23 March 2016

2016 NCAA Tournament Predictions: Sweet Sixteen

I can't remember a more bonkers opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament than the one we just saw. From one of the biggest NCAA Tournament upsets ever to one of the most incomprehensible collapses ever and just about everything in between, we have arrived to the Sweet Sixteen.

As the moniker implies, only sixteen teams remain heading into Thursday and Friday night as the field only whittles further as we get closer and closer to the One Shining Moment. Who will survive and advance to the Elite Eight? Here are my predictions.

Thursday, March 24th
Villanova vs. 3 Miami - Louisville - CBS, 7:00
Villanova Wildcats (2004 - Pres)Miami Hurricanes (1979 - 1999)
Miami jumped out to a big lead against Wichita State thanks to some sharp defense and were able to pull it out in the end after the Shockers made their run to take the lead. The Canes are dangerous and yet I am still sticking on the Villanova bandwagon. If the Wildcats shoot look they did in their blowout victory over Iowa on Sunday, they can win the whole thing.
Pick: Villanova

Oklahoma vs. 3 Texas A&M - Anaheim - TBS, 7:15
Oklahoma Sooners (1996 - Pres)Texas A&M Aggies (2012 - Pres)
Who knows where the Sooners would be without Buddy Hield because in their two closer-than-expected contests in Oklahoma City, he was spectacular. After all, there is a reason why he's expected to win the Naismith Award. The Aggies wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that insane UNI collapse and while they are a quality team, I don't think they'll have an answer for Hield.
Pick: Oklahoma

Kansas vs. 5 Maryland - Louisville - CBS, 9:30
Kansas Jayhawks (1941 - 1945)Maryland Terrapins (2012 - Pres)
The Jayhawks have looked pretty strong thus far, particularly so with a dominant victory over Connecticut on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Terps had to pull one out against South Dakota State while pulling away in the second half against Hawaii. If Maryland puts it all together they can certainly win but I just don't see it happening on Thursday night.
Pick: Kansas

Oregon vs. 4 Duke - Anaheim - TBS, 9:45
Oregon Ducks (2011 - Pres)Duke Blue Devils (1978 - Pres)
Oregon had to rally late to outlast a feisty St. Joseph's squad after burying Holy Cross and surprisingly, it was their defense that helped to do the job. If their defense can perform like that here, Duke, with their leaky defense, will have no chance. I like the Ducks to put this one out of reach early.
Pick: Oregon

Friday, March 25th
Virginia vs. 4 Iowa State - Chicago - CBS, 7:00
Virginia Cavaliers (1978 - 1993)Iowa State Cyclones (1942 - 1947)
After a disappointing finish in the Sweet Sixteen last year, I think the Cavaliers are poised to finally breakthrough this year. We know that their defense is as strong as ever but as I've noted before, they know have themselves a very solid offense that executed when needed against Butler. A veteran Iowa State club will keep it interesting but an efficient UVA will power through to the Elite Eight.
Pick: Virginia

Notre Dame vs. 7 Wisconsin - Philadelphia - TBS, 7:15
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1994 - Pres)Wisconsin Badgers (1948 - 1956)
These two won their respective 2nd Round games at the horn with the Irish getting a tip-in and the Badgers nailing a fadeaway three. Considering I entered the tournament not being a particularly big fan of either, and that neither have looked particularly great in either of their two games, that makes this a bit of a tough call. I like the superior offensive club here.
Pick: Notre Dame

10 Syracuse vs. 11 Gonzaga - Chicago - CBS, 9:30
Syracuse Orange (0 - 1994)Gonzaga Bulldogs (1998 - Pres)
I've bet against the Zags twice, both literally and figuratively, and both times I saw it blow up in my face as they put together two commanding performances to advance to Chicago. They're a favorite once again here against the Orange and it is easy to see why as I don't see the answer from Syracuse for Domantas Sabonis.
Pick: Gonzaga

North Carolina vs. 4 Indiana - Philadelphia - TBS, 9:45
North Carolina Tar Heels (1983 - 1998)Indiana Hoosiers (1997 - 2001)
North Carolina has looked strong at points in their first two contests against Florida Gulf Coast and Providence but in both, they weren't able to fully pull away until into the second half. The Hoosiers have the ability to pull off the upset but if they shoot as poorly from three as they did against Kentucky, they're done. I think they will shoot better but the stronger and deeper frontcourt of the Tar Heels will be the difference.
Pick: North Carolina

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