Well, that was probably the most fun first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament that I’ve experience. Yes, I know it’s really called the second and third rounds now, but I’m not going to call it that because it’s stupid. The play-in games should not be considered the first round.
With that being said, here’s a preview of what to expect for the Sweet 16 matchups that will take place on Thursday and Friday:
The two most surprising teams left in the tournament, Dayton and Stanford, will face off in Memphis on Thursday. I think Stanford’s length will be the deciding factor in the game that will give them the edge.
Prediction: Stanford 58-Dayton 51
After a rough game against Albany, Florida bounced back with a dominating performance against Pittsburgh. SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin led the Gators with 21 points. UCLA has had two impressive performances over Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin. Guards Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams have been the catalysts to their success. UCLA definitely has a shot of pulling off the upset, but I think Florida is too well-coached and too steady of a team to get upset because of their fourth-years.
Prediction: Florida 70-UCLA 63
The Arizona and San Diego State is a game between the two best west coast teams of the past five years. Arizona’s All-American guard Nick Johnson has been the team’s leader and forward Aaron Gordon’s ability to defend any position is what makes them a great team. Yes, the Aztecs are a good team, but the Wildcats are a far superior one and that will show in the game.
Prediction: Arizona 68-San Diego State 57
The Baylor and Wisconsin game will be a very close game. Baylor continues to be one of the most underrated programs in the country and this is one of Bo Ryan’s best teams during his tenure at Wisconsin. I think Baylor’s length, strength and ability to shoot the ball from three will be too much for the Badgers to handle.
Prediction: Baylor 71-Wisconsin 59
Currently, both teams are playing the best they’ve played all season. For Kentucky, the Harrison twins are finally playing how everyone expected them to play all season, which makes the team difficult to defend. All-American guard Russ Smith will need to be at his best to beat Kentucky at this point in the season. Overall, Kentucky is playing with the most confidence they’ve had all season, so I expect them to beat their in-state rival.
Prediction: Kentucky 66-Louisville 59
For Michigan, Nik Stauskas has been the team’s leader and best player, while turning himself into a first-round pick in this upcoming draft. Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes has been an absolute beast in leading the Vols to the Sweet 16. I think Stokes and guard Jordan McRae will lead Tenenssee to the Elite Eight. Stokes’ presence inside will be too much for Michigan to handle without forward Mitch McGary.
Prediction: Tennessee 74-Michigan 69
The Spartans are playing the best they’ve played all season led by Adreian Payne, whose 41-point performance against Delaware was the best individual performance of the tournament so far. Virginia continues to be the most defensive-sound team in the country. Michigan State has enough weapons to allow them to advance to the Elite Eight.
Prediction: Michigan State 64-Virginia 59
The Cyclones had an impressive comeback over North Carolina, without forward Georges Niang, who is out for the season with a broken foot. Despite getting injured, UConn guard Shabazz Napier was able to will the Huskies to a victory over Villanova. In this game, I think Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim will be too much for UConn to handle.
Prediction: Iowa State 74-UConn 57