Sweet 16: Reseeding the Field
It is only fitting that the craziest NCAA Tournament in easily the last two decades occurred this year after missing out on all the buzzer beaters, Cinderella runs, and classic games with no March Madness a year ago. There was plenty of drama starting with the First Four last Thursday through the last Round of 32 game Monday night. It’s also safe to say that the majority of the brackets filled out by fans and even some “professionals” have officially been busted.
There were plenty of significant first round upsets: (15) Oral Roberts over (2) Ohio State, (14) Abilene Christian over (3) Texas, (13) North Texas over (4) Purdue, (13) Ohio over (4) Virginia and (12) Oregon State over (5) Tennessee. The efforts that are usually put in by these underdogs in the conference tournament typically perform at the same level in the next round, which usually keeps them from making it out of the first weekend. Surprisingly, the Beavers from Oregon State and the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts were the exception.
Another big test was to see if any of the tournament would be directly affected by COVID-19. Unfortunately, hours before the VCU-Oregon first round game, the game was considered a no contest with VCU having COVID issues. When the tournament resumes Saturday- hopefully no other teams have to exit this way.
Now let’s move on to the nitty gritty of remaining teams. It’s oh so sweet to be one of the 16 left. Really any of these teams have a chance to be the last one standing in Indianapolis. Let the reseeding begin!
- Creighton 22-8 (#5 seed West Region)
Round of 64: defeated #12 UC Santa Barbara 63-62
Round of 32: defeated #13 Ohio 72-58
Creighton has rebounded after a sluggish performance in the Big East Championship against Georgetown and the insensitive comments made by Head Coach Greg McDermott. Junior Guard Marcus Zegarowski will have to shoot the cover off of the ball in order for the Bluejays to advance to the third weekend of the tournament. They like playing at a fast pace, but with the remaining teams in the field that could prove challenging.
- Villanova 18-6 (#5 seed South Region)
Round of 64: defeated #12 Winthrop 73-63
Round of 32: defeated #13 North Texas 84-61
A lot of people thought the sexy upset pick was Winthrop over Villanova because of the injuries for the Wildcats. That upset never happened as Villanova has looked strong in their two games, but the competition in comparison to some of the other teams on this list has to be questioned. Regardless, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels have to be impactful in order for them to get past Baylor and try to give Head Coach Jay Wright his third Final Four appearance in five NCAA Tournaments.
- UCLA 20-9 (#11 seed East Region)
First Four: defeated #11 Michigan State 86-80 OT
Round of 64: defeated #6 BYU 73-62
Round of 32: defeated #14 Abilene Christian 67-47
There is usually a team that starts in the First Four and makes a deep run in the tournament. UCLA is trying to make it First Four to the Final Four. They can really play at a slow pace or more up-tempo if need be. Johnny Juzang has been the best player on the floor each time for the Bruins and that has to remain the case if they want to keep advancing.
- Oregon State 19-12 (#12 seed Midwest Region)
Round of 64: defeated #5 Tennessee 70-56
Round of 32: defeated #4 Oklahoma State 80-70
A team that no one expected much from were the Beavers. They would not have made the NCAA Tournament had they not caught fire and won the Pac-12 Tournament. Wayne Tinkle has done a tremendous coaching job to get the most out of his players. The way that they took down a hot Oklahoma State and Cade Cunningham also speaks for itself. Ethan Thompson is the player that makes this squad go and could lead them on a deeper run.
- Arkansas 24-6 (#3 seed South Region)
Round of 64: defeated #14 Colgate 85-68
Round of 32: defeated #6 Texas Tech 68-66
For the first time since 1996, the Razorbacks are in the Sweet 16 and they’ve done it on the strength of their resiliency. Midway through the first half against Colgate in the first round they were down by 14 and came back. When against Texas Tech in the first half, they were down by as much as 10. This team has a never say die attitude and no one exemplifies that more than Senior Forward Justin Smith.
- Oral Roberts 18-10 (#15 seed South Region)
Round of 64: defeated #2 Ohio State 75-72 OT
Round of 32: defeated #7 Florida 81-78
The true Cinderella of the tournament is here! They shocked the world and pulled off the upset of Ohio State and continued their magical run over Florida. They are led by Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas. Obanor and Abmas have combined for 113 points in the first two rounds. Abmas actually leads the nation this year in scoring and ORU is one of the best free throw shooting teams as well.
- Syracuse 18-9 (#11 seed Midwest Region)
Round of 64: defeated #6 San Diego State 78-62
Round of 32: defeated #3 West Virginia 75-72
A week before the tournament Syracuse was teetering on the edge of either making the tournament or missing the tournament. After a strong showing in a loss to Virginia in the ACC Tournament they heard their name called on Selection Sunday. What followed was the hot shooting of Buddy Boeheim in the first two rounds. He has scored 55 points in the two games and is hoping to put the Orange on his back for a Final Four run.
- USC 24-7 (#6 seed West Region)
Round of 64: defeated #11 Drake 72-56
Round of 32: defeated #3 Kansas 85-51
The Pac-12 is being represented in this Sweet 16 and USC has been pretty impressive in the first two rounds. The Mobley Brothers (Evan and Isaiah) have been the driving force for the Trojans. They handed blue-blood Kansas their worst tournament loss ever. This is their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2007.
- Florida State 18-6 (#4 seed East Region)
Round of 64: defeated #13 UNC Greensboro 64-54
Round of 32: defeated #5 Colorado 71-53
This may very well be the year Leonard Hamilton gets to his first Final Four. This Seminoles team is very unique in that it is 10 players deep and the length and athleticism are all across the board. The majority of their roster is 6’6” and above which could cause plenty of trouble for their opponents.
- Oregon 21-6 (#7 seed West Region)
Round of 64: advanced because of no contest; VCU COVID-19
Round of 32: defeated #2 Iowa 95-80
How is it possible for a team to only play one game so far in the tournament when others have played two and be this high up on the list? Well just go back and watch the offensive clinic the Ducks put on Iowa this past Monday. Oregon is finally healthy and all five of their starters average double figures. At some point the defense will need to play a little better because they may not be able to outshoot every team they face.
- Houston 26-3 (#2 seed Midwest Region)
Round of 64: defeated #15 Cleveland State 87-56
Round of 32: defeated #10 Rutgers 63-60
Kelvin Sampson’s squad pulled one out extremely late against a pesky Rutgers team. Houston was down by double digits with 10 minutes to go in the game, but they kept chipping away at the lead and muddied up the pace of the game which is what the Cougars do best. Pound for pound this is probably the toughest team left in the field.
- Alabama 26-6 (#2 seed East Region)
Round of 64: defeated #15 Iona 68-55
Round of 32: defeated #10 Maryland 96-77
After surviving a pesky Iona squad coached by Rick Pitino, the Crimson Tide rolled right along the victory path again in the Round of 32 against Maryland. This team lives and dies by the 3-point shot as evidenced by them attempting 33 against the Terrapins. The good thing for ‘Bama was they hit 16 of those shots. John Petty Jr., Jaden Shackelford and Herb Jones have to keep playing with a swagger in order for the team to advance.
- Michigan 22-4 (#1 seed East Region)
Round of 64: defeated #16 Texas Southern 82-66
Round of 32: defeated #8 LSU 86-78
Everyone thought Michigan would be the first 1-seed to be ousted from the tournament, but they have proved the naysayers wrong. Without their star player Isaiah Livers, they have made their way to the second weekend. They had a good challenge from offensive-oriented LSU, but the difference was Senior Guard Chaundee Brown Jr. who came off the bench and put up 21 points with many big baskets coming in the second half.
- Loyola Chicago 26-4 (#8 seed Midwest Region)
Round of 64: defeated #9 Georgia Tech 71-60
Round of 32: defeated #1 Illinois 71-58
The magic of Sister Jean is in effect again! The Ramblers were vastly under seeded as an 8-seed in the first place, but for them getting one of the hottest teams over the last month in 1-seed Illinois wasn’t a problem in the Round of 32. They controlled the tempo from beginning to end. Cameron Krutwig had a 19-point, 12-rebound performance and don’t forget they have the nation’s leading defense.
- Baylor 24-2 (#1 seed South Region)
Round of 64: defeated #16 Hartford 79-55
Round of 32: defeated #9 Wisconsin 76-63
This might be the most underrated 24-2 team of all-time. Baylor wasn’t quite the same team after their multi-week COVID pause, but they are starting to look like the team that won their first 18 games. Their big three in Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and MaCio Teague were the catalysts so far in this tournament.
- Gonzaga 28-0 (#1 seed West Region)
Round of 64: defeated #16 Norfolk State 98-55
Round of 32: defeated #8 Oklahoma 87-71
It was business as usual for Gonzaga in the first two rounds. The “best” team in the country clearly played like the “best.” Any of the starting five can be the one to put the dagger in the opposing team. Against Norfolk State, it was Anton Watson off the bench scoring 17 points with 7 rebounds and in the following round Drew Timme may have played his best game of his career scoring 30 points with 13 rebounds.