And then there were eight. The 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been absolute madness. It’s tournament years like this one that gave this event its nickname, March Madness.
The opening round brought on so many upsets that out of 13 million brackets, only six perfect brackets remained. The biggest upset which was a major blow to my basketball season was No. 15 Middle Tennessee’s win over No. 2 Michigan State. Why Spartans, why?
The round of 32 brought on some exciting matchups, but the upsets were halted as the clock struck midnight and Cinderella returned home. To be honest I’m not even sure who I would name this year’s tournament Cinderella. Potentially my home state’s University of Hawaii?
Thursday night tipped off the second weekend in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with the Sweet 16. This is the first time since 2012 that all four No. 1 seeds have advanced this far, and they are joined by six other top fours. But perhaps the most interesting statistic of the 2016 Sweet 16 is that 37.5 percent of the teams come from the Atlantic Coast Conference. All but one ACC team won in the first weekend. As a conference, it went 12-1 with the one loss going to Pittsburgh, who the ACC may just have to kick out for this mess up. Will the ACC have just as much luck in week two?
As I am writing this, not all Sweet 16 matchups have taken place, but if all pans out like it should, I am ready to give you my Elite Eight predictions.
In the Sweet 16, I predicted Oregon over Duke and Oklahoma over Texas A&M. Right now I know I am on the money with the Sooners, who beat the Aggies 77-63.
Between the Ducks and the Sooners, I have to go with the Sooners to reach the Final Four. For your information, I still have a perfect bracket for the West and South regions.
In this Elite Eight matchup expect to see an up-tempo game. Both teams like to play fast, but both will try and work their magic to throw off the other. I’ll take Oklahoma in that arena.
But the big difference maker for me is defense. Where Oklahoma plays tough defense and can also rack up the points, Oregon puts up points but has difficulty stringing defensive stops. Expect high scoring and a win by one or two possessions.
With 16 teams left, four from the south, I picked Villanova over Miami and Kansas over Maryland. As I am writing, Kansas and Maryland are in their first quarter, and Villanova completed its rout of Miami, 92-69.
Unfortunately, no matter who advanced from the Wildcats’ and Hurricanes’ side of the bracket, it was always going to be Kansas moving to the Final Four.
I think the toughest matchup for the Jayhawks is their Sweet 16 opponent, the Terps, and if the Terps can’t do it, no one can. What the Jayhawks have going for them is contributors on all fronts. They have their standouts, but even their backup staff is playing better than some of their opponents’ main threats.
North Carolina over Indiana and Wisconsin over Notre Dame for the Sweet 16 matchups from the East. Both games take place Friday night, but if I am right, I am picking the Tar Heels to be the region champions.
These two teams have already played each other twice this year and they are currently 1-1. Notre Dame took the first game, but just two weeks ago UNC crushed the Irish, 78-47. The Tar Heels keep improving on all fronts and are perhaps the most complete team in the tourney right now.
Both region Sweet 16 matchups take place Friday, and I have Virginia over Iowa State and Gonzaga over Syracuse. Turning to the Final Four, I predicted Virginia falling short once again, but I could only see Michigan State pulling that off, so now I’m taking the Cavaliers to the Final Four.
Here we are looking at consistent Virginia versus you-barely-made-the-tournament Gonzaga. The disciplined Cavaliers will best the Zags by controlling the pace of play and ultimately the game.