Mad about March - Sweet 16 Edition
The stage is now set for the madness that is March in college basketball. By the end of the weekend, we will have whittled the field down to just 16 teams. Here is my take on who will be a part of those 16 teams, four from each region.
The #1 overall seed Alabama headlines the south region that also includes the likes of recent NCAA champions Virginia and Baylor. When the smoke clears, I like Alabama to easily make it through the weekend. Meanwhile, Virginia should also get through the weekend. However, keep an eye on the College of Charleston as a possible upset special to sneak into the Sweet 16. I like Charleston to upset #5 San Diego State and possibly upset Virginia.
In the bottom half of the South bracket, I am leaning towards a team that barely made the tournament, North Carolina State, to advance to the Sweet 16 as an 11th seed. The Wolfpack has excellent guard play and can knock down the three which play well in March. Second seed Arizona should not have much difficulty reaching the round of 16 with a win over Princeton and then likely over Missouri in round two.
Sweet 16 teams from the South: Alabama (+650), Virginia (+5500), NC State (+25,000), and Arizona (+1600).
The #1 seed in the East Region goes to Big Ten champion Purdue. The Boilermakers have been ranked #1 overall for several weeks during the season and are led by National Player of the Year favorite Zach Edey. The first two rounds don’t look too challenging for the Boilermakers and they should roll into the Sweet 16. Perhaps the hottest team entering the tournament and one that matches up very well with Purdue, Duke, should follow them to the Sweet 16. Duke will dispatch of Oral Roberts in round one and will dominate the injured Tennessee Volunteers in the round of 32.
In the bottom half of the East bracket, Kansas State should find its way to the Sweet 16. The Wildcats have flown under the radar this season but they will roll past Montana State and then dispatch Kentucky in what should be a highly entertaining game over the weekend. I have Marquette penciled in as the other Sweet 16 representative but only in pencil. Be wary of a USC team that is vastly underrated and has one of the best guards in the tournament in Boogie Ellis. If you are looking for an upset team in the East, look no further than the 10th-seeded Trojans.
Sweet 16 teams from the East: Purdue (+1000), Duke (+3500), KState (+4500), and Marquette (+2500).
Of all the #1 seeds, the Houston Cougars appear to be the most vulnerable to me. The Cougars deserve their spot but they play in an inferior conference and Sasser comes into the tournament banged up. They will get to the round of 32 but that game with Iowa could go either way. If the Hawkeyes can knock down threes, well this one will be tough for the Cougars. Pencil in the Cougars but Iowa has a very good shot. The other team at the top of the bracket that should get to the Sweet 16 will be the Indiana Hoosiers. They will be on upset watch against Kent State but should survive and then the Hoosiers will beat another upset winner, Drake, in round two.
The bottom of the bracket should go true to form with the third-seeded Xavier Musketeers getting through the weekend along with second-seeded Texas. Xavier will have a battle with Mississippi State over the weekend but should prevail while the defensive-minded Longhorns will upend Texas A&M over the weekend to reach the Sweet 16.
Sweet 16 teams from the Midwest: Houston (+475), Indiana (+5000), Xavier (+6000), and Texas (+1400).
While the Kansas Jayhawks lost out on the opportunity to be the #1 overall seed in the tournament, the defending champs are in a great position to slide right into the Sweet 16. I don’t expect them to have any issues getting there, including over the weekend against Illinois out of the Big Ten. The other team I really like at the top of the bracket is the UConn Huskies. They have size, shooting, and depth. Iona is everyone’s upset special team but the Huskies will dispose of them in round 1 and then take care of another upset team, VCU, over the weekend.
Upsets will be scarce in the bottom of the West Region bracket. I like Boise State to upset the scoring-challenged Northwestern Wildcats in round one but that may be it. Gonzaga looks to be one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament and the Zags will roll through the weekend. UCLA should also push past the weekend with two relatively easy wins. Look for the West Region, arguably the deepest of the four regions, to stay nearly true to form.
Sweet 16 teams from the West: Kansas (+1200), UConn (+1800), Gonzaga (+1600), and UCLA (+1200).
*Tournament title odds in parenthesis and courtesy of Draftkings.com