The days seem longer from the Monday after the opening NCAA Tournament weekend until the start of the Sweet 16. It’s typically reserved for remembering the seasons of those teams we’ve lost along the way and those midmajor coaches starting to interview for others jobs.
We had a somewhat crazy afternoon yesterday with Jamie Dixon leaving for TCU, Makai Mason and Ben Simmons declaring for the NBA Draft (one is not like the other) and Brad Underwood accepting the Oklahoma State job.
Let’s take inventory now of the 16 teams remaining as we’ll start the Barstool previews of the Sweet 16 the next couple of days. Today, we’ll take a look at the best players, ranking the teams and storylines to watch as we get ready for more buffalo wings, beers and basketball.
Ranking the Sweet 16 Teams
- Kansas (No. 1 South) – No brainer here as they’ve been the best team in college basketball for more than a month now. The play of Devonte’ Graham has completely changed this team and has given Kansas more firepower than earlier in the year. Oh, that Wayne Selden, Frank Mason and Perry Ellis group ain’t too bad either.
- North Carolina (No. 1 East) – North Carolina is starting to click despite Marcus Paige still looking pretty bad. If Justin Jackson and Joel Berry are chipping in 15 a game to go with Brice Johnson’s daily double-double, this team is different. They need to continue to shoot the ball.
- Virginia (No. 1 Midwest) – The best defensive team of the bunch goes a long way. The worry with Virginia is what happens if Malcolm Brogdon is off or in foul trouble. I don’t trust anyone else on that team to go get their own shot.
- Oklahoma (No. 2 West) – They have the best player left in the NCAA Tournament. On top of that they can play both ways and the backcourt of Hield, Cousins and Woodward can all get their own shots. If Khadeem Latin continues to protect the rim and stay out of foul trouble, they will be a Final Four favorite.
- Villanova (No. 2 South) – Big Cat’s favorite team is finally back to the second weekend and are ready to make some more noise. If Kris Jenkins continues to give this team the scoring he has, it’s balanced with Arcidiacono and Hart.
- Oregon (No. 1 West) – Oregon showed why it’s a No. 1 seed and why it’s being bashed for being a No. 1 seed in the span of about 10 minutes late Sunday. They have a ton of guys who can score in Elgin Cook, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, but they seem to play dumb at times. Those three are good enough to make a Final Four.
- Indiana (No. 5 East) – The rise of OG Anunoby has changed Indiana. He can guard multiple positions and stretch the floor on the offensive side of the ball. They still have a top-5 point guard in Yogi and guys who can shoot the shit out of the ball. Which Troy Williams shows up will be key though.
- Miami (No. 3 South) – Want to play a fast game? Miami can beat you that way. Want to slow it down? Not a problem for the Canes. The backcourt of Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan doesn’t get talked about enough and Tonye Jekiri is a rim protector.
- Iowa State (No. 5 Midwest) – Sure, there’s no bench, but what about the top-6 in the rotation? Georges Niang and Monte Morris provide one of the best 1-2 punches left.
- Texas A&M (No. 3 West) – This team is going to be a little disrespected because of the way they came back against UNI, but the talent is completely there. Danuel House and Jalen Jones can go get their own shot while Tyler Davis is one of the better post players left.
- Maryland (No. 5 South) – The talent is absolutely there, but can this team rebound with Kansas?
- Gonzaga (No. 11 Midwest) – The lack of guard play has been talked about all season, but they still have Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. Eric McClellan is a wing to watch going forward.
- Duke (No. 5 West) – There’s no post guys here despite the 198th Plumlee brother still being around and they play no defense. However, two NBA guys in Ingram and Allen can help them outscore teams.
- Notre Dame (No. 6 East) – See the offense/defense line about Duke, but they have a post guy in Zach Auguste.
- Wisconsin (No. 7 East) – Vitto Brown has helped light up this offense (well for Wisconsin standards). If Nigel Hayes can start scoring again, a Final Four isn’t out of the question.
- Syracuse (No. 10 Midwest) – If Trevor Cooney is shooting the ball well they look like a decent team. If not they will continue to look mediocre.
16 Best Players Left
- Buddy Hield (Oklahoma)
- Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia)
- Brice Johnson (UNC)
- Yogi Ferrell (Indiana)
- Georges Niang (Iowa State)
- Brandon Ingram (Duke)
- Perry Ellis (Kansas)
- Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga)
- Grayson Allen (Duke)
- Dillon Brooks (Oregon)
- Josh Hart (Villanova)
- Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame)
- Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga)
- Danuel House (Texas A&M)
- Diamond Stone (Maryland)
- Sheldon McClellan (Miami)
Ranking the 16 Coaches:
- Coach K (Duke)
- Bill Self (Kansas)
- Lon Kruger (Oklahoma)
- Tony Bennett (Virginia)
- Jim Larranaga (Miami)
- Jay Wright (Villanova)
- Dana Altman (Oregon)
- Mark Few (Gonzaga)
- Jim Boeheim (Syracuse)
- Roy Williams (UNC)
- Greg Gard (Wisconsin)
- Mikey Brey (Notre Dame)
- Billy Kennedy (Texas A&M)
- Tom Crean (Indiana)
- Steve Prohm (Iowa State)
- Mark Turgeon (Maryland)
Ranking the Sweet 16 Games:
- North Carolina vs Indiana (East)
- Miami vs Villanova (South)
- Texas A&M vs Oklahoma (West)
- Virginia vs Iowa State (Midwest)
- Oregon vs Duke (West)
- Kansas vs Maryland (South)
- Notre Dame vs Wisconsin (East)
- Gonzaga vs Syracuse (Midwest)