No one wants to be the guy who gets caught up in the moment, but this has already been the craziest NCAA Tournament ever. The first two rounds provided a slew of exciting games and unbelievable upsets including the unthinkable. After 135 losses, a 16-seed (UMBC) took down a 1-seed (UVA). Brackets were laid to waste and I’m already out of contention in both of my pools. Although I do love winning and we all love money, the silver lining about being out the running is I can watch every game as a fan of basketball.
Now that the Sweet Sixteen is upon us, there are some exciting games throughout. After last weekend, making predictions should be out of the question, but #TheSkyBoxSuite is laced with rebels like myself. Also, to make things fun and switch things up a bit on the DUAL PERSPECTIVES series, Chymere A. will make her predictions based on who I have listed to dominate at this point in the tournament, creating a mock bracket for the Final Four. With that said, here are my predictions for the Sweet Sixteen:
Kentucky vs Kansas State
I have a coworker who was born in Kentucky and is a huge fan of the Wildcats. For the entire season, she was worried that her team was underperforming. To be fair, they didn’t have the same fight that most of John Calipari’s teams have had. But I reassured that come tournament time, Calipari would have them in the shape and peak that they need to be. Sure enough, they've made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Kansas State has been able to win their first two games without their leading scorer, Dean Wade. However, that was against Creighton and “Cinderella” UMBC, respectively. Kentucky is a different animal and that’s why I’m going with the Wildcats.
Kansas vs Clemson
Clemson wasn't a team I paid too much attention to this year and that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I see them more as a football school. That’s no disrespect to their basketball program, but basketball is just not the first sport that comes to mind like say, Kansas. However, they are looking good right now. They laid a 31 point smack down on Auburn that even The Rock would be proud of. They’ve got some pretty good momentum heading into their match-up with the Jayhawks, who struggled to put away a good but not great Seton Hall team. With all this being said, the talent of Jayhawks, particularly Devonte’ Graham, will prove too much to handle.
Florida State vs Gonzaga
When it comes to Florida State and Gonzaga this year, I didn’t anticipate decent runs from either of them. Both squads are undoubtedly solid teams, but this seemed like a year where they would bow out in the first two rounds, yet here we are with the two slated to battle in the Sweet Sixteen. If I’m putting my money on it (and I’m not after the first weekend), I would take Florida State. They’ve got length at every position with the shortest players being listed at 6-1. I could see that length stifling a Gonzaga offense that barely put away UNCG.
Prediction: Florida State
Loyola-Chicago vs Nevada
If UMBC was Cinderella, Loyola-Chicago is Julia Stiles (figure out this dance reference yourself…). They have been fun to watch and equally as entertaining as their opponent, Nevada. Both teams have willed their way to this matchup. Loyola have had two close games, including a game winner against Tennessee, while Nevada has had to claw back into their games, culminating in a 22-point comeback win against Cincinnati. This game may literally come down to who has the ball last. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Loyola-Chicago keeps the party going.
Texas Tech vs Purdue
Purdue’s biggest issue is if 7 footer Isaac Haas can play with his shattered elbow. Apparently they are trying to design a brace that he can use to protect any further damage while also giving him the mobility he needs to play. Neither situation is particularly ideal for a Boilermaker team that depends on his overall ability. Despite an inspired effort from Purdue, look for Texas Tech to come away with the win.
Prediction: Texas Tech
Duke vs Syracuse
I am not sure how Syracuse is here. They played decent but not good basketball this year. They were forced to play there way in to the tournament and I predicted a first round exit for them against TCU. Yet, here they are, ready to take on Duke, who beat them by 16 in the only game they played against each other this year. Both teams deploy the 2-3 zone, though Syracuse’s version is the stuff of legends. Syracuse is going to have to score a lot if they are going to have a chance in this game. Let me put to you a different way: when CBS updated their bracket graphic, they listed this matchup (hilariously incorrectly) Duke vs Duke. I’m picking the Blue Devils.
Villanova vs West Virginia
This is probably the best matchup on paper. A fluid offense in Villanova, led by sensational guard Jalen Brunson, battles defensively strong West Virginia, led by Jevon Carter. Something is going to have to give: Villanova rarely turns the ball over and West Virginia causes turnovers at a very high clip. West Virginia has always been one of those teams where, come tourney time, I don’t trust them. But I will say I’ve been impressed with their team and how they get up in opposing teams space with no fear. I got a couple of coworkers who went to WVU and believe this is the year they break through the glass ceiling. Overall, I think Villanova is the best team left in the tournament and I see them winning a nail-biter.
Michigan vs Texas A&M
Coming into March Madness, I knew that Michigan was the ultimate sleeper of the tournament. They’ve played well all year and I debated for a long time if Michigan were potential Final Four contenders. But Michigan just scraped by on a dramatic buzzer beater to get to the Sweet Sixteen. Meanwhile, Texas A&M completely demolished the defending champs. I mean demolished them. I mean it was over before it even started. If that Texas A&M team shows up, Michigan is in big trouble. However, I don’t think that team is showing up this weekend so give me Michigan.