The opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament has come and gone. Brackets are busted, upsets happened, nails were bitten during close games, and it’s time for the Sweet Sixteen. Not many people predicted these sixteen teams to be left, as literally every single No. 1, 2, and 3 seed still remain. That’s is one of the rarest things to happen in tournament history. Now that we’ve reached this portion of the big dance, it’s time to take our best guesses once again on who will go on to reach the Elite Eight.
No. 1 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech Hokies
Since before the tournament officially began, the Duke Blue Devils have been the heavy favorites. In fact, they’ve been the favorites since the season started. That’s because of the combination of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish. When Duke survived against UCF, it was because of big plays from those three guys down the stretch. The Hokies have had a great season, but they’re missing a key factor. UCF had the 7’6″ Tacko Fall to make a difference. Virginia Tech has nobody over 6’7″, meaning Williamson should dominate.
No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers vs. No. 12 Oregon Ducks
The Ducks are the lowest seed remaining. By a lot. The Virginia Cavaliers nearly dropped another loss to a No. 16 seed in the first round before righting the ship and dominating since that first half. With that possible disappointment in their rearview mirror, Virginia seems to be back on track. Meanwhile, Oregon has made it this far thanks to a stout defense and some great hustle. Unfortunately for them, defense is also Virginia’s calling card. When the team you’re playing is better at the thing you’re best at, it doesn’t bode well. Throw in the lack of star Bol Bol and Oregon is most likely going home.
No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 5 Auburn Tigers
Another one of the favorites to win it all are the North Carolina Tar Heels. Aren’t they always? This is a team filled with talent like Coby White and Nassir Little, led by one of the best coaches to ever do it. Through two games, the Tar Heels have dominated the glass and hold an absurd 42-7 advantage in second chance points. Auburn is the kind of team that can run with the high scoring Tar Heels and they hit enough three pointers to pull out a massive upset. If they’re gunning, they can beat anybody. However, we think UNC is too good on the boards to lose here.
Winner: North Carolina
No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 4 Florida State Seminoles
Gonzaga is the lowest ranked No. 1 seed. This is a highly efficient team that can score with the best of them. They just weren’t tested much during the season. While they hold a win over Duke, they dropped their other big games to Tennessee and UNC. Florida State has won 16 of their last 18, with their only losses coming to Duke and UNC. So, who will get that big win against another top team? It’ll be close, but we’re thinking the Seminoles pull this off. Gonzaga’s most significant advantage is their size, but the Seminoles are all long and athletic. Plus, they’re already won both a fast paced and slow paced game this tournament. They can play with anyone.
Winner: Florida State
No. 2 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 3. LSU Tigers
LSU has done better than most expected. They’re a strong team, but with controversy, an investigation, and the death of one of their students, many saw that as a distraction too big to overcome. They’ve done it by forcing plenty of turnovers and they’re matched up with a Michigan State team that is prone to sloppiness. Due to that, this feels like a matchup ripe for the lower seed to win. However, this is a Tom Izzo coached team. He’s one of the best for a reason. His teams almost always last long in these tournaments. Expect an Elite Eight appearance.
Winner: Michigan State
No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers vs. No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers
Tennessee has a bunch of talent in the likes of Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams. However, they’ve been rocky lately. In the SEC Tournament Final, they lost by 20 to Auburn. Then, they barely escaped against No. 15 Colgate in the first round before nearly blowing a 25 point lead against No. 7 Iowa. Purdue has been the exact opposite. They’ve dominated both opponents so far, including the defending champion Villanova Wildcats. They may only be the third seed, but the Boilermakers feel like the best team in their region right now.
No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 3 Houston Cougars
As always, Kentucky is one of the more talented teams in the NCAA Tournament. They do have to deal with health issues from PJ Washington, but still have good players up and down the roster. Houston went 31-3, yet only received a No. 3 seed due to a weak schedule. Can they step up against a tough Wildcats team? We think so for one specific reason. Houston is stout on the defensive end. Ohio State and Georgia State looked helpless to score against them in this tournament. Offense can have bad nights, but defense is usually consistent. Houston plays enough of it that they’ll take this one.
No. 2. Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Another 2 vs. 3 battle. This is a tight one. Michigan is fresh off a loss in the title game last year and our for redemption. Texas Tech doesn’t have a narrative like that leading the way, but they’re incredibly tough. These are two of the top defensive teams in the nation. Expect a slow pace and grind it out, low scoring basketball. Michigan has the edge because they’re deeper. Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver might be the best player on the court during this game, but Michigan has more firepower. In a defensive battle like this will be, every point matters even more. Michigan can get that extra bucket or two.