West Virginia's Gary Browne passes during practice for a Sweet...

West Virginia's Gary Browne passes during practice for a Sweet 16 game during the NCAA Tournament in Cleveland, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Credit: AP / Tony Dejak

The focus entering the Sweet 16 is the same as it has been all year: Can Kentucky stay undefeated? But there are plenty of other intriguing questions, too. Is Tom Izzo's Michigan State team really peaking in March yet again? Could we see an all-ACC Final Four, with Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and North Carolina? Will Gonzaga finally survive the second weekend? We'll begin to learn the answers Thursday night.

The favorites

Midwest: No. 1 Kentucky

This one's no shocker. The undefeated Wildcats are the favorites, and they have shown an ability to win even on off nights. Consider this: They shot 37 percent from the field, allowed 21 offensive rebounds and beat Cincinnati by 13 points in the Round of 32. West Virginia's pressure defense and rebounding ability could frustrate Kentucky in the Sweet 16, but the Wildcats should be just fine.

West: No. 2 Arizona

Wisconsin is the No. 1 seed, but Arizona is the favorite because of its imposing, physical defense. The Wildcats also have an easier Sweet 16 draw in Xavier, compared to North Carolina for Wisconsin. Expect a close game if Arizona and Wisconsin meet, but the Wildcats' versatile group of bigs should be able to limit Frank Kaminsky enough to advance to the Final Four.

East: No. 7 Michigan State

Picking against Tom Izzo wouldn't be wise, even if the alternative means going against Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals and a solid Oklahoma team. The Spartans just seem to be peaking at the right time. They nearly beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten final, and they most recently dealt Virginia its fourth loss.

South: No. 1 Duke

Utah and Gonzaga have the personnel and styles to upset Duke, the Utes with their size and defense and the Bulldogs with their well-rounded lineup and high-powered offense. Even UCLA has the talent to continue its run. As long as the Blue Devils feed the ball to Jahlil Okafor and don't go ice cold from the perimeter, they should survive this weekend.

Final Four dark horse

No. 8 North Carolina State

Trevor Lacey and Anthony "Cat" Barber form a solid backcourt that teams with a handful of tough forwards, a combination that could topple Michigan State or Oklahoma if the Wolfpack beats Louisville for the second time this season.

Best Sweet 16 matchup

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 5 Utah

Duke's elite offense against Utah's elite defense makes this matchup intriguing. Add the perimeter matchup of Justise Winslow versus Delon Wright and the post battle between Okafor and Jakob Poeltl, and it becomes must-see TV.

Most coveted Elite Eight matchup

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 7 Wichita State

The Wildcats spoiled Wichita State's perfect season last year in the tournament's best game, a 78-76 Round of 32 thriller. Can the less talented Shockers live up to their nickname and crash the Final Four at Kentucky's expense to return the favor?

Story lines

Arizona vs. Xavier: Arizona's Sean Miller was Xavier's coach for the Musketeers' last run to the Elite Eight, in 2008. Xavier coach Chris Mack was an assistant on that team.

Gonzaga vs. UCLA: The only time these programs met in the NCAA Tournament was the 2006 Sweet 16, when UCLA scored the final 11 points of a 73-71 win and left a stunned Adam Morrison weeping on the floor. Gonzaga has never advanced past the Sweet 16 under Mark Few.

Kentucky vs. West Virginia: The last program to beat a top-seeded Kentucky NCAA Tournament team? Yep, West Virginia in the 2010 Elite Eight.

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