There are four double-digit seeds remaining in the Sweet 16 this year, the most in any year since 1999. That’s an amazing statistic, but what’s even more amazing is that Florida State, VCU, and Richmond are all in the Southwest bracket. That means that Kansas, the No. 1 seed, can make it all the way to the Final Four without playing a team seeded higher than ninth. No wonder they are now favored to win the tournament at some books.
What’s also interesting about this group is that while the four teams -- 10 seeded Florida State, 11 seeds VCU and Marquette, and No. 12 Richmond -- are double-digit seeds they are all very legitimate squads that people liked coming in. There are no real longshots that no one had dreamed of this year.
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These four teams are going to have to work hard to make history for their particular seedings -- 11 seeds have twice made the Final Four, and a 12 seed has been in the Elite Eight. There can also only be a maximum of three double digit seeds in the Elite Eight as Florida State and VCU square off in this round. Having three in the next round would be a major surprise, but it is far from impossible. Here are my Sweet 16 predictions for each of the four remaining giant killers (college basketball odds are from BetUS):
Florida State (+6000 to win the championship) - Florida State is the biggest surprise out of the surprisingly strong ACC -- a conference few would have picked to provide the most Sweet 16 teams.
They have got here by dispatching a couple of pretty good teams in Texas A&M and Notre Dame. They didn’t have a particularly impressive nonconference season -- losing to the teams that mattered. As the conference season progressed, though, they showed sparks of talent and potential. They were the first team to beat Duke, and they came very close to beating North Carolina in their second to last game.
What seems to be carrying this team, though, is the emotional boost of the return of Chris Singleton from injury. He’s their leader, and though he hasn’t been very productive in the tournament he seems to have been a lift.
What stands out when you look at this team is how they played Notre Dame. It wasn’t just that they beat a team that was, by most measures, significantly better. It’s that they humiliated them, and frustrated them beyond belief. Notre Dame was stifled offensively, ineffective defensively, and totally out of sorts -- and it was all because of Florida State’s intensity and approach.
If they can keep doing that then they could be dangerous. They are far from a consistent team, though, so I find it hard to trust them or imagine them as a serious contender.
VCU (+10000) - What a ride these guys have been on. On Selection Sunday they were perhaps the most questioned and doubted team in the field. Three wins later they are media darlings.
Three times in a row they have faced major conference teams as solid underdogs, and three times they have not only beaten them but annihilated them. They are a solid team from a strong conference, but there is no question that what has got them where they are is a total belief in each other, their coach, and their system.
We have seen teams go far with just that combination of factors. The fun always tends to end at some point for those teams, though -- often when they have a chance to take time off and reality sinks in.
Are they talented enough to play in the Elite Eight and beyond? Probably not. Could they get there anyway? For sure -- especially given who they play. Are their odds to win it all -- the longest in the field -- unjustified? Nope.
Richmond (+7500) - I think Richmond is the best team of the four double-digit seeds remaining. They have a couple of very good players in Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson. There are a lot of teams they could beat. The problem is that I really don’t think that Kansas is one of them.
There are too many matchups issues -- with the Morris twins being most glaring -- and Richmond’s defensive strengths are mirrored by Kansas, so they don’t give them an edge.
The tournament is all about the luck of the draw. Up to this point the Spiders have been very lucky, but there is a good chance that that luck has run out. There’s also a good chance that Kansas is going to the Final Four.
Marquette (+8000) - We finally venture out of the Southwest. Marquette was one of 11 Big East teams to make the field, and is now one of just two still standing. That is humiliating for the conference.
I didn’t really respect the team coming into the tournament, and I don’t really respect them now -- even though they beat two teams in Xavier and Syracuse that I quite liked.
They have their strengths -- Jimmy Butler could play on my team any day -- but the truth is that they were the 11th-place team in a conference that clearly isn’t nearly as good as we thought they were. I find it impossible to think of them as anything more than the worst team in their region, and one of the worst teams remaining.
I love Cinderellas as much as anyone, but I really only see the minimum of one double-digit seed in the Elite Eight and none beyond that.
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