NCAA Tourney Continues; Sweet 16
Yahoo Sports looks at the remaining Sweet 16 teams and their chances to win the NCAA Title:
The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament produced plenty of surprises, but it did not change the favorite to capture the national title. That remains No. 1 overall seed Louisville, which looked as dominant as anyone advancing to the Sweet 16.
With the regional semifinals set to tip off Thursday evening, here’s ranking of the 16 teams still alive from most likely to least likely to win a championship. To be clear, this is not merely a best-to-worst list – it also takes into account upcoming draw and where those games will be held.
How they got here: Defeated North Carolina A&T and Colorado State
Up next: No. 12 Oregon
Outlook: Since a five-overtime loss to Notre Dame during Big East play, Louisville has reeled off 12 wins in a row, captured the Big East tournament title and throttled its first two NCAA tournament opponents by an average of nearly 30 points. The team that beats the Cardinals will have to be patient, careful with the ball and torrid from the field, which is bad news for an Oregon team that plays at a fast pace and turns the ball over a little too frequently.
How they got here: Defeated James Madison and Temple
Up next: No. 4 Syracuse
Outlook: It took a key block, a shrewd coaching decision and a game-clinching 3-pointer for Indiana to survive Temple’s round of 32 upset bid, but the Hoosiers did what they needed to do, which was survive and advance. They have the firepower to solve Syracuse’s zone and to overcome Miami or Marquette in the regional finals, but more production from everyone besides Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller is essential.
How they got here: Defeated Northwestern State and Minnesota
Up next: No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
Outlook: Dominant as Florida has been in its first two games, questions remain how the Gators will fare down the stretch in a close game and whether they can hold onto a late lead in an Elite Eight game the way they’ve failed to do the past two years. Florida may have the size, length and athleticism to put Florida Gulf Coast away early, but whether it’s the Elite Eight or the Final Four, the Gators eventually will be tested in a close game.
4. Ohio State
How they got here: Defeated Iona and Iowa State
Up next: No. 6 Arizona
Outlook: Ohio State hasn’t necessarily proven it’s one of the four best teams left in the field, but the Buckeyes are peaking at the right time and benefit from the chaos that has eliminated the other four highest-seeded teams in the West. Although the Ohio State defense was more vulnerable than usual against Iowa State, the Buckeyes got the complementary scoring they need for Deshaun Thomas, this time from Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross.
How they got here: Defeated Albany and Creighton
Up next: No. 3 Michigan State
Outlook: Amile Jefferson gave Duke good minutes off the bench against Creighton, but the Blue Devils need Mason Plumlee to stay out of foul trouble and Ryan Kelly to regain his early season form to advance out of the Indianapolis region. Up next for Duke is maybe the best matchup of the Sweet 16 against Michigan State, followed by a potential Battle 4 Atlantis title game rematch against Louisville, this time with Gorgui Dieng.
How they got here: Defeated Western Kentucky and North Carolina
Up next: No. 4 Michigan
Outlook: The brilliance of Jeff Withey on both ends of the floor and timely contributions from Travis Releford are the only reasons Kansas wasn’t eliminated during the opening weekend. Unless Ben McLemore bounces back from an 0-for-9 shooting night against North Carolina and Elijah Johnson starts providing perimeter scoring, the Jayhawks likely won’t make it to Atlanta, let alone win Bill Self’s second title.
How they got here: Defeated South Dakota State and VCU
Up next: No. 1 Kansas
Outlook: Whereas VCU’s swarming defensive pressure was a favorable matchup for a Michigan team with a wealth of ball-handling guards, the traditional defense Kansas plays likely will pose a greater challenge. The Wolverines lack a stretch big man to bring Jeff Withey out of the paint, so they’ll have to shoot well from the perimeter or find a way to elude the shot-blocking center at the rim to advance past the Sweet 16.
How they got here: Defeated Pacific and Illinois
Up next: No. 3 Marquette
Outlook: Credit Miami’s perimeter defense and five 3-pointers from Rion Brown for getting the Hurricanes to the Sweet 16, but they likely can’t survive another 40 percent shooting night like they had against Illinois and expect to win. More production from Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji and Trey McKinney-Jones is essential to Miami’s hopes of reaching the regional finals and perhaps making its first Final Four.
9. Michigan State
How they got here: Defeated Valparaiso and Memphis
Up next: No. 2 Duke
Outlook: The shoulder injury Keith Appling sustained against Memphis won’t keep him from playing against Duke, Tom Izzo said Monday. That’s good for the Spartans, but the bigger question is whether the erratic point guard will play well. Though strong play from Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix and Gary Harris has carried Michigan State, the Spartans need Appling to knock down shots and make sound decisions to get past Duke or Louisville.
How they got here: Defeated Belmont and Harvard
Up next: No. 2 Ohio State
Outlook: Thursday night we find out whether Arizona has recaptured the form it seemed to lose during conference play or if its NCAA tournament run is a product of a favorable draw. If Mark Lyons plays at the level he did last week and Wildcats fans turn Staples Center into Tucson West, Arizona definitely is capable of overcoming stingy Ohio State in the regional semifinals and advancing to a Final Four.
How they got here: Defeated Montana and Cal
Up next: No. 1 Indiana
Outlook: Mike Montgomery candidly admitted Saturday that his club lacked enough outisde shooters or skilled big men to shred Syracuse’s zone, but top-seeded Indiana has those weapons. That doesn’t bode well in the Sweet 16 for Syracuse, which needs to shut down its opponents with its zone to make up for a lackluster offense dragged down by erratic outside shooting and a lack of a post-up presence.
How they got here: Defeated Oklahoma State and Saint Louis
Up next: No. 1 Louisville
Outlook: Underseeded by four or five lines on Selection Sunday, Oregon proved it deserved better than a No. 12 seed by throttling both the favored Cowboys and Billikens to advance to its first Sweet 16 since 2007. Damyean Dotson’s scoring, Arsalan Kazemi’s rebounding and improved point guard play have sparked the Ducks’ late-season surge, but their turnover woes could be a fatal flaw against Louisville’s defensive pressure.
13. Wichita State
How they got here: Defeated Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State
Up next: No. 13 La Salle
Outlook: A matchup with La Salle in the Sweet 16 gives Wichita State a great chance to become the first No. 9 seed to make regional final since Boston College in 1994, but for the Shockers to get any further they may have to duplicate Saturday’s outside shooting effort. Not known for its perimeter prowess, Wichita State managed to sink 14 of 28 3-pointers in its upset of top-seeded Gonzaga.
How they got here: Defeated Davidson and Butler
Up next: No. 2 Miami
Outlook: No team survived two closer calls during the opening weekend than Marquette, which played catch-up against Davidson for 39 minutes and fell behind Butler by 10 points before rallying late to win both games. Vander Blue’s late-game heroics bailed out the Golden Eagles in both games, but Miami is too good, too deep and too experienced for Marquette to spot the Hurricanes a lead.
15. Florida Gulf Coast
How they got here: Defeated Georgetown and San Diego State
Up next: No. 3 Florida
Outlook: Already the first No. 15 seed to win more than one NCAA tournament game, the high-flying Eagles will face in-state power Florida on Friday in a Sweet 16 duel straight out of a Disney movie. FGCU may be the most athletic and confident No. 15 seed ever, but Florida has superior size and length at all positions and enough perimeter athleticism to slow down the Eagles.
16. La Salle
How they got here: Defeated Boise State, Kansas State and Ole Miss
Up next: No. 9 Wichita State
Outlook: The fifth of five Atlantic 10 teams to make the NCAA tournament field, La Salle won three games last week to emerge as the only team from the league still playing. The Explorers are a threat in the wide-open West Region thanks to a formidable backcourt capable of knocking down jump shots or scoring at the rim, but it’s tough to see them winning three or four games against elite foes.