What a 1st weekend it was with 4 teams(13 North Texas, 13 Ohio, 14 Abilene Christian, and 15 Oral Roberts) seeded 13 or worse making it to the 2nd round for the 1st time in tournament history.
Also, the first time in history 4 double-digit seeds have reached the Sweet 16(11 UCLA, 11 Syracuse, 12 Oregon State, and 15 Oral Roberts)
As wild as the 1st two rounds have been, heavy favorite Gonzaga is still alive as well as Baylor and Michigan.
With the Sweet 16 ahead of us, they are plenty of questions that come to mind:
Who is Gonzaga's biggest threat?
Can Loyola Chicago get back to the final four?
Can a double-seed reach the final four?
Will all 3 1-seeds reach the final four?
Before we think about these questions, let's rank and analyze each Sweet 16 match-up from the most intriguing match-up.
1. 6 USC vs 7 Oregon
This is the most intriguing matchup in the Sweet 16 because of how well both teams looked this weekend. The Dunking Ducks could not be slowed down as they rolled past Oregon and The Trojans played the most complete game by any team in this tournament with their destruction of Kansas. These are also 2 of the most underrated teams going into the tournament. With that being said, the winner of this game could be Gonzaga's biggest challenger in the entire bracket. The Trojans are long and dominate the middle lead by the Mobley Brothers and an underrated backcourt ran by Taj Eaddy. Their length on the court and their ability to defend and rebound makes them a tough out. The Ducks have a trio of veteran guards led by Chris Duarte and versatile forward Eugene Omoruyi. Their efficient offense and defense will make this an excellent game. Can't wait for this battle.
2. 8 Loyola Chicago vs 12 Oregon State
Speaking of underrated teams going into the tournament, the Ramblers are also at the top with USC and Oregon. This team really defends well and is very efficient on offense led by Cameron Krutwig. Illinois could never find any rhythm on offense as they were held to just 58 points. The Ramblers have emerged as the possible favorite to reach the final 4 in their region. However, they will play against Oregon State who is riding a 5-game winning streak dating back to the Pac-12 tournament. This streak includes wins over UCLA, Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee, and Oklahoma State. They have also been very impressive on offense and defense. Their defense really shut down Tennessee and Oklahoma State. The Beavers also recorded a +20 on rebounds in their victory over Oklahoma State. Their balanced attack and depth has been great. This matchup includes two of the hottest teams right now both trying to keep their runs alive. Don't let the seeds fool you, these teams can play! A legitimate final four contender emerges out of this game.
3. 1 Baylor vs 5 Villanova
The Bears have been in Gonzaga's elite class all year dominating most of the season with their Covid pause being their only slowdown. They reach the Sweet 16 defeating Hartford and Wisconsin and are currently the favorite to reach the title game from this side of the bracket. What makes this game intriguing is the backcourt battle. Baylor's backcourt vs Jay Wright's 41 offense. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has been excellent in this tournament so far. However, Butler, Mitchell, and Teague will be a challenge, especially without Collin Gillespie. This matchup also features two of the best coaches in today's game- Scott Drew and Jay Wright. If Scott Drew wants to get his first final four, it will take beating 2-time National Champion Jay Wright.
4. 3 Arkansas vs 15 Oral Roberts
Eric Musselman has done a tremendous job at Arkansas. In his 2nd season, they have a legitimate chance to reach the Final 4 for the 1st time since 1995. Justin Smith has been terrific so far in the tournament. The Razorbacks responded well to a slow start against Colgate and knocked off Texas Tech with a great defensive performance. Oral Roberts has been the best story so far in this tournament upsetting Ohio State and Florida to reach the Sweet 16. Led by Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor, Paul Mills' squad can score. This duo has been terrific in the NCAA tournament. This matchup is intriguing because they have played each other once this season. Oral Roberts actually led by 10 at the half before losing in the 2nd half. The familiarity makes this a great matchup as the Golden Eagles look to
5. 2 Houston vs 11 Syracuse
The Cougars are the highest seed remaining in this bracket after a resilient comeback victory over Rutgers. They have been an outstanding defensive team all season. When they are scoring, they are hard to beat. However, Rutgers defense shut Marcus Sasser down. Great defense put them in position to win. How will they respond against Boeheim's lethal 2-3 zone? If Sasser, Grimes, and Jarreau can make threes and find the holes in the zone, they can win this game. The Orange led by hot shooting Buddy Boeheim have been a great story in this tournament. 3-pt shooting has been helped get them to the Sweet 16 bouncing out West Virginia and San Diego State. This game is an intriguing matchup because of how well both teams can defend and shoot the 3. Can the Houston backcourt shutdown Boeheim and Girard? Whoever can defend the perimeter better likely wins.
6. 2 Alabama vs 11 UCLA
Layups, free throws, and 3-pointers, the offensive style for Crimson Tide has been deadly down the stretch this season as they torched Maryland in the 2nd round. They survived a scare from Iona in the 1st round but appear to have a good shot to get to the Final Four under 2nd year head coach Nate Oats. Herb Jones leads a deep scoring attack of great 3-point shooters and an entertaining offense to watch. UCLA won 3 games last week led by the 3 J's and Tyger. Juzang and Jacquez were excellent. Their defense also shut down BYU's shooters to only 3 made 3-pointers. If the Bruins want to win, it will take shutting down the Crimson Tide's offense and being efficient on offense. If they can play their style, they will have a chance to win this game. If Alabama can make 3's and play up tempo, it will favor them.
7. 1 Michigan vs 4 Florida State
With the Big Ten's back against the wall, Michigan came through without Livers to advance to the Sweet 16. The Wolverines are the lone representative left from the Big Ten and Livers will be ready to go against the Seminoles. The Seminoles survived a scare in Round 1 by a UNC-Greensboro team that choked on the foul line down the stretch allowing FSU to stay in front. FSU's interior and length helped keep Colorado out of rhythm in Round 2. The Buffaloes may have been emotionally drained by the news of tragic shooting before the game as well. The Wolverines have a better interior than the Buffaloes. This game could go either way but will likely depend on how well the Michigan guards deal with the length of FSU's guards and how well the Seminoles shoot from the perimeter.
8. 1 Gonzaga vs 5 Creighton
Gonzaga's perfect season in still in tact as they survived a decent challenge from Oklahoma though the Bulldogs never seemed to be in danger of losing. Creighton defeated UCSB as the potential winning basket from the Gauchos barely rimmed out. The Bluejays shot well in Round 2 against Ohio as their offense was very efficient. Since Creighton has been up and down all season, it is hard to see them winning this game. However, when Creighton catches fire from 3, they are hard to beat. The key for Creighton will be Zegorowski, Ballack, and Mahoney draining threes with Bishop controlling the paint. The keys for Gonzaga are the same as they have done every game. Shoot well from the perimeter, get Timme going early, and controlling the tempo by outscoring their opponent.