Now that the Sweet Sixteen is Set Predictions are Known

Now that the Sweet Sixteen is Set Predictions are Known

After we just experienced the first week of March Madness, it once again reminds us all of how enchanting the NCAA Tournament can be, and what a great time of the year it truly is for sports. The first four days of the tournament are action packed, exciting, and it leaves us with only sixteen remaining teams that will battle it out over the next couple weeks until a champion is crowned. Let’s take a look at the Sweet Sixteen in further detail as we analyze the bracket and look forward to what is coming.


This is how ESPN reranked the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen


1. Duke Blue Devils (Original seed: No. 1; Reseed: No. 1)


My goodness. The Blue Devils needed miraculous shots by Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett in the final seconds of a win over an inspired UCF squad in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16. After the game, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said his team got "lucky." That's a reasonable verdict after Aubrey Dawkins missed a game-winning tip-in at the buzzer. Sure, Williamson had 32 points and a clutch shot in the final seconds, and Barrett had a go-ahead put-back. But that's not the narrative right now. This is: UCF, a 9-seed, made a Duke squad that connected on 40 percent of its 3-point attempts look vulnerable. The same question remains, though: Can any team in America beat Duke when Williamson plays the way he did against the Knights? For the past five months, the answer has consistently been "no."


Gonzaga Bulldogs

2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Original seed: 1; Reseed: 1)


A week ago, Gonzaga endured complaints about its status as a top seed after scoring 47 points in a loss to rival Saint Mary's in the West Coast Conference tournament title game. Yet, Gonzaga's best-in-America offense had proven itself in a victory over Duke (10-for-19 from the 3-point line against the Blue Devils) at the Maui Invitational and in seven wins in WCC play by 30 points or more. That same powerful unit has reached the Sweet 16 after registering 170 points in 135 possessions in wins over Fairleigh Dickinson and Baylor. Brandon Clarke (36 points, 5 blocks against Baylor) has been the most dominant player on a squad that has lost one game over the past 100 days.


3. North Carolina Tar Heels (Original seed: 1; Reseed 1)


The greatest seasons of Roy Williams' tenure at North Carolina have all been attached to savvy, gritty, tougher-than-hell point guards. In 2005, he had Raymond Felton. Four years later, he won a title with Ty Lawson, a 5-foot-11 star. In 2017, Joel Berry fought through multiple injuries to help UNC capture its third national championship under Williams. Now, after two rounds of NCAA tournament action, it's fair to wonder if Coby White, who recorded 17 points and six rebounds in Sunday's win over Washington, will be the next player to fulfill that role for a title team in Chapel Hill. Plus, if Nassir Little has truly found his niche within Williams' scheme -- he scored 39 points combined in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament -- this stacked squad might chase a fourth ring for Williams.


4. Virginia Cavaliers (Original seed: 1; Reseed: 1)


Now that Virginia has advanced to the Sweet 16 and put last year's first-round loss to UMBC behind it, the Cavaliers should now be viewed as serious contenders to win the national championship. They've lost to Florida State and Duke twice (the Blue Devils made 63 percent of their 3-pointers in the second game), and they're more talented than they were a year ago, when they didn't have De'Andre Hunter in that loss to UMBC. Proof? Kyle Guy missed 13 of 15 shots in Virginia's win Sunday over Oklahoma, which possesses a top-25 defense. But the Cavaliers still managed to secure a 63-51 win, as Mamadi Diakite (14 points) stepped up for his team. Virginia has offensive options it lacked in past years. That's what makes this Virginia team different.


5. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Original seed: 3; Reseed: 2)


About 48 hours prior to its loss against Texas Tech on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Buffalo dropped 91 points on Arizona State. The Bulls had been widely recognized as one of America's best offenses after finishing top-25 in adjusted efficiency and averaging 84.9 PPG this season. They made 56 percent of their shots inside the arc in MAC play. They had scored 82 points or more in six consecutive outings. Then, they met Texas Tech, America's most efficient defense, per ESPN Analytics. The Red Raiders held Buffalo to a season-low 58 points. Chris Beard's squad can guard anyone, and Jarrett Culver is a top-10 pick who continues to enhance his stock. That's a recipe for a run to Minneapolis.


6. Michigan State Spartans (Original seed: 2; Reseed: 2)


Cassius Winston has carried Michigan State throughout a turbulent season. He has played without sidekick Joshua Langford (foot) for three months ,and Nick Ward has averaged just under 13 minutes per game since returning from a five-game absence due to a fractured hand. So Winston is still the catalyst for a Michigan State squad that has surrendered more than 65 points three times since a three-game losing streak in February. Winston followed his 26-point effort in a 76-65 win over Bradley in the first round with 13 points, nine assists and two steals in a 70-50 win over Minnesota, which lost Jordan Murphy to injury early in the game. The Spartans continue to ride one of the most talented players in the field on offense with a top-10 defense.


7. Michigan Wolverines (Original seed: 2; Reseed: 2)


The Wolverines reached last year's national title game after holding their first five opponents in the NCAA tournament to an average of 58.6 PPG and relying on a defense that ended the season ranked third overall on KenPom. This season's team, on a per-possession measurement, is even better. Montana, the Big Sky's most efficient offense, and Florida, a middling offensive team in SEC play, combined to average 52 points per game in first- and second-round losses, respectively, to Michigan. The Wolverines are just 12-for-38 from the 3-point line as a team, but Jordan Poole, Iggy Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews have helped them generate the offense necessary to win. Michigan is a dangerous squad right now.


8. Houston Cougars (Original seed: 3; Reseed: 2)


Kelvin Sampson's squad had hummed along since the start of the season, chopping through Oregon, LSU and Utah State before winning a four-bid American Athletic Conference by two games. The Cougars have been known for defense after their AAC opponents made just 43.8 percent of their shots inside the arc. But Houston just outscored Georgia State and Ohio State by 45 points combined in two games. The Cougars have lost three games all season, and Corey Davis Jr. is averaging 23.5 PPG (38 percent from the 3-point line) in the NCAA tournament. Houston can make a run to Minneapolis.


9. Auburn Tigers (Original seed: 5; Reseed: 3)


The magic continued for Bruce Pearl's squad, which beat Kansas 89-75 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Entering the postseason, the prognosis on Auburn was simple: If the Tigers could force turnovers and then convert those opportunities into 3-pointers, they would probably win a few games in the NCAA tournament. Well, that's the formula they used to reach the Sweet 16. In a tighter-than-expected, one-point win over New Mexico State in the first round and Saturday's victory over Kansas in the second round, Auburn forced a combined 32 turnovers and connected on 25 of their 61 3-pointers. The Tigers have won 10 in a row. They look dangerous.


Purdue Boilermakers

10. Purdue Boilermakers (Original seed: 3: Reseed: 3)


The Boilermakers played a grind-it-out game in the opening round against an Old Dominion squad that has played top-50 defense this season. Overall, the Purdue team that produced just 56 points in a loss to Maryland in February, scored 48 points in a win over Indiana and suffered a pair of losses to Minnesota in a 10-day stretch later in the season seemed to lack the oomph the Boilermakers had displayed earlier this season. But Saturday's record-breaking performance in a 87-61 win was both captivating and impressive. Carsen Edwards (42 points) established a new school record with nine 3-pointers. Purdue's 26-point advantage over Villanova was the latter's worst loss in NCAA tournament history. After recording a subpar 0.94 points per possession against Old Dominion, Purdue exploded with a 1.38 PPP and 53 percent clip from the 3-point line.


11. Kentucky Wildcats (Original seed: 2; Reseed: 3)


PJ Washington's ongoing absence due to injury is a real concern for a Kentucky squad that beat Wofford just 62-56 in the second round. It was a close game despite Terriers star Fletcher Magee's missing all 12 of his 3-point attempts. Tyler Herro finished 2-for-11. The team's 3-for-13 clip from the 3-point line didn't help, either. Yet, the Wildcats, who got 14 points and 11 rebounds from Reid Travis, prevailed without their best player -- and after Herro went cold -- by playing great defense. Wofford entered the game ranked second in 3-point shooting but recorded a sub-30 percent mark against Kentucky. The Wildcats will advance, but we're not sure if Washington will play in the next round. That's why the Wildcats are ranked this low. The Wildcats without Washington still own a talented fleet, but they're not the same imposing collective.


12. Florida State Seminoles (Original seed: 4; Reseed: 3)


Leonard Hamilton's squad didn't look great (42 percent on 2-pointers) in a win over Vermont, which made 16 of 32 3-pointers, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Against Murray State and rising star Ja Morant, however, FSU made a statement. The same Murray State squad that had dismantled Marquette in a 19-point win on Thursday made just 30.2 percent of its shots inside the arc in Saturday's loss in the second round against the ACC's best interior defense. Ja Morant made his first five 3-point attempts but missed 12 of 15 2-pointers, the worst mark of his career. With Terance Mann (18.5 PPG) and Mfiondu Kabengele (21.5 PPG) starring in the both games and a defense with unrivaled length, FSU could be a handful, again, for Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.


13. LSU Tigers (Original seed: 3; Reseed: 4)


Tony Benford's ride continued at LSU after Tremont Waters beat Maryland on a beautiful drive in the final moments of their matchup in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. The Tigers still boast one of the most talented groups in the country. Waters and Naz Reid are two of six former ESPN 100 recruits for the Tigers, who have advanced to the Sweet 16 without head coach Will Wade, who was suspended when he was tied to reports of a pay-for-play scheme a few weeks ago. But LSU has also been outscored in second halves of this NCAA tournament by 18 points combined in wins over Yale and Maryland. They had a 15-point lead against Maryland before the Terps stormed back. But this group boasts the size and athleticism to compete with anyone.


14. Tennessee Volunteers (Original seed: 2; Reseed: 4)


Tennessee squandered a 25-point lead in its eventual 83-77 overtime win against Iowa in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday. Had the Hawkeyes won that game, it would have tied the record for the greatest comeback in NCAA tournament history. The Vols are a strong squad, proven by wins over Kentucky, Gonzaga and Louisville. But the Iowa comeback magnified recent defensive lapses for the Vols, whose opponents have scored 106 points per 100 possessions -- a seven-point increase from Tennessee's mark in SEC play -- over the past 12 games (8-4). But Grant Williams -- the Wooden Award contender who finished Sunday's win with 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks -- is a playmaker who can help the Vols win close games.


15. Virginia Tech Hokies (Original seed: 4; Reseed: 4)


Justin Robinson has been a valuable contributor off the bench (9 points in Friday's 66-52 win over Saint Louis, 13 points in Sunday's 67-58 win over Liberty) since returning from a foot injury that cost him 12 games. And Virginia Tech, a top-10 3-point shooting team, is still potent from beyond the arc (42 percent from the 3-point line in two games). The Hokies held both Saint Louis and Liberty to fewer than 60 points. But they were 13- and 12-seeds, respectively. With seven minutes to play, however, Sunday's matchup was a three-point game. The road to the Elite Eight must now go through Duke, a team the Hokies defeated last month with Zion Williamson sidelined by a knee injury.


16. Oregon Ducks (Original seed: 12; Reseed: 4)


Oregon is the only seed above the 5-line to reach the Sweet 16, so let's forget who Oregon was for the first four months of the season and focus on the present. A Feb. 28 win over Arizona State kicked off a 10-game win streak for Dana Altman's squad. The Ducks' 73-54 victory over UC Irvine in the second round, which followed a first-round win over Wisconsin, was an explosive effort for a team that started cold after the break but finished with a 38-17 run. Payton Pritchard and Louis King have transformed this group in recent weeks. The Ducks will face Virginia in the Sweet 16. Here's the truth: These Ducks can beat Virginia in the Sweet 16.


Now this is David Green’s Sweet Sixteen Reseeding…


…1. North Carolina Tar Heels (Original seed: 1; Reseed 1)


After watching the University of North Carolina play their last two games over the weekend I am somewhat convinced they have what it takes to beat the field and win it all. Although UNC has played some pretty weak competition so far in the tournament, I have watched them all year, and I feel like they are coming together at the right time. The Tar Heels starting point guard, Cobe White, comes to play both assist-wise and shooting the rock. Their supporting staff isn’t bad either. Look for them to make it to at least the Final Four.


Duke Blue Devils

2. Duke Blue Devils (Original seed: No. 1; Reseed: No. 1)


Wow did Duke have quite the scare in their last game as UCF gave the Blue Devils all they could handle. In my opinion UCF had ample opportunities to win that game, and I fully believe they should have. With that being said let’s not forget this is Duke led by Coach K and Zion Williamson. Now that they have survived that close battle, I see them having an easy road to Atlanta this year.


3. Michigan Wolverines (Original seed: 2; Reseed: 1)


The Wolverines have not proved anything yet, but I have some sort of a feeling they may belong in the top four teams of the Sweet Sixteen. To make it where they now are, they had to beat Montana as well as Florida who was no joke this year and could have been a bracket buster. Their road ahead to the Final Four will not be easy as they face Texas Tech next.


4. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Original seed: 3; Reseed: 1)


I have had the unfortunate privilege of watching Texas Tech conquer Kansas this regular season in the Big 12 conference. They are tough, gritty, and battle tested so I feel the need to place them ahead of Gonzaga and Virginia in my reseeded top four teams. The face off this weekend against Michigan will be one hell of a game!


5. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Original seed: 1; Reseed: 2)


Gonzaga has the most comfortable road to the Final Four out of any of the original number one seeds. They will have to face Florida State University this weekend, and I am not sure they will have an easy time with the four seed Seminals. I never get much of a chance to watch Gonzaga play over the college basketball regular season, but I feel like they are often an over rated team that plays in a weak conference.


6. Virginia Cavaliers (Original seed: 1; Reseed: 2)


Over the upcoming weekend the Cavaliers will match up with the number 12 Oregon Ducks who have been sneaking by under the radar. As a number 1 seed Virginia has so far beaten #16 Gardner-Webb (who I have never even heard of) and Oklahoma in their second game last weekend, who I actually thought was under rated from watching many Big 12 games this past year as a Jayhawks fan.


7. Michigan State Spartans (Original seed: 2; Reseed: 2)


Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans are never an easy outcome March Madness as that program always produces in the tournament. Look for them to put up a strong fight versus an over rated Louisiana State University team this up and coming weekend.


8. Tennessee Volunteers (Original seed: 2; Reseed: 2)


Tennessee had quite a scare last Sunday playing the low seeded Iowa Hawkeyes who almost came back to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the tourney so far. Looking forward they play #3 Purdue who in my opinion doesn’t deserve to be that highly ranked. The South portion of the bracket is not a hard road to the Final Four so don’t count the Volunteers out just yet!


9. Kentucky Wildcats (Original seed: 2; Reseed: 3)


Although I am not very blown away with the effort of UK this year, I have a problem with counting out Calipari’s Wildcats any college basketball postseason. Look for the young squad to play tough against Houston in their next game.


 Auburn Tigers

10. Auburn Tigers (Original seed: 5; Reseed: 3)


Charles Barkley’s beloved Auburn Tigers have a dead serious date with my now number one team of the Sweet Sixteen in the University of North Carolina come next weekend. I am reluctant to believe Auburn will survive this match up, but if they do watch out as that will definitely make them grave contenders.


11. Florida State Seminoles (Original seed: 4; Reseed: 3)


Florida State has little by little proved their worth early on in the NCAA tourney by beating the likes of Ja Morant’s Murray State team as well as Vermont in their first go around. They will face the number one seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs this weekend, and I will not be surprised to see the Seminals emerge victorious.


12. Houston Cougars (Original seed: 3; Reseed: 3)


I am not going to say much about the Houston Cougars as I am not terribly familiar with them, but I can say they have earned my number 12 spot of the sixteen remaining teams due to their encompassing defense and their desire to survive.


13. LSU Tigers (Original seed: 3; Reseed: 4)


Amid all the scandals affiliated with men’s college basketball and the NCAA The Tigers of LSU are my top team of the reseeded # 4’s. They have barely scrapped by early on in March Madness which may serve them well in the rest of their journey in this single elimination tournament.


14. Virginia Tech Hokies (Original seed: 4; Reseed: 4)


Last weekend the Virginia Tech Hokies showed true grit in beating up on the higher ranked Mississippi State in their first match up. They handled the Liberty Flames in their second game which sounds easier than it was. Now they will need their best game of the year if they hope to knock out the Duke Blue Devils propelling them to an unlikely appearance in the Elite 8.


15. Oregon Ducks (Original seed: 12; Reseed: 4)


Even though the Oregon Ducks smothered the Badgers from Wisconsin they are nothing special. I assume they will get taken down by number one Virginia over this weekend.


16. Purdue Boilermakers (Original seed: 3: Reseed: 4)


Purdue, Big 10, yeah yeah yeah, not much of a threat. Not even sure how they are still alive and teams like Kansas are out!


Sources:


"Reseeding the 2019 NCAA tournament field for the Sweet 16", Myron Medcalf, espn.com, March 25, 2019

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