The Optimist

March Madness Sweet 16 Predictions

Ethan Baer, Staff Writer

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What a tournament it has been so far. The first two rounds of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament has been nothing short of incredible. The Round of 64 saw multiple wild upsets and very close games, such as the 16-seed UMBC defeating one-seed Virginia for the first time in tournament history. If that wasn’t enough, the Round of 32 also had some major upsets and crazy buzzer beaters. The 11-seed Loyola Chicago is easily this year’s tournament Cinderella, winning both of their games on insane buzzer beaters. Another Cinderella would be the 11-seed Syracuse, who took down a tournament favorite in the three-seed Michigan State. Overall, the first two rounds of this tournament have been some of the most memorable games in the last couple of years. Heading into the Sweet 16, here are my tournament predictions.

Note: My bracket is currently 5.9 millionth out of 17.3 million in the country, so I know what I’m talking about.

 

South Region

 

  1. Kansas State vs 5. Kentucky: This game is definitely an interesting one. Both teams had a relatively easy path to the Sweet 16 and only won by a couple points in each game. Ultimately, I think Kentucky will take this one and advance to the Elite Eight. Kentucky has way more talent than Kansas State and outranks them in pretty much every statistic. Additionally, Kentucky thrives at rebounding and creating second chances. Kansas State is just not good enough to beat Kentucky. However, I would not be surprised to see Kansas State pull off an upset.

 

  1. Loyola Chicago vs 7. Nevada: This year’s tournament darling, Loyola Chicago, takes on the seven-seed Nevada who pulled off a major upset themselves, beating the two-seed, Cincinnati. This game is pretty much a coin flip as Loyola Chicago is riding a massive wave of confidence, while Nevada is better than their counterpart in every aspect of stats. Loyola’s offense is very good, ranking third in the nation in field goal percentage. However, their defense is definitely their Achilles heel. I think Nevada is going to take this one and advance, and Loyola’s magic will run out.

 

West Region

 

  1. Florida State vs 4. Gonzaga: This game is also another toss-up. Florida State is coming off beating the one-seed Xavier which no one expected. Gonzaga is not nearly as good as people thought coming into the tournament as the ‘Zags squeaked by the 13-seed UNGC and only beat the five-seed Ohio State by six. If Gonzaga doesn’t take care of the ball and turn it over a lot, Florida State will win this game. The Seminoles pressure their opponents into turning it over and convert those into points. Gonzaga is the better team as a whole and has better stats for the most part. However, Florida State has a big lineup and a deep bench and are tied for 17th in the nation for blocks. Additionally, the Seminoles have two players over the height of seven feet. I have a feeling that this will be a dogfight with the Gonzaga Bulldogs ultimately advancing.

 

  1. Michigan vs 7. Texas A&M: Both Michigan and Texas A&M have peaked at the right time before this matchup. Michigan hasn’t lost a game since Feb. 6, and A&M hasn’t lost since Feb. 20. Like all the other games in the Sweet 16, this is another matchup that is 50-50. The statistics between the two are almost identical, with no team having a real edge against the other. Texas A&M definitely has more confidence than Michigan as they are coming off beating the defending National Champions in North Carolina by 21 points, while Michigan did not dominate their opponents like others would have expected. Texas A&M has great interior play and will give the Wolverines’ defense all they can handle. Additionally, the Aggies have the sixth tallest roster in all of college basketball. Ultimately, I believe Texas A&M will take this one winning by a couple points. The Aggies are on fire and will use their size to their advantage and dominate Michigan in the post.

 

East Region

 

  1. Villanova vs 5. West Virginia: Villanova has been nothing short of dominant this season, spending almost the whole season as the nation’s number one ranked team. The Wildcats can shoot very well, and they have a great backcourt. However, Villanova had an easy path to get here, taking down a 16 and 9 seed. West Virginia presents some problems for the Wildcats as they have an intense pressing defense and tenacious style. The Mountaineers play in a “grind it out” style and keep coming at their opponent. However, they simply aren’t as talented as Villanova. This game will be relatively close, but I don’t see West Virginia beating the Wildcats.

 

  1. Texas Tech vs 2. Purdue: This is undoubtedly the most difficult game in the entire tournament to predict. Both teams play intensely- they never quit. Texas Tech rebounds well throughout the game, while Purdue can shoot and pass very well. However, Purdue’s star seven-footer Isaac Haas was injured in the first round and broke his elbow, causing him to be out for the rest of the tournament. Without Haas, it’s tough to go against Texas Tech in this one. Texas Tech also gets their best player in Keenan Evans back from injury. Overall, this matchup is almost impossible to decide. I see Purdue winning for their injured star and advancing to the Elite Eight.

 

Midwest Region

  1. Kansas vs 5. Clemson: This is once again another interesting game. Kansas has had some pretty easy games that they’ve won to get here. Clemson has dominated the two opponents they’ve faced so far, shooting the ball insanely well. The Tigers are coming off a 31 point win over 4 seed Auburn. If Clemson plays the way they did against Auburn, Kansas is in serious trouble. The stats between the Jayhawks and Tigers are pretty much the same. Clemson’s defense ranks 18th in the nation, and their three guards all average more than ten points a game. Kansas shoots the ball better, and they have a bigger and better lineup than Clemson. Additionally, Clemson only has one true post player which will present problems for the Tigers as they will be limited to perimeter mid-range shots. Kansas will ultimately take this one and win by three or four points.

 

  1. Syracuse vs 2. Duke: This is the easiest game to predict in the Sweet 16. Syracuse is coming off a huge upset, knocking off Michigan State. The Orange have a great coach in Jim Boeheim, and play hard. However, Duke is simply way more talented than Syracuse. Duke has been great all year, led by star freshman Marvin Bagley. The statistics are heavily in the Blue Devils’ favor, and I just don’t see Syracuse moving on. This matchup will feature two of the best coaches in college basketball history in Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski. Duke will win this game and move on to the Elite Eight.

Overall, all these games are must watches as all the teams are very good and deserve to be in the Sweet 16. All of the games will be close in my opinion, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see another upset or two and possibly a few more buzzer-beaters.

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About the Writer
Ethan Baer, Sports Writer

Ethan, is currently a junior at South. Last year, he set the record for least advertisements sold. It is often said that the inner machinations of my mind...

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March Madness Sweet 16 Predictions