I’ve seen a lot of crazy sports moments in my time—what occurred this past weekend may top them all. Forget your bracket, we’re in the midst of extreme parity in college basketball. And it’s awesome.
A one seed didn’t just lose to a 16 seed for the first time ever—they were absolutely dominated. I still can’t believe it happened.
What was supposed to be the strongest region in the South has turned into Upset City, losing the top four seeds before the Sweet 16 for the first time in tournament history.
Virginia, Arizona, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Xavier, and Michigan State are all out before the second weekend.
I can’t wait for One Shining Moment. Here’s what’s coming up in the Sweet 16.
7:07 E.T. on CBS: 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. 7 Nevada
How about this one to kick off the Sweet 16? If you would have told me before the tournament that either Loyola or Nevada would be a lock for the Elite 8, I would’ve laughed in your face—I won’t doubt anything in the tournament ever again. Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the 98-year old team chaplain who has become the face of the tournament thus far, has seemingly willed Loyola to two last-second victories, while the Wolfpack have come back from down 14 and 22 to beat Texas and Cincinnati, respectively. Expect nothing less than a fantastic game.
The Pick: Head coach Eric Musselman has the Wolfpack inspired, led by twins Cody and Caleb Martin. Nevada moves on.
7:37 E.T. on TBS: 7 Texas A&M vs. 3 Michigan
The Wolverines narrowly escaped Houston on a Jordan Poole buzzer-beater off a huge pass from Muhammad Ali Abdur Rahkman.
Texas A&M left no doubt, absolutely dismantling the defending champion Tarheels.
Jon Teske and Mo Wagner had better come ready to play, because A&M big men Tyler Davis and Robert Williams are coming in hot. The Aggies are finally playing to their potential after a disappointing season, and the Wolverines are riding an 11-game winning streak. However, it will be a long day for Michigan if they can’t hit from deep—they’re averaging 29% from three in two tournament games.
The Pick: The Wolverines find their stroke and advance to their first Elite 8 since 2014.
After game 1: 9 Kansas State vs. 5 Kentucky
If you had this matchup, props to you—Kansas State was very fortunate to avoid Virginia in the second round, but the crowd-favorite UMBC Retrievers gave them all they could handle on Sunday. It was one of the ugliest games of basketball I’ve watched in a while, but that’s what it is going to take this year. Many pegged the South region as the toughest region with the number-one overall seed Virginia, a gritty defensive team in Cincinnati, a top SEC team in Tennessee, and an underseeded Arizona team.
None of the aforementioned teams are left standing, and it now appears that Kentucky has the easiest path to the Final Four in recent memory—the highest seed they would have to face is 7-seeded Nevada. But these Wildcats are flying high right now, with five guys on the court at a time that can jump out of the building.
The Pick: Kentucky is picking up steam at the right moment, led by Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Expect a good defensive matchup, but the blue Wildcats move on.
After game 2: 9 Florida State vs. 4 Gonzaga
Does anyone want to hold a lead in this tournament? After another double-digit comeback by the Seminoles, we lost a second number-one seed in Xavier—the first time two one seeds have failed to reach the Sweet 16 in tournament history. Gonzaga is not a one seed this year, but they’re almost equally as talented as the team that fell six points short of a national title last season. The Bulldogs have a plethora of future NBA talent, and Zach Norvell Jr. has found his clutch gene in the tournament.
The Pick: Gonzaga should now be considered the favorite to reach the Final Four in the West, and will win this game by 10+.
7:07 E.T. on CBS: 5 Clemson vs. 1 Kansas
I severely underestimated the Clemson Tigers—New Mexico State was a trendy upset pick, and I fell into the trap. And without their best player in Donte Grantham, they tore the Auburn Tigers apart. Not even Auburn alum Charles Barkley could’ve saved them. Now all of a sudden, Clemson is in the Sweet 16 on the back of an elite defense, especially on the interior. But, Kansas was my pre-tournament national champion, and since they’re still one of the few top teams left, I’ll stick with it.
The Pick: The Jayhawks are shooting over 40% from deep in the tournament thus far, and when the three is falling for this team, they’re virtually unbeatable.
7:37 E.T. on TBS: 5 West Virginia vs. 1 Villanova
Best of the eight Sweet 16 games right here. A battle of veteran guards as Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges square off against Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles. Villanova is now the odds-on favorite to win it all, thanks in part to strong shooting performances from beyond the arc and a nation-leading 86.9 points per game. But people are (incorrectly) overlooking the Mountaineers, and I believe they have what it takes with their annoyingly stout press to pull off yet another upset in this already-wild tournament.
The Pick: The region of the most normalcy finally falls victim to the madness—West Virginia wins and Huggy Bear reaches his second Elite 8.
After game 1: 11 Syracuse vs. 2 Duke
I doubted the inclusion of the Orange into the tournament—but they once again proved me wrong, advancing to the Sweet 16 in four of their last five tournament appearances. And you couldn’t have asked for a better matchup—two ACC foes, two of the winningest coaches of all time, and two teams that run a lockdown zone. Winner gets either Kansas or Clemson.
The Pick: Syracuse has proved the doubters wrong, but they’ve failed to score 60 in the tournament so far—that won’t slide against the Blue Devils. Duke is on a roll and advances to their first Elite 8 in three years.
After game 2: 3 Texas Tech vs. 2 Purdue
What a way to end the Sweet 16—Purdue will be without Isaac Haas, but there is plenty of talent on the Boilermakers outside of the big fella. Carsen and Vince Edwards (of no relation) are now the highest scorers on the team, and four out of five starters can knock down threes at plus-40%. On the other side, Texas Tech is learning to dig in defensively when it matters most. Keenan Evans can finish at the rim like few others in college basketball, and the Red Raiders are full of athletes that have the potential to continue this run.
The Pick: Matt Haarms is the key in this game—if he can be a presence in the post, Purdue moves on to face either Villanova or West Virginia.