Fill out your bracket by picking a winner in each of the NCAA Tournament games, from the Sweet 16 to the championship. Tournament Challenge Second Chance
There is more movement on this list compared to our first round of re-selections. We put more emphasis on how the teams played in their first two games and the teams they beat, but we also take into account where they were in the NCAA Tournament and how they expect to reach the top eight.
On that note, here is our reloaded Sweet 16 pitch:
Go to the tournament and check your bracket!
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Original serial header number: #1. Serial header number: #1)
When Indiana’s last perfect season ended in 1976, the NCAA tournament was played with 32 teams. Nine years later, the number of participants has doubled, so anyone who wants to take on UI will have to play an extra round. The drama of this year’s first weekend proves that this is the hardest road to a championship in major sports. The three teams that have reached the mark since the field was expanded in 1985 – UNLV in 1991, Wichita State in 2014 and Kentucky in 2015 – have all missed out.
Gonzaga’s undoubted chances this season are their efforts against quality teams. Kansas? A 12-point victory. Iowa? Eleven points. In Virginia? 23 points. Oklahoma is a quality Big 12 team, but for 40 minutes Monday the Sooners just didn’t have it in them against this Gonzaga team. Mark Few’s 87-71 win in the second round was another sign that Gonzaga is not just the best team in America. This is probably one of the four or five best teams we’ve seen in college basketball in the last decade. Good teams don’t seem to have a chance against Gonzaga; West Virginia’s 5-point loss to 2. December was the closest. It will take a big blow to give the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.
2. Baylor Bears (original ranking: No. 1. New ranking: No. 1).
It’s time analysts and announcers stopped describing a team’s offensive and defensive capabilities only in terms of raw numbers, because sometimes other statistics tell a better story. In their 76-63 victory over Wisconsin in the second round, the Bears shined against a Badgers team that ranked in the top 20 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Baylor scored 119 of 100 points in that game, which is comparable to the Brooklyn Nets’ best offense in the NBA this season. And Baylor hit that mark against a strong defensive team. The Bears also found more jumpers off the bench. With Matthew Meyer on the court, the Bears made 42% of their three-point attempts in the NCAA Tournament (32% without him), according to hooplens.com.
3. Michigan Wolverines (Original site: #1. Re-elected: #1).
Many teams would be in a very difficult situation if they lost a player like Isaiah Livers (13.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game) right before the NCAA tournament. And with Juwan Howard saying his team is still in limbo after Monday’s 86-78 victory over LSU in the second round, it’s safe to assume the Leavers will likely be eliminated in the coming weeks as well. But thanks to Michigan’s depth, the top team has moved forward and continues to look like a team that can contend for a championship. Brandon Jones (11 points) gave Michigan a push in the first round against Texas Southern. Eli Brooks (21 points) led Michigan against a relentless LSU team. The Wolverines are averaging 84.0 PPG in two games in the NCAA Tournament. This game was a reminder that Michigan is still a powerhouse.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide (original ranking: #2, new ranking: #1)
In a weekend full of twists and turns, Nate Oats’ team put on one of the most impressive performances of the first and second rounds. Maryland is a solid Big Ten team, but Alabama played on a different level Monday with a 96-77 win over the Terps. Those are the most points allowed by Maryland under Mark Turgeon and the most points allowed by the program in regulation time since 2009, according to statistics and information from ESPN. It was the fourth time Alabama has scored at least 80 points during its eight-game winning streak. The Crimson Tide plays fast, but not recklessly. They’re big and strong. They also play with a trio of defenders. Javon Quinerly, a former five-star recruit who began his career at Villanova, finished Monday with 14 points and 11 assists; John Petty Jr. and Jaden Shackelford combined for 41 points. You won’t find a team in the Sweet 16 that Alabama can’t beat right now.
5. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (originally scheduled as #8, now scheduled as #2)
That Loyola was ranked by Chicago’s selection committee is not hard to understand. The Ramblers lost by double digits to Wisconsin in their only non-conference game against a Power 5 team in the NCAA tournament. (The Ramblers also beat North Texas in January.) They also lost to Drake, Indiana State and Richmond, all without a decisive win to offset those losses. Porter Moser’s team primarily represents the injustice of a season where non-conference opportunities for mid-majors were limited due to COVID-19.
But the committee looked at the parameters that told us a few months ago that this was a very good team. This team justified its 1st adjusted defensive ranking on KenPom by holding Illinois to 0.88 points per possession. A second Final Four in three years doesn’t seem impossible for this group after beating Illinois – the best team Gonzaga didn’t name last month – from start to finish. No team below Loyola Chicago on this list can match the weight of this win. The Ramblers have been playing since the 10th. January basketball at a high level (one loss).
6. Villanova Wildcats (original site: #5, new site: #2).
The buzzword prediction that Villanova will fall for the second weekend has not confirmed that Jay Wright is still coaching this team. The Wildcats seemed incredibly hurt after Collin Gillespie tore his ACL a week before Sunday’s game. Without him, they lost their first two games (Providence, Georgetown). But they scored 112 points per 100 possessions in the first round against Winthrop and recorded a 142-point per 100 possession clip against North Texas in the second round. Yes, they had one of the easiest paths to the Sweet 16. But Jeremy Robinson-Earl (20.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.0 APG average) and his team have regained the momentum that made them the most efficient offense in the Big East.
7. Florida Seminoles (Original: No. 4. Recalculated: No. 2)
Last year, after the ACC Tournament was cancelled due to COWID-19, Leonard Hamilton took a photo with his team in the middle of the field to celebrate the ACC regular season championship. This team had two NBA draft picks (Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams), but Hamilton never saw how far they could go. His team advanced to the round of 16 this season with a dominant 71-53 victory over a good Colorado team that shot just 36 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers against Florida State’s defensive pressure in the second round Monday night. Last year’s team may have had a higher ceiling and more talent. But this year’s group is balanced and capable of anchoring Hamilton’s first run to the Final Four.
8. Syracuse Orange (Original: No. 11. Reinstated: No. 2)
In six memorable games in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, Carmelo Anthony averaged 20.1 PPG and made 48% of his 3-point attempts. We never could have guessed that Buddy Boeheim would overtake Anthony, who led Syracuse in this national race. But Boeheim’s performance has been better so far. He is averaging 27.5 points per game and making 57 percent of his three-point attempts for a Syracuse team that defeated San Diego State and West Virginia to reach the Round of 16.
As a team, Syracuse shot 60 percent inside the arc and 49 percent on three-pointers when Boeheim was on the job in the NCAA Tournament, according to hooplens.com. For his father and coach Jim Boeheim, this will be the first Sweet 16 appearance since the 2017-18 season. None of this makes sense, but Elder Boeheim’s best work in the postseason rarely does.
9. Houston Cougars (original ranking: #2, new ranking: #3).
DeJohn Jarreau struggled with persistent hip pain that forced him to take several breaks to work with his team coach during Sunday’s 63-60 victory over Rutgers in the second round. It was a valiant victory that saw Quentin Grimes score 22 points. The win also raised questions about Jarreau’s long-term availability. It’s fair to praise Houston for its relentless performance, even if you have to admit that its margin of victory is just 2.6 points per game in three wins over KenPom top-50 teams this month (two against Memphis and then Rutgers). She had three other wins in March – 25 points or more, all against teams under 100 KenPom. Houston’s good. But the Cougars have been tested in recent weeks against the best teams on their schedule.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks (originally posted: #3. Newly posted: #3).
Nothing good happened in the Razorbacks’ 68-66 victory over Texas Tech in the second round, two days after they made 5 of 16 three-pointers in their first-round victory over Colgate. Other than Moses Moody (4 of 5) and Justin Smith (9 of 11), Arkansas players shot just 35 percent from beyond the arc against Texas Tech, a team ranked in the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency. But we saw the higher seeded lose some tough games in the first weekend. Arkansas has survived what has become a habit for Eric Musselman’s team during its current 14-2 run. To make it to the postseason, Arkansas will need a late win against a Red Raiders team that has been a consistent underdog this season.
11. Oral Roberts Golden Eagle (Initial installation: No 15. Replaced: No 3)
A match can be a fluke. But Oral Roberts became the second team to reach the Sweet 16 with 15 hits. How did this happen? Interestingly, Oral Roberts has distinguished himself as a 3-point team all season (46% of his attempts behind the arc, with a shooting percentage of 38.2%). NCAA Tournament victories over Ohio State (11-for-35) and Florida State (10-for-30), but those shots didn’t come easy. But Oral Roberts played with a defensive edge that changed both games, as the Golden Eagles made a total of 36 turnovers. In addition, Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor averaged 56.5 points per game as a duo in the NCAA Tournament. It’s like an average team that found itself – seven wins in a row – at the end of the season. But they are also a good team with two of the best players in the Sweet 16 so far. This gives Paul Mills’ team a chance.
12. USC Trojans (original position: #6, new position: #3)
When he arrived, Evan Mobley was seen as a possible NBA lottery candidate who could lead Southern California to a good run in the NCAA tournament. The presence of his brother, Isaiah Mobley, is seen more as another storyline than a major factor in USC’s potential. But the Mobley brothers – outnumbered – are the reason Andy Enfield is leading a 15-man team to the Sweet 16 for the first time since he led Florida Gulf Coast there in 2013. Isaiah (17 points) and Evan (10 points, 13 rebounds) were too long and skilled for Kansas. The Trojans also shot 61 percent from 3-point range and limited Kansas to 30 percent from the field in their 85-51 win in the second round. The Mobley brothers scored 32 points in USC’s first-round victory over Drake. Together they form a complex problem that needs to be solved.
13. Oregon Ducks (original: #7. Recalculation: #4)
It’s not Dana Altman’s fault that Oregon went on without competition after positive tests on COVID-19 forced VCU to drop its first-round game. The Ducks announced their move to the second round with a 95-80 victory over an Iowa team that spent part of the season battling for the top spot, with 36 points from Wooden Award candidate Luca Garza.
Chris Duarte (23 points) led four Oregon scorers who finished with at least 17 points against the Hawkeyes. In their only NCAA Tournament appearance, the Ducks scored 127 points on 100 possessions. They are an outsider to the Final Four. Altman’s team has been playing since the 4th. February has only lost two games. And Monday’s win came against an Iowa team that was among the best in the country, a team that can legitimately contend for the Final Four after playing its best basketball late in the game. But Oregon has also played with the Hawks before. More than anything on the field, this win sent the message that Oregon belongs, even if it didn’t have to play in the second round.
14. Oregon Beavers (original: #12. recalculation: #4)
According to BPI ESPN, the Oregon team, which had a 7-9 record after its first 16 Pac-12 games, had a one-in-820 chance of reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament at that point. The ridiculous number of three-pointers that made it to the Final 32 (over 40% in four consecutive wins) was at odds with the collective score of 33% accuracy beyond the arc during conference play. No three-pointers were made against Oklahoma State (6-of-20), but Ethan Thompson (26 points against Oklahoma State) and his teammates held their opponents under 90 points per 100 possessions for the second game in a row. If you look for a logical reason for Oregon State’s victories over Tennessee and Oklahoma State, you won’t find another: The team is currently in its most exciting phase on the field.
15. UCLA Bruins (original location: #11, new location: #4)
Mick Cronin’s team entered the NCAA Tournament with four losses. Overall, the team was 4-5 in nine games before the one-game Indiana affair. Since then, the Bruins have beaten Michigan State (by six points, in overtime), BYU (11 points) and Abilene Christian (20 points). The last opponent dropped Texas, allowing UCLA to advance to the Sweet 16. But the Bruins also made 43% of their 3-point attempts in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang had a 22.3 PPG average in three NCAA Tournament games. All this after the team lost Chris Smith (12.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG) to injury midway through the season and was forced to regroup. Whatever happens in the Sweet 16, Cronin can get out.
16. Creighton Bluejays (originally No. 5, again No. 4).
A 73-48 loss against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament title game seems to indicate that the Bluejays have lost a step after a tumultuous end to the season. Then they defeated UC Santa Barbara in the first round of the NCAA Tournament – but not before the Gauchos ended a one-point-less streak. This tendency could have gone either way. Monday’s 72-58 victory over Ohio, which beat Virginia on Saturday to advance, was a legitimate and positive move, with Marcus Zegarowski (20 points) leading five players in double figures. Jason Preston, Ohio’s star point guard, finished 1-for-10 and scored four points, a solid defensive effort for Greg McDermott’s team. Still, Creighton’s best performance in the past month was its win over UConn on the 12th. in March, in a game in which Huskies goalie James Booknight failed to get a shot off.
frequently asked questions
Did 15th place qualify for the Sweet 16?
Not bad, considering Oral Roberts is the only No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Sweet 16, with Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.
Where will March Madness take place in 2021?
Games will be played on two fields at Lucas Oil Stadium and at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Who is the leader of the NCAA tournament?
INDIANAPOLIS – North Dakota placed No. 1 in the NCAA ice hockey tournament on Sunday, while Boston College, Minnesota and Wisconsin also placed.
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