March Madness Sweet 16 Preview


The first week of March Madness sure didn’t lack any drama. Historic upsets and crazy buzzer beaters were only a few highlights of all that transpired in the first two rounds. With the Sweet 16 now set, take a look at how Luke Lusson, Mikaela Larson and Grant Campbell are answering the following questions.


Who is the top team in each region and why?

Lusson: In the crazy South Region, Kentucky has to be the top team, although who knows who could come out of there with all that’s gone on so far. In the East, Villanova is still my top team as the one seed in that corner. In the Midwest, I think the two-seeded Duke Blue Devils are my top team by way of their loaded talent and recent results. In the West Region, Michigan is my top team left. They have played two subpar games thus far, but I think they’re still the best team left in that region. With shots like the buzzer beater that swagger-filled Jordan Poole hit signal a deep March run for the Wolverines.

Larson: Assuming we keep the four regions as is, my one seeds become Villanova for the East, Duke for the Midwest, Michigan for the West, and Sister Jean for the South. Obviously I’ll address the chaos that is the South first; as much as I’d love to say I chose Loyola as a one seed because I think they are genuinely good, it is more because I can’t think of anyone better (keep on reading to see my opinion on Kentucky). Villanova stays a one to no one’s surprise but the reason I chose Duke as my hypothetical one seed compared to Kansas, the true Midwest one-seed, is because Duke has DOMINATED thus far. Against Iona and Rhode Island, Marvin Bagley III, Grayson Allen and Trevon Duval proved the name they wear by winning both games by more than 25 points. Sort of like the South, Michigan is the best of the rest for the West region, claiming a one spot.  

Campbell: For me, the only region that is debatable is the Midwest.  Kentucky has the most talent in their region, Villanova is still a one-seed and Michigan has been a dark-horse all year.  But the Midwest is a highly debatable region. For me, the combination of Bagley and Wendell Carter is too overwhelming, so Duke is the top seed in the Midwest for me.


Which team surprised you the most in the first week?


Lusson: It has to be UMBC for me. I knew the 1/16 upset was going to happen at some point, but for UMBC to do it in the fashion they did was truly remarkable. They simply destroyed a Virginia team that many picked to win it all, even with the injury to DeAndre Hunter. The Retrievers run ended in the next round against Kansas State in a sloppy game, but that first round upset is one that will be remembered forever.

Larson: Arizona ripped my heart out and stomped on it with their first round elimination against the University of Buffalo. If you read my online work from last week or somehow saw my bracket, I thought they’d be cutting down the nets in San Antonio, not taking out their golf clubs on March 16. I’m baffled that freshman Deandre Ayton declared for the NBA draft after their early exit; if I were him, I would have started my revenge plot for 2019.

Campbell: For me, it has to be the Orange.  Syracuse was a bold prediction for me to make winning in the first round, but they just keep on winning.  They undoubtedly have the most aggressive and lock-down defense in the Sweet 16, and I think they’ll shut down Allen this round.


Name a Sweet 16 team that’s a true contender.


Lusson: Clemson. The Tigers are completely flying under the radar for a five seed. This team handily beat a tough New Mexico State team in the Round of 64 and then annihilated Auburn in the Round of 32, where they held the opposing Tigers to only 25.8 percent from the field. Clemson does have to face the one-seeded Kansas Jayhawks next, but I’m not counting out the Tigers just yet. I think Clemson could give Kansas a scare with their tough defense. The question will be if they can generate enough offense to pull of the upset.

Larson: Michigan. The Wolverines may have moved on to the Sweet 16 by the skin of their teeth, but they’re no team to disregard. With Mo Wagner shooting 52.6 percent from the field and wonder coach John Beilein at the helm, I could see them coasting into the final four. In order to make it to the Elite Eight, they’ll need to shut down freshman TJ Parks and the block party that killed North Carolina in the Round of 32.

Campbell: West Virginia is one team playing with the most to prove. Carter is by far one of the most impressive guard talents that the NCAA has seen in a long time, and he’s under everyone’s radar.  He’s carrying the five-seeded Mountaineers through the tourney not only with his incredible steal numbers (five in their most recent match-up against Marshall), but he’s distributing the ball.  He’s a strong finisher for the team, and they thrive when he’s on the court. If Carter continues his success, I can see them beating Villanova eventually and winning the Big Dance all-together.


Name a Sweet 16 team that’s a pretender.


Lusson: Kansas State. The Wildcats snatched a good win over Creighton in the Round of 64, but followed it up with an ugly victory over 16-seeded UMBC where they only scored 50 points. That type of offense will get nothing accomplished against Kentucky’s stout defense in the Sweet 16, and I see Kansas State’s run ending.

Larson: Kentucky. John Calipari’s Wildcats have played two games that while dominant, were at some point worrisome. And honestly, they only beat Davidson by five and for me, that’s quite the red flag. As dominant as their program is year to year, the Sweet 16 is where they seem to choke. Maybe it’s because the team realizes the weight they carry in the name of the program they represent or they just finally encounter other good teams. The only reason they could make the Final Four is because the lack of competition in their region.

Campbell: Texas A&M.  Without a doubt, they have talented big men.  But, they’re slow. They fail to push the ball in transition with two trailing bigs who can finish, but they lack depth in their backcourt.  Big men are nearly always candidates to foul out early and often in the tournament, so I have to label them as a pretender given how much they use their forwards and centers.