The first weekend of glorious March Madness action is over. And it was... pretty good. It started slow, with a dull Thursday and a spotty Friday, but the weekend certainly delivered. And now we are left with the Sweet 16. Some of the remaining teams were expected. Some weren't. With the absence of both the top overall seed and the pre-tournament betting favorite, and without any completely fluky teams, this is as wide open and competitive as any we have seen in a long time. You can make a case for any remaining team - though some are obviously stronger than others.
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As we do every year, then, it's time to rank the 16 remaining teams in terms of their chances of going all the way and cutting down the nets. These will differ from the seedings of the teams for one big reason - the seedings have to consider what the teams were like all season, while we are only concerned about who can win now. (Odds to win the tournament are from BetOnline ):
1. Kansas: The fact that Kansas is the top team on this list is proof of how wide open this tourney is. Josh Jackson is an extremely good player, and the coaching is great (a recurring theme in this tournament). There are concerns about depth up front, but the upside seems highest and they have looked strong so far.
2. North Carolina: The ACC has been just brutal in this tournament, and having that much of a struggle with Arkansas wasn't ideal. In other words, there is a lot not to like. They have plenty of experience, though, and are a great rebounding team. They are almost here by default.
3. Gonzaga: I have really liked the second half of their first game and the first half of their second game. If they'd looked like that more often they'd be higher on this list. As it is, I just have to have faith in the potential of the team that is the last one standing in my bracket.
4. Arizona: Their best players have played well, and they have been defensively sound. The top end of the Pac-12 is doing what they are supposed to so far, and Arizona is the best of the bunch at this point.
5. Michigan: The Big Ten had a great first weekend, and Michigan was at the top of it. They had the toughest path of any team to the Sweet 16, and they made it by playing two completely different styles of game - deep bombs against Oklahoma State and dominating inside against Louisville. They are diverse and dangerous.
6. UCLA: I question the defense of this team in a serious way, or they could be higher. Lonzo Ball has been spectacular, though, and is the best player remaining in the tournament.
7. West Virginia: I am not a big fan of the press, but when a team commits to it like this it can certainly be deadly. I would have them a little higher if Bucknell hadn't played them reasonably close. They feel vulnerable to the right team.
8. Wisconsin: What's more impressive than their win over Villanova was that it was no fluke. What we saw this weekend was what this team was before their struggles down the stretch. If we see more of that then the sky is the limit.
9. Kentucky: This team just drives me insane. They are ridiculously talented - three likely first-rounders this year - but they just don't seem to care. After they beat Wichita State narrowly, their faces were joyless. Heart matters so much in this tournament, and they don't have it.
10. Baylor: I hate how Baylor finished out their season, was blinded by the uniforms, and wasn't high on the team coming into the tournament. They should probably be lower, but they are here for one reason - typically reliant on their size, they went small during the second half against USC and the effects were devastating for USC. That versatility will be handy.
11. Florida: I really liked that win over Virginia. But then I really hated Virginia this year, so that's only so impressive. Solid team, but I'm still not totally sold.
12. South Carolina: Any team that beats Duke is good in my books. Heroes, in fact. Sindarius Thornwell has been very impressive, and there is a lot to like. The East Region is as wide open as a region can be, so that helps their cause, too.
13. Oregon: At full strength this team would be much higher, but their defense is clearly not the same without Chris Boucher, and their path forward is very tough. It's all about timing and luck, and theirs sucks.
14. Purdue: This team is as top heavy as any right now - it's all about Caleb Swanigan. He's very good, of course, but depth is what will win now, and they are behind on that front.
15. Butler: This is a solid team, but they have had a very manageable path so far, and next they face North Carolina. That is going to be tough.
16. Xavier: I love what this team has done so far, but they have beaten Maryland and Florida State, and I hate both of those teams - how they play, but especially their mental games. Things get dramatically tougher against Arizona. Bill Murray won't be happy.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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