Sweet 16 Predictions

So neither of the 14-seeded teams, the two I picked to make it past the Round of 32, were able to upset either of their higher-seeded opponents.

And I should’ve picked Michigan State. I picked the Spartans to advance in more brackets than I picked Virginia. Tom Izzo coached his way to his fourth straight, Sweet 16.

I did pick correctly, though, in both rivalry games in the Midwest Region as (5) West Virginia and (7) Wichita St. knocked off (4) Maryland and (2) Kansas.

Speaking of the Midwest Region, that’s a good place to start my Sweet 16 predictions.

Midwest Region

What are the two things, above all else, that top-seeded Kentucky has? Height and depth.

No team in College Basketball is taller than Kentucky, in fact only the Portland Trailblazers have a taller frontcourt than the Wildcats. And few teams in any sport have the type of depth that John Calipari has at his disposal.

The epitome of Kentucky’s depth was displayed during the SEC Tournament.

Kentucky quickly went up 8-0 against Auburn in the semi-final game of the tournament. Bruce Pearl called a timeout to calm his Tigers team, which responded with six straight points.

As soon as the score went to 8-6, the camera switched from the players to Calipari, who on cue turned to his bench, and said, “Go!” Not one, not two or three, but four Kentucky players got up off the bench, went in the game moments later and picked up the “slack.”

The team the Wildcats are facing in the Sweet 16 doesn’t have the height, but may have equal depth as far as the numbers go.

Bob Huggins’ team goes 12- sometimes 13-deep in games, which should help the Mountaineers stay in the game by constantly changing the lineup against the Wildcats.

There are two downfalls for the Mountaineers.

Size-wise, Baylor is the closest thing WVU has played in comparison to Kentucky this season, and the Mountaineers lost all three of their games against the Bears.

And the teams that have hung with the Wildcats this season have been able to do so by being good shooting teams, and being able to score at a close pace to Kentucky. WVU is not a good shooting team, and the offense relies on scoring a number of points in transition off of turnovers.

Kentucky will be too much for West Virginia this time around; Wildcats improve to 37-0.

The other game in the Midwest Region has the potential to be the highest scoring, and most exciting game of the Sweet 16, as (3) Notre Dame takes on (7) Wichita St.

Both teams run good offenses, in fact Notre Dame is the second-best team in the country in effective field goal percentage. Both teams also outscored opponents by 13 points per game entering the tournament.

The Shockers have beaten the likes of Indian and Kansas to get here, whereas you could argue the Fighting Irish have had a slightly easier road to the Sweet 16.

Wichita St. has shown what it can do in the tournament as an underdog, but I think Notre Dame is going to bring a little more energy, and just enough offense to get past the Shockers.

Notre Dame is going to its first Elite 8 since 1979.

Teams advancing to the Elite 8: (1) Kentucky, (3) Notre Dame.

West Region

Wisconsin only lost three games this season – one to Duke, another to Rutgers, and the last one to Maryland.

Looking at the Maryland game in particular, in that game Wisconsin was not at full strength, only playing eight players, and Maryland was at full strength.

In all three games Wisconsin lost this year, the opposing team was at full strength.

North Carolina, the team that Wisconsin plays today in the Sweet 16, is not at full strength.

Kennedy Meeks sprained his left knee in the Tar Heels’ last game and was very limited in practice Wednesday.

UNC head coach Roy Williams told ESPN that if Meeks has any pain or swelling overnight that he wouldn’t play. Meek’s is listed currently a game-time decision.

If Meeks is unable to go it is even more devastating for the Tar Heels in this game, considering that Meeks is the tallest and biggest player for North Carolina who is going up against Big Ten player of the year Frank Kaminsky.

North Carolina is a higher scoring team than Wisconsin, however, the Badgers play much better defense than North Carolina, and Meeks not playing would likely cause a bit of a drop in offensive production for this game.

North Carolina has experience, but the Badgers are the better team. Wisconsin advances.

Xavier keeps on winning.

I picked against the Musketeers in both the Round of 64 and the Round of 32. But they won.

Both games Xavier has played in the tournament, though, has been against lower seeded opponents with wins over 11-seed Ole Miss and 14-seed Georgia St.

Xavier’s Sweet 16 opponent can say the same thing.

Second-seeded Arizona has played against a 10 and a 15 seed so far in the tournament, but has taken care of business and not let either game get too close.

The Wildcats, in my opinion, are easily the best team Xavier has faced this season.

Once again I’m picking against the Musketeers.

Third time’s the charm, right?

Teams advancing to the Elite 8: (1) Wisconsin, (2) Arizona.

East Region

Similar to Xavier, I have also picked against (8) NC State in each of its first two games of the tournament.

The Wolfpack have won by one at the buzzer against LSU and then by three against No. 1 seed Villanova in the round of 32.

Louisville was taken to the brink against UC Irvine in its first game of the tournament before taking care of business against Northern Iowa.

Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier have led the Cardinals to where they’re at right now as both are averaging over 15 points per game.

The Cardinals have shown this season they can fall victim to trap games and this might be the biggest trap of the season.

I have Louisville moving on, but don’t be surprised if the Cardinals let NC State hang around, and keep the score close, for most of the game.

Why’d I pick against Tom Izzo? It should be one of the first rules of the NCAA Tournament – don’t pick against Tom Izzo.

Michigan St. might not be the most efficient team on offense but they get the job done.

Both Michigan St. and its Sweet 16 opponent Oklahoma have a scoring average of 71.9 points per game and give up right around 63 points per contest.

This should be a very even matchup as both teams, offensively, have the ability to rattle off 10 or 12 points in a row, but also to not score for four or five minutes at a time.

Surprisingly out of all the teams the Big 12 Conference fielded in the tournament, Oklahoma is one of the last two standing along with West Virginia.

I think the Big 12 get completely ousted from the tournament with the result of this game; Spartans win.

Teams advancing to the Elite 8: (4) Louisville, (7) Michigan St.

South Region

It is so fitting that the same year (1) Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wins his 1000th game, he is also fighting for another national championship.

There is something different about this year’s Duke team.

After early exits from the tournament in recent years, picking Duke to advance past the Round of 32 has become a little difficult. The Blue Devils have fallen victim to the early round trap game.

But not this year.

The Blue Devils, led by Jahlil Okafor down low, and Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook as the sharp shooters, look like title contenders again this year. (The same year “I Hate Christian Laetner” aired. Conspiracy?)

Is this the year that people would be OK with Duke winning the championship? Coach K’s 1000th win, and the possibility the Blue Devils would meet Kentucky in the National Championship game with the last chance to end the Wildcats’ perfect season; if there is a year, it’s this year.

But before all of that happens, they have to get past Utah in the Sweet 16.

Utah has had a good season, however, have not been able to win the big games.

Duke has won its big games, for the most part, this year, and is far more experienced in the tournament than the Utes.

Coach K is going to his 14th Elite 8.

Really, why is UCLA still in the tournament?

The Bruins shouldn’t have beaten SMU, and if Iowa St. doesn’t blow it in the Round of 64, the Cyclones certainly would’ve defeated UCLA in the previous round.

Gonzaga to the rescue.

The Bulldogs are going to be too much for the Bruins to handle. Gonzaga has two seven-footers, and is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country.

Without going too deep into it, Gonzaga advances.

Teams advancing to the Elite 8: (1) Duke, (2) Gonzaga.

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