Wow. What a slew of games that we saw last week as a 1 and a couple of 2 seeds fell in this NCAA tournament. Villanova, Duke and Louisville all packed their bags early, heading back to their schools disappointed and ashamed.
Wisconsin, South Carolina and Michigan all have crashed the party and they did it in both dramatic and convincing fashion. We also have a clash of the titans in the south region, as seeds 1 through 4 all made it to the Sweet 16.
So let’s break down these sweet 16 games, and I will also give you my new picks for the final 4, since I had Duke in my final, my bracket is a bit busted. Here we go, let’s start up in the East.
(8) Wisconsin vs (4) Florida
This is a great game that we would see in the Capital One Bowl during the college football season. Wisconsin led by Seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes have brought Wisconsin back to the big time with their play in the first two games. The Badgers have beaten Virginia Tech in a close one, and upset Villanova by 3 in a thriller.
Florida beat ETSU by 15 then smoked Virginia by 26. The Gators have been led by Junior forward Devin Robinson. Robinson has been a big time player for the Gators in this tournament. It’s an awesome matchup, and a tough one to pick. But I like Wisconsin in this one, that Senior leadership of Nigel Hayes is what will do it.
(7) South Carolina vs (3) Baylor
I had neither of these teams in the Sweet 16, my matchup was USC-Duke. Boy I was wrong. Let me say this, I am not a Baylor Bear believer, but Jonathan Motley has been a force this year for the Bears. He is making me contemplate changing my mind about them. Baylor walked by NMSU by a bunch and squeaked by USC by 4.
South Carolina smoked Marquette by 20, and then took out Duke by 7. The Gamecocks led by Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, had plenty of scoring in their game with Duke. The Gamecocks had 5 fellas in double figures, 4 with fifteen points or more. I like South Carolina, they’re coming off the impressive win against Duke, and I think if Thornwell gets hot early, then it will be a long night for the Bears.
So the Elite 8 game would pit (7) South Carolina vs (8) Wisconsin, let’s stick with the Badgers to the Final 4. Hayes and Koenig led them back to the kingdom and they’re back as one of the prime teams in the Big 10.
EAST WINNER: (8) WISCONSIN
(4) West Virginia vs (1) Gonzaga
Gonzaga is in this game because the NCAA didn’t want them bowing out early again. That game against Northwestern was officiated horribly . I think Bob Huggins will coach West Virginia and put Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s mind into a pretzel. The duo of Jevon Carter and Nathan Adrien are what will put the Mountaineers over the top in this one. The Zags aren’t as good as people think they are. If I am wrong, I will admit that. But give me WVU and convincingly.
(11) Xavier vs (2) Arizona
I give Xavier all the credit in the world. They have beaten elite teams night in and night out. The Musketeers first took out Melo Trimble and Maryland then Dwayne Bacon and Florida State, now they get Arizona led by Allonzo Trier. Arizona has blown out North Dakota and slipped by St Mary’s. But this game could be a big one, if Xavier plays to their true potential, then I think they put up a fight. But then again, led by Trier and Lauri Markkanen, the Wildcats could blow this game into the stratosphere and it’ll be over at halftime. I like Arizona by at least 10.
My winner of the Elite 8 game of WVU and Arizona is going to be Arizona. I think Nathan Adrien will get into foul trouble early, and that could crush the hopes of WVU. They’ll close the deficit but Trier and company will be just too much.
WEST WINNER: (2) ARIZONA
(5) Purdue vs (1) Kansas
Kansas may be the most complete team in this region with Frank Mason and Joshua Jackson. Jackson has had big tournament with big play after big play. Kansas should get their first true test with the Boilermakers on Thursday night.
Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards are the duo who I think could give the Jayhawks their toughest match-up in the tourney thus far. Swanigan has at least a double-double a game and Edwards has dropped 20. This could mean Landon Lucas and Devonte Graham will need to be huge for the Jayhawks.
Who’s my pick? I like Kansas by 7 or 8, much closer game than the 2 previous match-ups for Kansas, but I do reserve the right to say if Josh Jackson heats up early, this one could be a double-digit blowout.
(7) Michigan vs (3) Oregon
This game is the biggest one in the career of Dillon Brooks. This game is the legacy game I think for the guard. Brooks and company will face a Michigan team that will have overcome basically every obstacle in their way.
But do the Ducks have someone that can stop Moritz Wagner? I don’t think so, it will be one of those big man on one side and a guard on the other side games. Brooks got help from the other guard Tyler Dorsey against Rhode Island, and he will need all the help he can get in this one. Michigan on the other hand has won a majority of their games in the second half, if they wait that long, they will be blown away. I just flipped a coin and I like the Ducks by 2.
I think Kansas walks out of the Midwest. They boast way too much firepower. Jackson and Mason will eat the Oregon duo alive.
MIDWEST WINNER: (1) KANSAS
(4) Butler vs (1) UNC
I won’t lie, I think this game comes down to the possible match-up of Kelan Martin for Butler and Justin Jackson for UNC. I think Jackson is most likely the most underrated player in the entire country and Kelan Martin is the most unnamed good player in the country.
Butler needs Martin to take over this game from buzzer to buzzer. Then again, the starting five that UNC trots out is arguably the best in the nation. After a scare from Arkansas, I don’t think the Heels fool around with Butler, and escape with a 5 or 6 point win.
(3) UCLA vs (2) Kentucky
The rematch we did not think we would get to see. Bruins vs. Wildcats was a thriller earlier this season, with the Bruins leaving Rupp Arena with a win. The Monk-Fox tag-team will have to be at its utmost best from start to finish. This could be the game of the tournament, a true matchup of stars that could give us another rematch. My big pick was Kentucky and I’m sticking with it. The Cats win by 8 as Lonzo Ball has an off game, and TJ Leaf gets into early foul trouble.
I am sticking with Kentucky, no other way to put it.
MIDWEST WINNER: (2) KENTUCKY