The 2018 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament begins this Thursday, March 15, and this Friday, March 16. By this Sunday we’ll know which teams are in the Sweet 16. I’ve already handicapped the NCAA Tournament to the Sweet 16.
As always, there should be a mix of high-seeded squads that can get it done along with a few dogs who might sneak into the Sweet 16. Check out whom I think stamps their ticket to next weekend’s slate of college hoops’ March Madness games!
March Madness Preview: My 2018 Sweet 16 Picks
I failed to pull the trigger on many of the dogs that I listed in my Top 8 Underdogs that Can Win the NCAA Tournament post. The reason is because, well, it’s difficult to beat a number 1 seed. Even Virginia, whom I believe is vulnerable, shouldn’t be vulnerable until the Sweet 16 when I’ve got them battling the Arizona Wildcats.
The #1-seed that I do feel could go down over the weekend are the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas must battle either a good ACC team in NC State or a good Big East squad in Seton Hall. If KU gets past either one of those teams, Bill Self and Rock Chalk Jayhawk could march to the Final Four. I don’t see that happening.
Who should beat Kansas in Round 2? Keep reading to find out!
#1 Virginia Cavaliers
It’s difficult to see Creighton or Kansas State getting by the Virginia Cavaliers lock down defense. The Cavaliers allow less than 54 points on average. That’s amazing because they played against Syracuse, Duke, NC State, Miami, Clemson, and North Carolina all season long. As ESPN commentator Jay Bilas said about the Cavaliers’ D, “Virginia is like watching a boa constrictor slowly get a hold on you and squeeze. For non-residents of Charlottesville, Virginia is the basketball equivalent of a sedative. But to Hoos fans, it is a dream.”
The best team in the best college basketball conference has no business not making it to at least the Sweet 16.
#4 Arizona Wildcats
The Arizona Wildcats appear to be surging. They ride a 5-game winning streak into the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Their last 3 wins might have been their very best as the Cats beat Colorado 83 to 67, outscored UCLA 11 to 0 in overtime in a 78 to 67 win, and cruised past USC 75 to 61 in the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament.
Zona’s most important player is center DeAndre Ayton. Their second most important player might be Rawle Alkins. They also have a guy named Allonzo Trier who can hang 30 on any given night. Parker Jackson-Cartwright isn’t a bad point-guard. Yep. No matter what you think about head coach Sean Miller, the Arizona Wildcats are loaded.
#6 Miami-Florida Hurricanes
It’s difficult to know how good teams from the SEC are. The reason I bring up the SEC is because Miami has a potential Round 2 match up versus the Tennessee Volunteers. We know the Miami-Florida Hurricanes are a good basketball team.
Like Virginia, Miami-FL plays in the top-notch ACC. The Canes battled Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, VA Tech, NC State, you name a good college basketball program and it’s likely to hail from the ACC or the Big East. That’s why the Hurricanes have an excellent shot of upsetting Tennessee in Round 2.
#2 Cincinnati Bearcats
I love the Bearcats’ defense. Cincinnati allows 57.1 points per game. That ranks second in college hoops after Virginia’s 53.4 points allowed per game. The Bearcats have a relatively easy path to the Sweet 16. They face Georgia State in Round 1. Then, they battle either Nevada or Texas. Neither the Wolf Pack nor the Longhorns should put up much of a fight versus Cincinnati. I think the Bearcats are a lock to play next weekend.
#1 Xavier Musketeers
I truly wanted to take Missouri or Florida State over the Xavier Musketeers in Round 2. I couldn’t pull the trigger. Why? The Musketeers only have 5 losses this season. 2 losses were to the very good Villanova Wildcats. 2 losses were to the Providence Friars. They also lost to Arizona State early in the season. Xavier is destined to play next week.
#5 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes aren’t a great basketball team. They fight hard, though. They also face a relatively week #4-seed in the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Round 2. Gonzaga nowhere near resembles the squad that lost to North Carolina in last year’s NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament Championship. It must also be noted that Ohio State beat Michigan and Michigan State this season.
#3 Michigan Wolverines
The Big Ten Basketball Tournament Champions are once again hot heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines deserve a ton of respect because they beat Michigan State 75 to 64. Then, they beat Purdue 75 to 66 to take home their third straight Big Ten Basketball Tournament Championship. Michigan State and Purdue are the two best teams in the Big Ten. The Wolverines are a solid choice to advance to the Sweet 16.
#10 Providence Friars
Providence played great in the Big East Basketball Tournament. The Xavier Musketeers had a solid 12 point lead over the Friars at one point during Providence’s win over Xavier. The Friars fought back to beat the Musketeers straight up 75 to 72 in overtime. Providence then battled Villanova to a 66 to 76 overtime loss.
Providence is as battle-tested as their likely Round 2 opponent, the North Carolina Tar Heels. I believe the Friars have a shot at upsetting the Heels this weekend.
#1 Villanova Wildcats
What can you say about Jay Wright’s squad? Both Virginia Tech and Alabama have a shot to upset Villanova in Round 2. Virginia Tech, especially, could pull off the upset. The Hokies beat the Virginia Cavaliers on the road as a 12-point dog this season.
But, when it comes down to it, Villanova is Villanova. The Wildcats have all the elements to get back to the Sweet 16. Heck, Nova has all the elements to win their second National Championship in the past 3 seasons.
#4 Wichita State Shockers
Wichita State’s 74 to 77 loss to the Houston Cougars in the American Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament Final was sort of a shock. Okay, that’s not exactly a good pun. Still, I believe in Wichita State. This could be the season when the Shockers make it to the Final Four. I mean, there are few teams that have as experienced of a player as Shaq Morris. Morris is good enough to pull a Danny Manning type NCAA Tournament domination.
#3 Texas Tech Red Raiders
I believe the Red Raiders are legit. They’ve got a couple of great starting guards in Keenan Evans and Jarrett Culver. Evans leads the team in points and assists per game. Culver leads the Red Raiders in rebounds per game. Texas Tech could be the team from the Big 12 that goes far, not the Kansas Jayhawks.
#7 Arkansas Razorbacks
The Razorbacks play in the SEC. I’m not hot on any SEC team. I do feel that if any team could get hot, though, it’s the Arkansas Razorbacks. One of the reasons why I feel that way is because the Razorbacks battle overrated Butler in Round 1. Then, they take on Purdue in Round 2. I’m not a fan of the Purdue Boilermakers. I believe Arkansas upsets Purdue because their guards could control the flow of that game.
#9 NC State Wolfpack
Here’s where I take a huge stand. By taking the NC State Wolfpack, I’m writing first that NC State gets past #8 Seton Hall. The Pirates are a good basketball team. Then, I’m saying that NC State upsets the Kansas Jayhawks in Round 2. Kansas, as you could imagine, is the best team from the Big 12 Conference.
Why NC State? The Wolfpack beat Duke and North Carolina this season. They went 5 and 2 straight up in their last 7 games. If NC State can get hot, they’ve got a shot to win the Midwest Region.
#5 Clemson Tigers
Clemson is another one of those ACC teams that could prove to be difficult to take down in the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. The Tigers aren’t exactly loaded. However, when they keep their focus they could hang with ACC teams like Virginia and Duke. That makes them a tough team to deal with. Also, Auburn is the #4-seed in the Midwest Region. I don’t like Auburn at all.
#3 Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State has a top Naismith Award candidate in Miles Bridges. The Spartans also rank first in college hoops in field goal percentage allowed. Opponents only shoot 36.6% from the field versus the Michigan State Spartans. I’m not hot on MSU. But, they’re the best team in the second half of the Midwest Region bracket.
#2 Duke Blue Devils
I really, truly, wanted to pull the trigger on the Rhode Island Rams. I couldn’t get myself to do it. Seriously, though, I tried. The thing is, Duke is the most talented team in the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. Yes, I know they’re immature. They’ve got a loose cannon in Grayson Allen. They don’t always play together and they easily lose focus. However, if any coach can get this band of ultra-talented hoopsters to play well in the next 3 weeks, it’s Coach K.
That’s why I’ve got Duke in my Sweet 16. Check out the first couple of rounds of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. Also, don’t forget to get your NCAA College Basketball Tournament Brackets ready!