Sweet 16 (Boston): Thursday/Saturday, March 22/24
|3-Texas Tech||14-S.F. Austin|
|5-West Virginia||12-Murray St.|
Looking forward to: Seeing Jalen Brunson vs. Alabama’s Collin Sexton in the second round … Whether Florida can mount a run like it did last year when the Gators made it to the Elite 8 as a 4-seed … How Cal State-Fullerton plans to deal with Purdue behemoths Isaac Haas (7-2, 290) and Matt Haarms (7-3, 250). The tallest player in Fullerton’s rotation is 6-7 forward Jackson Rowe.
Cinderella watch: Stephen F. Austin travels well and has been dubbed the “Kentucky of the Southland” after winning four of the last five conference tournaments. Texas Tech should beware. So should Florida, for that matter.
Questionable seeding: St. Bonaventure got jobbed having to play in the play-in game. The Bonnies have an RPI of 24 went 9-4 in true road games. Butler probably could have used a better seed than 10, but they lost three of their last four.
Players to watch: The TV execs are rooting for Brunson and Mikal Bridges against Alabama’s Sexton in the second round … Florida guard Chris Chiozza is a playmaker with a flare for the dramatic. Just ask Wisconsin … Marshall guard Jon Elmore is among the nation’s leading scorers at 22.8 points per game. He also had a pair of triple-doubles during the season … Arkansas freshman forward Daniel Gafford has matured into an NBA prospect.
Picks to reach the Sweet 16: Villanova, Wichita State, Stephen F. Austin, Purdue.
Pick to win the region: Purdue.
— Ed Barkowitz
Sweet 16 (Atlanta): Friday/Sunday, March 23/25
Looking forward to: All this freshman talent! Arizona big man Deandre Ayton is an absolute force, enjoy him beating up on college kids while you can, this time next year, he’ll be banging into Joel Embiid and co. in the NBA. But it doesn’t stop there. Miami’s Lonnie Walker (Reading High), Texas’ Mohamed Bamba (Westtown), and Kentucky point guard Quade Green (Neumann-Goretti) will be must-watch. You know it’s a region filled with young talent when four freshmen are mentioned and the Kentucky kid is the fourth, this region is loaded with young, talented players. Could we see a Texas-Arizona matchup in the Sweet 16? NBA scouts sure hope so.
Cinderella watch: Does Kentucky count? They’re too talented to underestimate. They have the athletes to play with anyone and, if they can knock off Virginia in a possible Sweet 16 matchup, they will be riding high.
Questionable seeding: Kentucky and Miami as 5- and 6-seeds in the No. 1 overall seed region is pretty tough to understand. Easy to argue Villanova has an easier road.
Players to watch: Gosh, where do I start? Arizona’s Deandre Ayton. Miami’s Lonnie Walker, Texas’ Mohamed Bamba, Kentucky’s Kevin Knox. Kentucky’s Quade Green.
Picks to reach the Sweet 16: Virginia, Arizona, Miami, Cincinnati.
Pick to win the region: Arizona.
— EJ Smith
Sweet 16 (Omaha, Neb.): Friday/Sunday, March 23/25
|5-Clemson||12-New Mexico St.|
|6-TCU||11-Arizona St./ Syracuse|
|8-Seton Hall||9-N.C. State|
Looking forward to: Penn trying to cover a two-touchdown spread against Kansas on Friday … A rematch of Michigan State-Duke in the Sweet 16. Duke beat Sparty in November in Chicago when they were ranked 1-2 respectively and Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski is 11-1 all-time against Tom Izzo
Cinderella watch: New Mexico State could be a problem for Clemson, and we all know how dangerous 12 seeds are for the No. 5. The Aggies beat Davidson and Miami and hung with USC at a Christmas tournament.
Questionable seeding: Syracuse getting into the tournament was a huge surprise. Watch ’em win some games now. Rhode Island could give Duke some issues in the second round.
Players to watch: Terrific region for stars. Kansas’ Devonte Graham was the Big 12 player of the year, Oklahoma freshman Trae Young is on pace to become the first player ever to lead the nation in scoring AND assists. Duke has Grayson Allen (hey, watch your step) and Marvin Bagley III while Michigan State is led by Miles Bridges. New Mexico State’s Jemerrio Jones is second in the nation in rebounding.
Picks to reach the Sweet 16: Kansas, Auburn, Michigan State, Duke.
Pick to win the region: Michigan State.
— Ed Barkowitz
Steve Donahue talking about his guys thinking they can beat Kansas: "I'm not stepping on their dreams."
— Mike Jensen (@jensenoffcampus) March 11, 2018
Sweet 16 (Los Angeles): Thursday/Saturday, March 22/24
|5-Ohio St.||12-South Dakota St.|
|6-Houston||11-San Diego St.|
Looking forward to: Seeing more of Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. The highly touted recruit was sidelined for just about the entire regular season, but came back for the Tigers’ second-round loss in the SEC Tournament against Georgia. The 6-foot-10 guard/forward wasn’t shy, taking 17 shots in his debut. You could see the rust, but tournament run could create a lot of buzz for a possible lottery pick.
Cinderella watch: Missouri, again. Adding a talent like Porter Jr. to the Tigers could have them punching out of their weight class. Watch out for Providence, too. They beat Xavier twice, Villanova once and took the Wildcats to overtime in the conference title game. The Friars led the Big East in points per game.
Questionable seeding: That Providence team we saw on Saturday looked a bit better than the 10th seed.
Players to watch: Michael and Jontay Porter from Missouri. Trevon Bluiett from Xavier and Luke Maye and Joel Berry, the Most Outstanding Player from last year’s tournament, lead defending champ North Carolina.
Picks to reach the Sweet 16: Gonzaga, Missouri, Houston, UNC.
Pick to win the region: Gonzaga.
— EJ Smith
Note: The Final Four is in San Antonio (Saturday, March 31 & Monday, April 2). East-Midwest regions in one semifinal, South-West in the other.