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March Madness Sweet Sixteen Predictions
Updated: January 2018


Sweet Sixteen Previews


Predicting winners in the NCAA tournament can be challenging. Year after year, there are a number of first round upsets that become known as bracket-busters. Last year, there were plenty of upsets. In fact, three of the four No. 11 seeds won first-round games. Syracuse snuck into the 2016 NCAA tournament as a No. 10 seed and wound up a Final Four participant. With that in mind, we attempt to predict the 2018 Sweet Sixteen.

Defending national champion Villanova is poised to return to the Final Four and should make it through the first weekend of play in the tourney. The Wildcats are 31-3 this season and have a wealth of experience in big games. They could face a potential roadblock in the second round in Wisconsin, but the Badgers fell apart late in the regular season. In the bottom half of the bracket, no team enters the tournament hotter than Duke, champions of the ACC tournament. Expect Mike Krzyzewski and company to advance to the Sweet 16. The bottom half of the East bracket is also where some surprises may occur. SMU is a team that no one wants to play and both No. 12 UNC-Wilmington and No. 13 East Tennessee State are potential giant killers. Should the two teams beat Virginia and Florida, respectively, they would play each other for a shot at the Sweet 16. Look for Villanova, Duke, SMU, and a surprise, possibly UNC-Wilmington, to make the Sweet 16 in the East Region.

Kansas has as clear a shot as any to the Sweet 16 as the top seed in the Midwest Region. Purdue is the other likely qualifier with one of the best power forwards in the nation in Caleb Swanigan, who averages 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds a game. In the bottom half of the bracket the big surprise could come from No. 10 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys can score – 8th in the nation, 85.5 points a game – and had a late 10-1 stretch in the regular season. A first-round upset of Michigan is feasible, but getting past Louisville is unlikely. Without Chris Boucher, look for third-seeded Oregon to take an early exit and allow Creighton, the No. 6 seed, to get to the Sweet Sixteen. Kansas, Purdue, Creighton, and Louisville represent the Midwest during the second week of tournament play.

Gonzaga has never played in a Final Four. This could be the year. They should have little trouble with the top half of the West bracket. West Virginia’s relentless style of play is always tough to prepare for especially at tournament time. The Mountaineers probably don’t have what it takes to get to Phoenix, but they should be playing in the Sweet 16. In the lower half of the bracket, Arizona should flourish. Look for No. 11 Xavier to upset turnover-prone Maryland in the first round. The Musketeers will have trouble with a very big and athletic Florida State team, but might be able to pull the upset. Gonzaga, Arizona, West Virginia, and a surprising Xavier make it to the Sweet 16 in West.

The South might be the one region where all top four seeds have a clear path to the Sweet 16. Expect top seed North Carolina to advance easily with wins over Texas Southern in Round 1 and either Arkansas or Seton Hall in Round 2. Tenth-seeded Wichita State might pull off an upset of No. 7 Dayton, but the Shockers will run into No. 2 Kentucky in the second round. UCLA takes on Kent State and then the Cincinnati-Kansas State winner. Even No. 4 Butler should fare well against No. 13 Winthrop and the Minnesota-Middle Tennessee State winner. The South Region will be the only one that features the top four seeds – North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA, and Butler – in the Sweet 16.


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