphia will provide plenty when it gets going Friday night.
In the opening matchup, you'll have two programs that are among college basketball's bluebloods -- having combined for 10 total titles. But you don't need the history to make the matchup compelling. You could easily argue North Carolina and Indiana turned in the best performances of any two teams in the opening weekend of the tournament.
The undercard won't be any slouch, either. Coming off National Title game and Elite Eight appearances last year, Wisconsin and Notre Dame were expected to take a step back in 2016. And, well, they did. Both teams sat on the bubble at best in early January -- or possibly worse. Now, they're both coming off last second wins in the Round of 32 and once again stand ready to make a Final Four run in a newfound underdog role.
Who makes it out of the East Regional and books a flight to Houston? Here's a reason why each team will -- and why they won't.
North Carolina Tar Heels (30-6)
How they got here: def. (16) FGCU 83-67, def. (9) Providence 85-66.
Why they'll head to Houston: Because they're the best team in America right this second. The Tar Heels have won seven straight since a loss in Charlottesville to fellow 1-seed Virginia. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Co. have been blowing teams off the floor including a 19-point win over Providence Saturday night. When they're engaged in the frontcourt, there's no one tougher to beat in the country right now. They'll be the odds-on clear favorite to come out of Philadelphia.
Why they won't: The three-point arc If there's one area where the Tar Heels are weak, it's from the outside -- both on offense and defense. KenPom has the Heels in as 308th in the nation in 3pt% and Roy Williams only has one player -- Joel Berry (37.4%) -- who shoots it from distance at better than a 35% clip and only two others above 30%. Want context? Indiana has 4 players that shoot it at better than a 40% clip and 5 above 36% among players that average at least 1.8 attempts per game. That figure doesn't even account for OG Anunoby, Thomas Bryant, and Juwan Morgan, who all shoot it better than 35% from deep, but don't fire from the outside as regularly. That should be concerning for a North Carolina team that is 222nd nationally when it comes to defending against outside shooting.
Why they'll head to Houston: Because Indiana's proven they can win games in multiple ways. We've been over the differences in Indiana and Carolina's long-range shooting skills, and the Hoosiers have already beaten Notre Dame and Wisconsin this season. Kentucky's defensive length and extension out above the three-point line disrupted Indiana's biggest strength in outside shooting. Indiana won anyway. Many liked Chattanooga as a trendy upset pick, and Matt McCall's team tried to speed the Hoosiers up. They got run out of the gym. Indiana's a talented team capable of making shots like none other that's playing with confidence after knocking off a rival. That should scare the rest of the regional a bit.
Why they won't: They're not fully healthy. James Blackmon's season-ending injury robbed Indiana of backcourt depth -- and it could become an issue as others mount. Rob Johnson and Juwan Morgan re-aggravated injuries ankle and shoulder against Kentucky. Collin Hartman seems to be nursing a wrist that's limiting his shooting ability. OG Anunoby looked to have tweaked a calf or heel -- but re-entered seemingly undeterred. If Morgan and Johnson can't go Friday, it's going to be tough for Indiana to keep up with Carolina with a short rotation -- and it'd make the two-day turnaround tough with a short bench in the event of a win.
Notre Dame (23-11)
How they got here: def (11) Michigan 70-63, def. (14) Stephen F. Austin 76-75
Why they'll advance to Houston: Because they've got revenge on their mind -- in more ways than one. Last year's Notre Dame was better equipped with Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton aboard for a long tournament run. But there are plenty of big cast members left from that team that remember last year's disappointment in the Elite Eight. Demetrius Jackson, Zach Auguste, Steve Vasturia, Bonzie Colson, and VJ Beachem all average double figures -- and have been on this stage before. And if nation's 7th-best offense can get past Wisconsin -- they'll get a crack at avenging Crossroads Classic or ACC Tournament losses against either Indiana or North Carolina.
Why they won't: Because they haven't been particularly inspiring of late. Despite back-to-back wins to open the tournament, the Irish are still only 5-4 since mid-February with losses to Georgia Tech, Florida State by 21, at home against Miami by 18, and by 31 against the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament. Sure, there was a OT-win over Duke mixed in there, but the Irish's 172nd ranked defense has been carved up by opponents at times recently. While Wisconsin might not the greatest offensive threat, that defense would need to be much better to avoid another Elite Eight exit at the hands of the Hoosiers or Tar Heels.
Why they'll advance to Houston: Because the methodical, grind-you-down Badgers muck it up better than anyone in college basketball right now. Only two teams in college basketball play deeper in to the shot clock than Greg Gard's team. That methodical nature allows the Badgers to stay in games they maybe shouldn't be in. And it's worked like magic since mid January -- the Badgers are 13-3 since then. Oh, and you know, they've done this before too. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes know a thing or two about playing a major role in a national championship game.