This year’s March Madness has been extremely entertaining, to say the least. From the first ever (men’s) 16-seed beating a 1-seed to the triumph of Sister Jean and the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago, most brackets were busted well before we could even reach the second weekend.
That said, there needs to be a re-seeding of the teams left in the NCAA Tournament before Thursday and Friday’s Sweet 16 games.
1. No. 1 Villanova, East Region (now #1)
One of just a few teams to show they’ve truly earned their ranking, the Wildcats of Villanova have impressed in their first two outings, beating No. 16 Radford by 26 and then upstart No. 9 Alabama by 23. The Wildcats have been draining threes, shooting 52% and 42%, respectively, and Junior duo Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson have led a largely uncontested effort to lead the ‘Cats to what’s sure to be a great Sweet 16 matchup against West Virginia.
2. No. 2 Duke, Midwest Region (now #1)
Many expected Duke – with a talented array of soon-to-be-drafted freshmen and, yes, Grayson Allen – to be the strongest of the two-seeds, and thus far, this has proven to be true. The Blue Devils smacked No. 15 Iona and No. 7 Rhode Island by 20+ points, two games in which stud freshman Marvin Bagley III scored 22 points. Duke gets conference-mate No. 11 Syracuse – who has beaten three teams it’s own seed or above by five points or less – in the Sweet 16.
3. No. 1 Kansas, Midwest Region (now #1)
Although they pulled both games out, Kansas experienced resistance from No. 16 Penn, and was pushed to a pretty close finish by No. 8 Seton Hall as well. Senior Devonte’ Graham has played all but two minutes of both games, but used his 39 minutes against Seton Hall to put up 29 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. The Jayhawks may need more production from their bench – who have provided the team just 9.0 PPG in the tournament – if they’re to beat No. 5 Clemson in the third round.
4. No. 5 West Virginia, East Region (now #1)
The only teams to win both of their first two rounds by more than 11 points? Villanova, Duke…and the Mountaineers of West Virginia. Dominating efforts over admittedly lowly teams – No. 12 Murray State and No. 13 Marshall – showcased the kind of talent this Huggins team possesses, led by the likes of Jevon Carter and Sagaba Konate. An uphill battle waits in the next round against the purported “best” team left – No. 1 Villanova.
5. No. 5 Kentucky, South Region (now #2)
Perhaps no team – besides the men of UMBC themselves – benefited more from Virginia’s early exit than Kentucky. If the Wildcats want to make the championship game, the most teams they could possibly need to beat seeded higher than them is one, and even still, that’s only if either Michigan or Gonzaga win the West. They have the highest chance of making the Final Four of any team left in the tournament (57%), and will face teams seeded 12, 13, 9, and either 7 or 11 in order to do so. Also, according to FiveThirtyEight, Kentucky has the second-best odds of making the championship game (30%) and the third best odds of winning the whole thing (11%). The other Wildcats in the region, those of Kansas State, will be a good test for Kentucky, but with the recent play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky’s prospects are looking pretty good.
6. No. 5 Clemson, Midwest Region (now #2)
Yes, just what everyone expected – that there would be more five-seeds left in the Sweet 16 than any other seed. Clemson outplayed New Mexico State before absolutely demolishing the likes of Auburn in the Round of 32. Gabe DeVoe has been the rock of this team, scoring 22 points in each game on 18/28 (64%) shooting over the first two rounds. Clemson gets Kansas in Omaha on Friday.
7. No. 2 Purdue, East Region (now #2)
Purdue handled their first round matchup against No. 15 Cal State Fullerton, but lost big man Isaac Haas for the rest of the tournament in the process. It showed. No. 10 Butler played their in-state rival extremely close all game, ultimately coming up short by three points in the process. But Purdue has to be scared – they’ll face one of the few remaining three seeds in the next round and all of the remaining 1’s and 2’s are on their side of the bracket. Per FiveThirtyEight, Purdue has the same chances – 8% – of making the championship as No. 9 Kansas State. The Haas loss is really tough, especially when this team looked so good in the regular season.
8. No. 3 Michigan, West Region (now #2)
Freshman Jordan Poole was the name that was being lauded throughout Ann Arbor on Saturday night, as the Wolverines find themselves in the Sweet 16 after a wild three-point buzzer-beater from 30 feet to beat a strong Houston team. Michigan has won both games based on its defense, which is giving up just 55.0 PPG in the tournament thus far. They’re the highest remaining seed in their region, which lost both No. 1 Xavier and No. 2 North Carolina on Sunday.
9. No. 4 Gonzaga, West Region (now #3)
The Bulldogs, who have won games against No. 13 UNC-Greensboro and No. 4 Ohio State by a combined 10 points, are now perhaps the most talented team left in the West Region. Gonzaga is hoping the UNC-Greensboro game – a game in which they were out-rebounded and almost out-shot after being a top-15 team in the country for both in the regular season – was an anomaly. They’ll face a solid-looking Florida State team and either Michigan or Texas A&M in order to make the Final Four; FiveThirtyEight puts their chances as the best in the region.
10. No. 9 Florida State, West Region (now #3)
A team that lost five of its last eight and three of its last four in the regular season now finds itself squarely in position to make a deep run after completing the last great Sunday upset over No. 1 Xavier. Despite having the 31st best offense in the regular season, the ‘Noles don’t have a scorer that averages more than 13.0 PPG, and no one on the team scored more than 15 in either of their tournament games. It’ll take a full team effort to pull another upset over No. 4 Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
11. No. 7 Texas A&M, West Region (now #3)
Yes, the fourth-straight West Region team in these rankings, Texas A&M was one of many unlikely teams to emerge in the Sweet 16 after an absolute beat-down of No. 2 North Carolina on Sunday. The Aggies did it by out-rebounding the number one rebounding team in the country, and shooting 52% compared to UNC’s 33%. Texas A&M gets Mo Wagner and Michigan next weekend.
12. No. 3 Texas Tech, East Region (now #3)
For all the fanfare of this opening weekend, Texas Tech had perhaps the quietest path to get through it, winning two relatively close games over No. 14 Stephen F. Austin and No. 6 Florida. In-state Senior Keenan Evans has gotten the Red Raiders to this point, scoring 55 points thus far in the tournament. Despite being one of just six teams seeded three or higher remaining, Texas Tech supposedly has the 15th (out of 16, obviously) best chance to make the Final Four, beating out only No. 11 Syracuse. They face hobbled No. 2 Purdue before taking on the winner of Villanova-West Virginia if they want to get there.
13. No. 9 Kansas State, South Region (now #4)
Kansas State played a great game against Creighton in the first round, probably expecting to have to face No. 1 overall Virginia in the Round of 32. As we now well know, that didn’t happen, and the Wildcats are now playing in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky after narrowly knocking off tournament darling and history-making UMBC. The team from Manhattan has allowed just 51.0 PPG this tournament, and will need to bring that kind of defensive intensity if they’re to beat a Kentucky team that put up 95 last round against Buffalo.
14. No. 7 Nevada, South Region (now #4)
The Wolfpack find themselves in the Sweet 16 after winning two games by a combined six points, in addition to erasing a 22-point deficit against No. 2 Cincinnati to pull a wild upset. Nevada is the Mountain West’s lone at-large representative this year, but led by Junior forward Cody Martin, they’ll have to beat just one team seeded above them to make the Elite Eight, and that game’s already been decided. Nevada gets proverbial Cinderella Loyola-Chicago on Thursday in Atlanta.
15. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, South Region (now #4)
Many picked the Ramblers as one of a few double-digit seeds with a chance to make a Sweet 16 run, and now – perhaps with the help of some divine intervention? – the team from Chicago has made good on that promise. Loyola won their opening games by a total of three points, and needed a long three at (basically) the buzzer from Donte Ingram to win their opener against Miami. As (tied for) the lowest seed left in the field, the Ramblers may need more prayers from Sister Jean, the team chaplain and ultra-fan who notably picked Loyola to lose in the next round. They’ll need more luck as they face Nevada on Thursday.
16. No. 11 Syracuse, Midwest Region (now #4)
It’s been a wild ride for the Orange, who just a week ago were on the bubble and now find themselves in the Sweet 16. In between, they’ve beaten three teams seeded at or above where they’re at, as they’ve knocked off Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State by a combined 11 points. While the first two games seemed possible for Boeheim’s squad, the win over Michigan State made this team seem a lot more serious of a contender than they might put off. The Orange got here relying on their defense – as their offense is atrocious compared to not only the ACC, but the rest of the country, they’ve held all of their opponents under 60 points. Now, as the third of three ACC teams left in the Midwest region (and four overall), they’ll get tournament juggernaut Duke in the Sweet 16. Duke is home to the sixth-best offense in the country, averaging 84.9 PPG this season and 88.0 PPG thus far in the tournament, and has already beaten the Orange this season. Good luck, Syracuse.
Teams remaining by conference: ACC (4), Big 12 (4), Big Ten (2), SEC (2), Missouri Valley (1), Big East (1), West Coast (1), Mountain West (1)