The past few weeks have been filled with upsets, blowouts, the unexpected and the predicted. While this is usual during March Madness, the best has yet to come.
The Sweet 16 round kicks off Thursday and despite the lack of Cinderella teams, there are still plenty of good reasons to keep watching.
The West bracket starts off with the No. 1 Connecticut Huskies and the No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers.
While the Boilermakers can be credited with playing outstanding defense in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, expect the Huskies to shut their opponent down inside and outside.
With the inside presence of Hasheem Thabeet, and the hopes he will stay out of foul trouble, Purdue may not be able to keep up with Connecticut in the midst of their scoring rampage. My pick is Connecticut over Purdue.
Remaining in the West, No. 2 Memphis Tigers and No. 3 Missouri Tigers should undeniably be an interesting and entertaining matchup, as Missouri has just come off a close win over No. 6 Marquette and Memphis has much to prove.
If Memphis can’t control the tempo, Missouri will look to run the ball up the floor and send Memphis home early. Still, Memphis is one of the best teams in the country, and can look to continue to the Elite Eight. I’m picking Memphis.
In the East, the No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers take on the No. 4 Xavier Musketeers. According to Associated Content, the top-seeded Panthers look to advance to their first Final Four since 1974.
Pittsburgh’s ability to score will overpower Xavier and they will send the Musketeers packing.
Still in the East, No. 3 Villanova Wildcats and No. 2 Duke Blue Devils looks to be an exciting matchup.
Duke must be on top of their game to get past the troublesome Villanova defense, but I’m going to remain faithful to ‘Nova as long as they get contributions from every player on the court.
In the Midwest, the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals and the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats look to battle and move on to the next round.
While many agree the Wildcats didn’t deserve a bid at all, don’t be fooled by their 12 seed. Arizona has beaten their opponents thus far by an average of 13 and Louisville had a close call with No. 9 Siena in the second round. Still, Louisville will have to take advantage of their deep bench and can eventually outrun Arizona. Louisville will advance to the Elite Eight.
Another Midwest battle between the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans and the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks will prove interesting as the Jayhawks are coming off an easy one against No. 11 Dayton and the Spartans barely advanced against No. 10 USC.
I’m picking the defending champions in this one, as I believe the young Kansas squad can outscore and outrun Michigan State.
Finishing up in the South, the No. 1 University of North Carolina Tar Heels take on the No. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Though Gonzaga has made it this far, their ride will end here, as UNC has beaten their previous opponents by 43 and 14.
UNC will continue to bring their high energy against Gonzaga with the leadership of Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough.
The No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners and No. 3 Syracuse Orangemen round out the South, with some of the nation’s best players put up against a Syracuse team that has had an unforgettable postseason so far.
Alongside the powerful inside play of Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, Syracuse’s defense will be futile, and the Sooners will proceed to the Elite Eight.
With these matchups, expect to see some exciting basketball for the rest of March. My predictions will hopefully leave No. 1 Connecticut and No. 1 UNC left vying for the title.