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Oh, the Hollywood Stories the Sweet Sixteen can tell.

The third round of the NCAA Tournament, known to college basketball fans everywhere as the Sweet Sixteen, leads off the East-West bracket tonight whose winners will face each other on NCAA Final Four Saturday in Phoenix.

Clemson-Arizona tips off the West Region semifinals at just after 7 p.m. at the Arena in Los Angeles, formerly the Staples Center. This opener is an intriguing match-up because it would yield one of the teams in two possible games that Carolina fans are already talking about.

If Arizona wins, we’re halfway to the Elite Eight featuring former Tar Heel Caleb Love, who left UNC after an uneven 2023 season, resurfaced in Tucson and emerged as the last basketball Player of the Year in the Pac 12 Conference as we know it. Love led the Wildcats in scoring with an 18.1 average.

Arizona is one of eight schools leaving the Pac 12, joining Arizona State in the Big 12 after UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington (to the Big Ten) began the collapse followed by Cal and Stanford (ACC). The marquee match-up, of course, would be if Arizona played for a spot in the Final Four against UNC and ACC Player of the year R.J. Davis, the former backcourt mate of Love.

But, say, Clemson upsets the ‘Cats. That would present a less sexy Elite Eight but guarantee the ACC a spot in the Final Four if Carolina won the second game. The ACC has four teams in the Sweet Sixteen (Duke and N.C. State), more than any other conference after getting only five bids on Selection Sunday.

The worst match-up for everyone except in two states (especially CBS) would be Clemson winning and Alabama upsetting the Tar Heels in the second game. That would certainly attract the football fans from both schools.

If the oddsmakers are right, it will be Arizona and Carolina on Saturday for a trip to the Final Four between schools that have a combined 25 (21 for UNC) and seven NCAA championships (six for the Heels).

Both semifinals in the West should be close. Clemson is vastly underrated by most pundits but has a tough, versatile team led by All-ACC forward P.J. Hall and outstanding coach Brad Brownell. The Tigers knocked Baylor out in the second round, just as Carolina did to the Bears in 2022.

Alabama has one of the best offenses in college basketball and one of the worst defenses, No. 4 and No. 101 by KenPom. Carolina is the 16th best offense and the No. 6 defense. The Crimson Tide will try to contain Davis and Armando Bacot, while the Tar Heels must do the same with 6-1 senior guard Mark Sears, who averages 21.5 points per game and shoots 44 percent from 3-point range.


Featured image via Associated Press/Ashley Landis

Art Chansky is a veteran journalist who has written ten books, including best-sellers “Game Changers,” “Blue Bloods,” and “The Dean’s List.” He has contributed to WCHL for decades, having made his first appearance as a student in 1971. His “Sports Notebook” commentary airs daily on the 97.9 The Hill WCHL and his “Art’s Angle” opinion column runs weekly on Chapelboro. does not charge subscription fees, and you can directly support our efforts in local journalism here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring free local news and community information to you by signing up for our newsletter.