How sweet it is! In just over 24 hours, the Sweet Sixteen of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will be upon us. While some teams are surprises, and some were expected, the rest of the tournament is sure to be just exciting as the first two rounds. Without further ado, here is my region by region preview of the Round of 16.
East Region: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Match-ups: No. 8 Wisconsin vs No. 4 Florida, No. 3 Baylor vs No. 7 South Carolina
Upsets were the main story line in the first two rounds of the East Region. The biggest obviously being the top overall seed and defending National Champion Villanova Wildcats being defeated by the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin was disrespected by being given an 8 seed, and they’ve shown why they deserved a higher seed. They face a tough Florida team who killed the No. 5 seeded Virginia Cavaliers in the second round. The 3rd seeded Baylor Bears are now the highest seed remaining in the region, and face a South Carolina side with confidence after knocking off one of the tournament favorites, the Duke Blue Devils, in the round of 32.
Prediction: Both games will be close, as all four teams seem pretty evenly matched. Wisconsin will continue their run for a 3rd Final Four in 4 years, and will meet Baylor in the Elite Eight for a spot in Phoenix.
West Region: SAP Center, San Jose, CA
Match-ups: No. 1 Gonzaga vs No. 4 West Virginia, No. 11 Xavier vs No. 2 Arizona
The West Region presents two intriguing match-ups that will be closer than people may think. The top seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs held off a late Northwestern surge in the second round to reach the Sweet Sixteen, and will look to knock off an underrated West Virginia team. The highest seed remaining in the field is the 11th seeded Xavier Musketeers. After demolishing Florida State in the second round, people should not take the Musketeers lightly. Although they are heavy underdogs against Arizona, expect a close game right up until the final whistle blows.
Prediction: One of two teams that have struggled to make the Final Four will finally push through, as the top two seeds in the West Region will advance to the regional final. Bulldogs vs Wildcats in the Elite Eight.
Midwest Region: Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
Match-ups: No. 1 Kansas vs No. 4 Purdue, No. 3 Oregon vs No. 7 Michigan
When it comes to this region, every team knows how to win. All four teams remaining in the Midwest Region won either their regular season or conference tournament titles (Oregon won a share of the Pac-12 regular season championship with Arizona). The top seeded Kansas Jayhawks cruised through their first two games in the tournament, winning by 38 &20 respectively. They take on a Purdue team who may just have the player of the year in Caleb Swanigan. Oregon had a real test against 11th seeded Rhode Island, and facing a red hot Michigan team won’t be any easier for them. That plane crash has proved to go well for the Wolverines, as they have since went on to win the Big Ten Tournament as an 8 seed, and now find themselves just two wins away from their first Final Four appearance since 2013.
Prediction: Both of these games will be close battles, and any of the four teams can make noise the rest of the way. However, Kansas will make back to back appearances in the Elite Eight, and they will take on a rolling Michigan team looking to continue their improbable run.
South Region: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Match-ups: No. 1 North Carolina vs No. 4 Butler, No. 3 UCLA vs No. 2 Kentucky
Everything has gone as planned in the South, as all four top seeds find themselves among the final sixteen. North Carolina is looking to avenge their National Championship loss last year, and losses to Villanova and Duke now see the Tar Heels as favorites to cut down the nets. They face a hungry Butler team who should not be taken lightly. The other game in the South is far and away the best match-up in the Sweet Sixteen on paper. A star-studded rematch between the Bruins of UCLA and the Wildcats of Kentucky. Two of the best freshman in the country will go head to head, as Lonzo Ball and Malik Monk look to lead their teams to an Elite Eight appearance.
Prediction: The theme of top seeds advancing will continue in the South. Both games should provide some fireworks, and in the end the top seeded Tar Heels will get a rematch against the 2nd seeded Wildcats, who grabbed a 103-100 victory of UNC on December 17th.
There are just 15 games remaining in this highlight filled college basketball season, and each game left should prove to be some of the best of the year. Gear up fans, these next two weeks should be fun. Happy Madness!