The NCAA Tournament's East Region lost both No. 1 seed and defending national champion Villanova and preseason 2016-17 championship favorite and No. 2 Duke in the Round of 32 last weekend. So the East is totally up for grabs. Otherwise, it has been a fairly chalk NCAA Tournament as we begin the Sweet 16. The No. 1 seed - Gonzaga (West), Kansas (Midwest) and North Carolina (South) -- remains in the other three regions. The South is totally chalk with the top four remaining. The only double-digit seed left is No. 11 Xavier in the South, and it's clear that Xavier shouldn't have been seeded 11th. North Carolina remains BetOnline's title favorite at +400 even though the Heels appear to have the most difficult path to a championship.
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No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 3 Oregon ( +1 )
Midwest Region game at 7:09 p.m. ET from Kansas City on CBS. The winner takes on either No. 4 Purdue or No. 1 Kansas. I didn't think the Wolverines would beat No. 2 Louisville last week, but U-M is starting to look like a team of destiny as it was back in 1989. Derrick Walton Jr. has taken on the Glen Rice role from that team, although Walton does it all while Rice was largely just a gunner. Walton had 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the 73-69 win over the Cards, although he was just 3-for-13 from the field. The surprise star of that one was German sophomore Moritz Wagner, who had a career-high 26 points. He shot 11-for-14 from the field, and it seems like U-M has had a guy go nuts like that in each game of its seven-game winning streak. Michigan is going to be a tough out because it rarely turns the ball over (just six vs. Louisville's pressure) and makes its free throws (No. 10 nationally).
I absolutely didn't expect three Big Ten teams to make the Sweet 16, but I'm not overly surprised that the three best teams in the Pac-12 are still standing. Oregon was the co-regular-season champion of arguably college basketball's best conference at the top this year. The Ducks' only loss in the past 11 games was by three to an excellent Arizona team in the Pac-12 Tournament final, a night after Oregon learned it had lost top big man Chris Boucher to a season-ending injury. UO was fortunate to escape No. 11 Rhode Island last Sunday, 75-72. Tyler Dorsey has been the best player in this tournament. He hit the tying and go-ahead 3-pointer vs. the Rams and had 27 points. He is 18-for-23 in the Big Dance with 51 points. Oregon is 0-4 all-time vs. Michigan; the teams last played in 2014.
Key trends: The Wolverines are 6-1 against the spread in their past seven. The Ducks are 10-2 ATS in their past 12 as a dog of 6.5 points or fewer.
I'm leaning : Oregon advances to face Kansas, and KU takes the region.
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (-3)
West Region game at 7:39 p.m. ET from San Jose on TBS. The winner gets either No. 2 Arizona or No. 11 Xavier. The only coach in the West Region who has been to the Final Four is West Virginia's Bob Huggins. No West Coast team has been to the national semifinals since 2008, but should the Zags and Arizona both win that drought will end. Yes, I'm counting Arizona as a West Coast team. I suppose if there's a good time to play WVU with its pressure defense that led the country in forcing turnovers, it's with 3-4 days to prepare as opposed to a quick turnaround in the Elite Eight. I think that was on display last week. Bucknell looked ready for it in the Round of 64 in losing just 86-80. The Bison had "only" 15 turnovers and outshot WVU. About 48 hours later, Notre Dame, one of the country's best offenses and in turnover percentage, lost 83-71 and had 10 first-half turnovers while shooting 40.7 percent overall. The Mountaineers also shot a season-high 57.1 percent from behind the arc vs. Notre Dame.
Gonzaga has been less-than-impressive thus far in a 66-46 win over South Dakota State and a 79-73 victory over No. 8 Northwestern (failing to cover either). The Zags nearly blew a huge lead vs. NU and caught a huge break when a clear goaltending wasn't called in their favor. Incensed Northwestern coach Chris Collins immediately ran onto the floor and got a technical. That basically stopped the Wildcats' momentum; the NCAA admitted the call was missed. Gonzaga also has struggled at the free-throw line, which has been a season-long problem. The Zags did play a Big 12 team this season, beating Iowa State 73-71 on Nov. 27 in a Florida tournament. The Cyclones lost both regular-season meetings vs. WVU rather handily but beat the Mountaineers in the Big 12 title game.
Key trends: The Mountaineers are 1-9-1 ATS in their past 11 as a neutral-site underdog. The Zags are 5-2 ATS as an NCAA Tournament favorite of 6.5 points or fewer.
I'm leaning: Gonzaga … although I would probably only give, say, two more points before switching.
No. 11 Xavier vs. No. 2 Arizona (-7.5)
West Region game at 10:09 p.m. ET from San Jose on TBS. The big storyline here is Arizona coach Sean Miller. He was ultra-successful at Xavier but lured to the desert in April 2009. Miller was 120-47 at Xavier and took two teams to the Sweet 16. He was replaced in Cincinnati by Miller's assistant, student and friend Chris Mack, and the Musketeers haven't lost a beat. "It stinks. It really does because he means so much to me. He's taught me so much about what to do and how to be a coach," Mack said of this matchup. It's the second time in three years the two face off in the Big Dance. In 2015, Arizona beat Xavier 68-60, also in a West Region semifinal in California (Los Angeles). Xavier has never reached a Final Four, and Arizona hasn't under Miller. He is one of five head coaches to ever coach a team to the Sweet 16 and then later face that team in the Sweet 16 or later.
The Musketeers have been one of the most impressive teams in this tournament with an 11-ponit win over No. 6 Maryland and then a 91-66 wipeout of No. 3 Florida State. Xavier hit 55.6 percent of its shots vs. the Noles. Arizona has one loss in its past 12 games, against excellent UCLA. The Cats got payback for that in the Pac-12 Tournament and eventually won it vs. Oregon. They beat No. 15 North Dakota State 100-82 in the first round of this tournament and No. 7 Saint Mary's 69-60 in the Round of 32. Arizona played lousy in the first half of both. The Cats played Big East school Butler in a Thanksgiving holiday tournament and lost 69-65. Xavier was 1-2 vs. Butler this season.
Key trends: The Musketeers are 4-0 ATS in their past four as a dog. The Cats are 2-6-1 ATS in their past nine NCAA Tournament games.
I'm leaning: I'll take the points, but Arizona advances to face Gonzaga … and the Wildcats win that.
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