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Sweet 16 picks: Only Kansas State-Kentucky is a lock — the Wildcats shall win

Will Purdue make an ever-so-rare jaunt past the Sweet 16 round? (AP/Paul Sancya)

ATLANTA — Congrats on surviving three whole days with no NCAA Tournament games. It was rough for me, too. A look at each of Thursday and Friday’s Sweet 16 matchups:

SOUTH (ATLANTA)

No. 11 Loyola vs. No. 7 Nevada

The facts: Thursday, 6:07 p.m., Ch. 2.

One question: Can the Ramblers keep the pace nice and slow? Nevada wants to sprint the floor and get shots up. The length of the Wolf Pack’s Martin twins — 6-7 Caleb and 6-7 Cody — is concerning.

Pick: Nevada. Hey, my picking against the Ramblers has worked for them so far.

No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 5 Kentucky

The facts: Thursday, 8:37 p.m., Ch. 2.

One question: Can K-State’s Bruce Weber get to the Elite Eight for the first time as a head coach? I mean without Bill Self’s players. Props to him, though, for leading a third school to the Sweet 16.

Pick: The Wildcats — and not the ones from Kansas.

WEST (LOS ANGELES)

No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M

The facts: Thursday, 6:37 p.m., TBS.

One question: Can the Wolverines hit a regular ol’ three-pointer? Before Jordan Poole beat the buzzer against Houston, they were an atrocious 12 for 45 (26.7 percent) from deep over their first two games in Houston.

Pick: I just can’t go with a football school. So I’ll go with Michigan.

No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 4 Gonzaga

The facts: Thursday, 9:07 p.m., TBS.

One question: Isn’t this game kind of over before it starts? The Seminoles’ comeback to topple No. 1 Xavier was nuts, but here’s the reality — the Zags are far more skilled offensively and on a huge roll.

Pick: It’s been nice knowing you, FSU.

MIDWEST (OMAHA)

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson

The facts: Friday, 6:07 p.m., Ch. 2.

One question: Can Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney give the pregame speech to the hoops squad? Because Nebraska might as well be Jayhawk country — KU fans will own that arena. And the fact is Self’s team is playing its best basketball right now.

Pick: Kansas (insert eye-roll here).

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 Syracuse

The facts: Friday, 8:37 p.m., Ch. 2.

One question: Where does Syracuse get the nerve? Two years ago, the Orange made it to the Final Four as a 10-seed. If we’re headed down a similar path, the Blue Devils — the most talented team in the country — will have to gag like nobody’s watching.

Pick: Duke (insert eye-roll here).

EAST (BOSTON)

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia

The facts: Friday, 6:27 p.m., TBS.

One question: Which point guard outplays the other? No one is better at the position than the Wildcats’ Jalen Brunson. Yet the Mountaineers’ Jevon Carter — a do-it-all star in his own right — has a way of crawling into the head of an opponent and taking up residence there.

Pick: Best game of the Sweet 16 — but ’Nova survives.

No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech

The facts: Friday, 8:57 p.m., TBS.

One question: Is Matt Painter allowed by law to reach the Elite Eight? This is the Purdue coach’s 10th NCAA tourney and it hasn’t happened yet. But the Boilermakers have been the better team all season. They can do this — and do it they must!

Pick: Who else? The Red Raiders.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com