The Sweet 16
March 20, 2017
by Chase Gage
And then there were 16. The third round of the NCAA Tournament has been set and we are all ready for the action to start back up.
My bracket is (mostly) busted, though I still have a few of my Final Four left. Here were my predictions for the Sweet 16 vs. the actual Sweet 16.
|My Sweet 16 (According to my Bracket)||The Actual Sweet 16|
|North Carolina||North Carolina|
Bold = Correct Pick
Strikethrough = Missed Pick
I got 10 of the 16. Not too shabby, right? It was probably better than yours…
I was shocked the most by South Carolina’s win over Duke (as we likely all were). Wisconsin over Villanova was surprising, but that one was shocking. I predicted Michigan beating Louisville, though most people didn’t believe me. I also thought that Wichita State and Arkansas were going to hang on to upset 2 Kentucky and 1 North Carolina, but their efforts fell just short.
In fact, all of the top seeds besides 1 Kansas (1 Villanova, 1 North Carolina, 1 Gonzaga, 2 Kentucky, 2 Duke, 2 Louisville, 2 Arizona) had a tough time advancing, if they did at all. Northwestern was on the wrong end of a game-changing call against the Zags, the Razorbacks led by five with three minutes left, Arizona only managed a nine-point win, Kentucky survived a late surge by the Shockers, and Villanova, Duke and Louisville failed to make the Sweet 16 at all.
They call it March Madness for a reason. Here are my picks for the Sweet 16. As per usual, winners will be in bold as games conclude.
Thursday, March 23
7 Michigan vs 3 Oregon
Prediction: I have been riding with the Wolverines since the beginning. Well, since the whole plane incident/practice uniform situation at least. I have had them in my Final Four since day one of the tournament, and don’t think I will back down now. Oregon is a good team. They earned their 3-seed. They were able to cool off the hot Rams of Rhode Island, but they will feel the blaze of Michigan as they streak to the Elite Eight.
Result: The Wolverines season ended when they failed to hit a game-winning shot against the Ducks. Oregon held on to beat Michigan 69-68 to reach the Elite Eight. I’m pretty bummed about this. It broke my bracket and my heart. Long story short, Ducks advance.
Record: 0-1 Sweet 16/34-15 Overall
4 West Virginia vs 1 Gonzaga
Prediction: This is a tough one. I originally had Notre Dame in this game. I thought they had what it takes to match up well with the Zags, but I am not so sure about West Virginia. They earned their trip to the Sweet 16, easily knocking the Irish out, but do they have what it takes to make the Elite Eight? I don’t think so. I might eat my words, but I’ve got the Zags in this one.
Result: I don’t think there is a worse possible possession than West Virginia had to end their Sweet 16 game. The Zags were up 61-58 with just seconds remaining. West Virginia barely even managed to get a shot off that would have tied the game at the buzzer. I’m telling you, this possession was BAD. Heck, their last few were downright bad. Here’s a link to it. Go see how bad the ending was. Zags keep on rolling.
Record: 1-1 Sweet 16/35-15 Overall
4 Purdue vs 1 Kansas
Prediction: Purdue has proved me wrong twice already in this tournament. The Boilermakers are rolling. Kansas, though, is playing like they’re the best team in the tournament (spoiler: they are right now). The Jayhawks haven’t missed a beat since their opening-round domination, handling Michigan State fairly easily down the stretch. Sparty tried to make a run at them, but they turned on the jets at the end. Moral of the story, Kansas isn’t going home yet.
Result: Kansas is the real deal, folks. They are easily playing the best basketball in this tournament. I believe, for now, they should be considered the favorites to win the whole thing. They may stumble later on, but right now they are dominating all aspects of the game on both ends of the floor. The Jayhawks are hot. They move on to the Elite Eight with general ease.
Record: 2-1 Sweet 16/36-15 Overall
11 Xavier vs 2 Arizona
Prediction: The Wildcats survived a scare from Saint Mary’s in the second round to make it this far. Xavier put on a show against Florida State. I counted them out and they showed up and dominated. This could be a great matchup for a 2-seed versus an 11-seed. I still like Arizona, but it would not come as too much of a surprise if Xavier is able to pull off the “miracle” upset.
Result: Well, my champion is gone now. I liked the Wildcats as an outside chance to make a run at this thing, and they showed me why you don’t pick a team from the Pac-12 to win the championship (with the exception of UCLA). I did say:
“This could be a great matchup for a 2-seed versus an 11-seed. I still like Arizona, but it would not come as too much of a surprise if Xavier is able to pull off the ‘miracle’ upset.”
So in a way, I was kind of right? Arizona was the third team of the night (Michigan, West Virginia) to miss a game-winning or game-tying buzzer-beater. Xavier keeps their Cinderella dreams alive.
Record: 2-2 Sweet 16/36-16 Overall
Friday, March 24
4 Butler vs 1 North Carolina
Prediction: Ugh. This should be “8 Arkansas vs 4 Butler”. But I digress. The Tar Heels barely squeaked past the Razorbacks in the second round while Butler was having a battle with Middle Tennessee. Both games came down to the wire, but both favorites prevailed. Two teams that play great in March will face off with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line, but only one can come out on the other side. The Tar Heels will end Butler’s potential return to the NCAA Championship, but expect a close, hard-fought game.
Result: Well, it wasn’t as close as I had anticipated. The Tar Heels were in control of this game from the opening tip. North Carolina advances to the Elite Eight. The Bulldogs are going home.
Record: 3-2 Sweet 16/37-16 Overall
7 South Carolina vs 3 Baylor
Prediction: Wow. South Carolina is playing like they want to win a national championship. They pummeled Duke in the second round like they were playing a 15-seed. Baylor was barely (bear-ly? Get it, because they’re the Bears?) able to hang on to beat the other USC (get it, because South Carolina and Southern California are both USC? Okay, I’ll quit with the references) in the second round. I picked against the Gamecocks twice already. I won’t make that same mistake again. South Carolina makes the Elite Eight.
Result: In their first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, the Gamecocks earned their first trip to the Elite Eight. This game was not even close. South Carolina ran up and down the floor on Baylor, winning by a final score of 70-50. The Gamecocks are contenders. I didn’t think I would ever say that, but they’re playing great ball right now thanks to their overwhelming defense. Watch out for them to make a real run at this thing. They have what it takes.
Record: 4-2 Sweet 16/38-16 Overall
3 UCLA vs 2 Kentucky
Prediction: These teams met early in the season in Lexington, where UCLA pulled out a five-point victory. This isn’t December though. This is March. Kentucky has barely limped into the Sweet 16, while UCLA has yet to have too much trouble advancing. Bruins star Lonzo Ball is playing better ball than the Wildcat duo of Malik Monk and DeAaron Fox. Whichever team’s freshman guard(s) shows up and makes the bigger impact will win. I predict that it will be “that Ball kid” as Dwayne Wade calls him. The Bruins advance to the Elite Eight.
Result: It’s been a good night so far for the SEC, and it isn’t over yet. The Wildcats pulled away in the second half to defeat the Bruins of UCLA 86-75. Fox scored 39 for Kentucky, with fellow freshman guard Monk adding 21 on 4-9 shooting from three-point range. In fact, Monk scored 10-consecutive points for UK to open the second half. Ball didn’t seem to show up for this game, managing only 10 points for the Bruins. The Wildcats are nearly impossible to beat when their freshman guard duo plays the way they did in this game. Kentucky moves on into familiar territory and will feel right at home in the Elite Eight (especially playing in Memphis). The SEC has (at least) two teams in the Elite Eight. But I thought they were just a football conference?
Record: 4-3 Sweet 16/38-17 Overall
8 Wisconsin vs 4 Florida
Prediction: This is by far the hardest game to decide on for me. I have gone back and forth several times, citing several reasons to pick for and against each team. Bottom line is, they’re both really good and much better than most people originally thought when the tournament started. I don’t believe either team has what it takes to make a legitimate run at the championship, but then again, they have a chance. Wisconsin proved they can knock off top seeds and Florida showed how powerful their defense can be in blowout fashion. I’m super excited about this one. The Gators advance…?
Result: BUZZER BEATER! GATORS WIN! After the Badgers stormed back to force overtime thanks to a three with two seconds left and held a two-point lead with four seconds left in overtime, Florida hit a buzzer-beating three of their own to win the game 84-83. This was the best game of the tournament thus far. The first overtime game? Check. Miracle three to force overtime? Check. Buzzer-beating three to win the game by one? Check. Florida moves on to the Elite Eight. What. A. Game.
Record: 5-3 Sweet 16/39-17 Overall
Well, there you have it. The Elite Eight is set (because my predictions are always spot-on). If the Sweet 16 is even half as good as the previous two rounds were, we are in for a heck of a couple of days of basketball. Who will emerge as the favorite? Who will go home earlier than we thought? Who will actually read my article? So many unanswered questions. Maybe we’ll have some answers when I see you in the Elite Eight.