Now that the field of 68 teams in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament is set, it’s time to look at who should make it to the second weekend – to the Sweet 16. The four top seeds (Alabama, Purdue, Kansas, and Houston) would consider failing to make it that far a major failure, even though they face a meeting with an 8- or a 9-seed in the second round. There are several teams on upset alert – Kansas lost to Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament, for example. Houston lost to Memphis by 10 in the AAC Tournament finals. Let’s take a look at which teams should still be standing for the Sweet 16, as you plan your college basketball betting for the tournament.
NCAA News: Favorites Teams that Will Make the Second Weekend
Arizona and Alabama should be able to skate to next weekend. Alabama would face West Virginia or Maryland after knocking off a 16-seed. Arizona gets Princeton in the first round, and then they would see Utah State or Missouri. Both of these teams have solid offenses, and they converted in the SEC and Pac-12 Tournaments. Alabama has Brandon Miller, who should dominant in both of these games. Arizona has both Courtney Ramey and Azoulas Tubelis to knock down shots.
What about the other two Sweet 16 spots? Virginia and San Diego State play slow, grinding styles that make them vulnerable if their opponent can turn things into a track meet. They play Furman and Charleston, respectively, in the first round. Charleston likes to play up-tempo and might roll past San Diego State. Virginia’s offense has suffered without Ben Vander Plas, and Furman could take advantage. If both Charleston and Furman, Charleston has the offense to batter its way through to the second weekend.
Baylor could struggle against Creighton, but Baylor has done reasonably well in a tough Big 12 behind guards Adam Flagler and L.J. Cryer. Creighton has the depth to make Baylor pay, but the Bears should be able to get enough offense to prevail.
Predictions: Arizona vs Baylor, Alabama vs Charleston
Purdue could fall in the second round because Florida Atlantic and Memphis both have dynamic guard play. The key for the Boilermakers will be Wooden Award favorite Zach Edey, who should be able to dominate the paint with his size advantage. Duke comes in playing its best of the season, particularly on offense, and they face an Oral Roberts team that scores in bunches thanks to Max Abmas. Tennessee is a 4-seed but will not have Zakai-Zeigler (ACL tear). Marquette won the Big East regular-season and tournament championships, so it will be interesting to see what they have left in the tank. They would see USC or Michigan State in the second round, and both of those teams are surprisingly tough. Kentucky lost to St. Peter’s in the first round last year, and that could motivate them to get through Providence and Kansas State, but also remember that this is a team that just fell to Vanderbilt.
Predictions: Memphis vs Duke, Marquette vs Kansas State
Houston should have Marcus Sasser back after he missed the AAC Tournament championship against Memphis. The Cougars would see Auburn or Iowa in the second round, both inconsistent teams that should melt under Houston’s pressure defense. Drake comes in as a 12-seed that has a stout defense, often holding teams under 70 points. They play Miami, a team that struggles to get starts. If Drake can beat Miami, that could open a door for Indiana to get to the Sweet 16.
Texas is the 2-seed but would either see Penn State, a red-hot Big Tem team, or Texas A&M, who got a 7-seed despite rolling to the SEC Tournament finals. Texas A&M regularly holds teams under 65 points. Xavier gets an Iowa State team that put lightning in a bottle to win the Big 12 Tournament. Iowa State gets the Pitt-Mississippi State winner from the First Four in the first round.
Predictions: Iowa State vs Penn State, Houston vs Indiana
Kansas could draw Arkansas in the second round, and Gonzaga could draw TCU, which means that these teams should get to the Sweet 16 with relative ease. UCLA has some injury issues after losing Jaylen Clark (Achilles tear) for the season. Adem Bona (shoulder) missed the Pac-12 Tournament final and is questionable for the first round. Even so, the Bruins should get through UNC-Asheville and the winner of Boise State and Northwestern.
Connecticut will be tested by the grinding defense that St. Mary’s showed this season. The Gaels looked vulnerable against Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament final, but having time to rest should help. The Gaels held Houston to 53 points down in Texas back in December.
Predictions: Kansas vs Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga vs UCLA
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