With all due respect to the term "March Madness," this year's tournament has failed to live up to the hype - so far. The first two days were filled with chalky outcomes and produced very little substance to talk about at the watercooler the next day. Only six lower seeds were able to move on to play in the Round of 32, but three of them were the game-time favorite, so that shouldn't come as any surprise.
The Round of 32 did its best to deliver some sort of jaw-dropping results, and for the most part we were left pleased as neutral observers. Villanova's shocking defeat to No.8 Wisconsin started the upset trend, with Louisville, Florida State and Duke - all Top-3 seeds - also succumbing to lower-ranked opponents. In my opinion, the most shocking defeat was Florida State's due to the fact that many experts had Xavier falling to Maryland in the opening round.
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One disappointing fact surrounding the first 48 games of this tournament is that there hasn't been any true buzzer-beater drama - at least not yet. We still have 15 more games to go, so I am sure the drama will pick up and set social media on fire.
With three days off before the Sweet 16 gets underway, I've taken the time to reseed the remaining 16 teams and give you my take on their likely or unlikely path to Houston. As always, Bovada provided me with amazing futures odds.
No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (+475)
The Jayhawks are in the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season after dismantling UC Davis by 38 and handily beating Michigan State by 20. They are being led by Josh Jackson, who has scored a total of 40 points through the first two games. His latest 23-point effort of Michigan State just goes to show that he is the real deal, and opponents will continue to struggle to defend not only him but also his talented supporting cast. The Jayhawks also check in at No.1 thanks to their bracket . They must now navigate through Purdue and then the winner of Michigan/Oregon. All of whom aren't Gonzaga, UCLA or Arizona.
No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels (+500)
The Tar Heels started the tournament as co-favorites but have seen their odds slip to second-favorites on the betting board. The Heels made quick work of Texas Southern in round one before managing to slip by a game Arkansas squad in the second round. The Heels were down by five with just more than three minutes left before going on a 12-0 run, capped by Kennedy Meeks' tip shot with 44 seconds left that gave UNC a three-point cushion. The Razorbacks couldn't muster a response, going 0-for-4 with two missed free-throws in the final minute. UNC now has a very favorable draw to reach at least the Elite Eight as they take on the offensively-challenged Butler Bulldogs.
No. 4 Arizona Wildcats (+650)
Arizona is making its fifth Sweet 16 appearance in the last seven years, and many think this is the best Arizona team yet. The Wildcats handled North Dakota in the first round and needed a second-half rally to get by a solid Saint Mary's team. The Wildcats are buoyed by a trio of players that will make or break this team. Allonzo Trier is the talent, while Lauri Markkanen provides the inside presence and Kadeem Allen provides the heart and hustle. I give them kudos for their performances in the two rounds thus far, but they are on a collision course with Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, which makes it very hard to make a case for them being worth a futures wager.
No. 5 Gonzaga Bulldogs (+650)
The Bulldogs are making their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance after holding on for a narrow victory over No. 8 Northwestern. The Zags have yet to play a full 40 minutes, and their defensive lapses have raised concerns for me moving forward. They have a very tough Sweet 16 opponent on deck in "Press" Virginia, and the Bulldogs should be on full-blown upset alert. Anything short of their absolute best will likely be the end of the tournament for this year's squad.
No. 6 UCLA Bruins (+800)
There are very few teams left in the tournament that could go shot for shot with the Bruins and come out victorious. While it took a while for them to get going in their Round of 32 victory over Cincinnati, the Bruins used the three-ball and a lightning-quick transition game to assert themselves. Lonzo Ball is the driving force behind this squad, and as he goes so do the Bruins. A very tough rematch looms large in the shape of Kentucky, whom UCLA beat in Lexington 97-92 back in December.
No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (+1000)
The Wildcats did just enough to keep Wichita State in check and secure their third Sweet 16 appearance in the last four seasons. The Wildcats feature NBA-ready talent in the form of Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo, However, they team has been unimpressive in both games thus far this tournament, and if they aren't able to knock down their shots against a hot UCLA team then the Wildcats could be making another unexpected exit.
No. 8 Florida Gators (+1200)
Don't get me wrong, holding a team to 39 points in 40 minutes is an amazing defensive feat. Unless your opponent is Virginia, who couldn't throw a grape in the ocean. The Gators are legit and have a very winnable matchup on deck against a Wisconsin team that isn't exactly known for its scoring prowess.
No. 9 Baylor Bears (+1600)
It took Baylor a while to get going, but when they did they easily dispatched of New Mexico State in round one before squeaking by a USC team with a ton of momentum. Baylor is led by Johnathan Motley, who has put up 15 and 19 points, respectively in the last two games. Next up for the Bears is a tough test against South Carolina. The Gamecocks are one of the better defensive teams left in the tournament, so if Baylor isn't clicking then the Bears will be staring down the barrel of an upset.
No. 10 Michigan Wolverines (+1600)
Heading into the Big Ten tournament, Michigan was seemingly on the bubble. One plane "crash" and five consecutive wins later, the Wolverines are Big Ten Tournament champions and a Sweet 16 participant. No. 7 Michigan has beaten two very good teams, Oklahoma State and Louisville, to get here. They now must navigate an Oregon squad that is susceptible to hot-shooting teams with very good inside presence. The Elite Eight is very likely in my opinion.
No. 3 Oregon Ducks (+1800)
The Oregon Ducks made every second count in their second-round win over a solid Rhode Island team as Tyler Dorsey hit a contested go-ahead three-pointer from the top of the arc with 38 seconds remaining in the game. The Ducks are still struggling to play a full 40 minutes, and the loss of Chris Boucher in the Pac-12 Tournament has impacted the team tremendously on the defensive side of the court. Boucher was the rim protector that served as a deterrence for teams to enter the lane. Without him they are susceptible to points in the paint could find it tough sailing to contain Michigan big-man Mo Wagner.
West Virginia is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015 and has been its dominant self in the first two games of this year's tournament. They led from start to finish against Notre Dame and shot a ridiculous 57 percent from beyond the arc in that game. Many would suggest that they are due for a severe drop off, but if they hold steady at around 40 percent, with the number of turnovers they create, teams will not be able to keep up with the Mountaineers.
No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers (+1800)
The Badgers were written off toward the end of the season thanks in large part to an injured Bronson Koenig. Thankfully, they have Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes, who have been dominant in both games so far this tournament. The Badgers should be riding sky-high after knocking off the No.1 overall seed, Villanova Wildcats. Up next is a date with a very defensive-minded Florida team. The Badgers know they will need everyone to contribute if they hope to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 2015.
No. 13 Purdue Boilermakers (+2000)
If you don't know who Caleb Swanigan is, I recommended you watch the latest Purdue game against Iowa State. He single-handily carried the Boilermakers through that game, finishing 8-for-19, 3-for-6 from three, for 20 points. He also added seven assists and hauled in 12 boards. If his supporting cast steps up and plays well then they might have a good shot to beat Kansas. If they don't step up, then Swanigan and the rest of his teammates will see their tournament dreams crushed.
No. 14 Butler Bulldogs (+4000)
The Butler Bulldogs are finally back in the Sweet 16 after a six-year absence. This year's version is a team that beat Villanova twice in the regular season. That's a solid feat. In the tournament, the Bulldogs took care of their business by beating Middle Tennessee and Winthrop. Not exactly the whose who of teams. They face their toughest test to date - a game against UNC. I know the Tar Heels can put up a lot of points. Can the Bulldogs keep pace?
No. 15 South Carolina Gamecocks (+5000)
Probably the biggest surprise of the Sweet 16 is the South Carolina Gamecocks. They are here on the strength of a dominant second-half performance against Duke, which saw them put up 65 points. They scored 65 points in only 10 full games in the regular season. They win games with defense, and when the going gets tough they have SindariusThornwell as a complete player who contributes in all facets of the game.
No. 16 Xavier Musketeers (+7500)
And last, but not least. No.11 seed Xavier has turned some heads so far, this tournament. They have defeated No.6 Maryland and No.3 Florida State - a trendy tournament pick to crack the Final Four. The season was supposed to be lost when they lost Edmond Sumner to injury, but players like Trevon Bluiett and J.P Macura have stepped up in his absence. They face a tough opponent in Arizona in the Sweet 16, but Xavier certainly fits the bill of Cinderella.
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