2018 has been the year of upsets for the NCAA Tournament. We’ve seen two 13 seeds knock off four seeds in the first round. We also saw history made as a 16 seed beat a number one seed for the first time. What’s in store for the Sweet 16 as it gets underway?
The first game we will take a look at is in the South where the ninth seeded Kansas State Wildcats will be looking to knock off the fifth seeded Kentucky Wildcats. Kansas State, to pull off the upset, will need a healthy Dean Wade and Barry Brown Jr. to give them a solid offensive attack. Kentucky will come out on top 72-65 due to the Wildcats being led by two freshman in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo.
The eleventh seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers will look to keep momentum on their side as they are coming off back-to-back games with last second game winners. The Ramblers will look to advance as they play the seventh seeded Nevada Wolf Pack. This game should be back and forth battle between the two teams with the Ramblers beating the Wolf Pack 67-63 to move on. The Ramblers will look for junior guard Clayton Custer and senior forward Aundre Jackson to led the way while the Wolf Pack will look for junior guard Jordan Caroline to lead them.
The next region to look at is the West. The first game will involve the Florida State Seminoles riding the momentum from beating the top seed in this region in the Xavier Musketeers 75-70 this past Sunday. The Gonzaga Bulldogs will look for junior Josh Perkins to lead the way for them. Be sure to watch for senior forward Phil Cofer has he is averaging 12.9 points per game this season. The final score for this game will be 78-70 with the Bulldogs going back to the Elite Eight.
The other game in this region will pair the third ranked Michigan Wolverines versus the seventh ranked Texas A&M Aggies. The Wolverines are coming off a buzzer beater win last round against the Houston Cougars 64-63. The Aggies beat the North Carolina Tar Heels 86-65 to advance. One player from each team to watch for is senior center Moritz Wagner from Michigan who brings great leadership to the team and junior forward D.J. Hogg from A&M who has averaged 11.2 points per game this season. Michigan’s balanced offense of Wagner, Charles Matthews, Jaaron Simmons, and Muhammad–Ali-Abdur-Rahkman should be too much for the Aggies to handle with the score being 79-60.
Continuing through the bracket, the next region to look at is the East. The first game will match up the one seeded Villanova Wildcats versus the fourth seeded West Virginia Mountaineers. This could be the best game this round. The Wildcats will bring their balanced offensive attack against the Mountaineers pressure defense. Mikal Bridges comes up with big plays offensive and is a great leader on the court for the Wildcats. Jevon Carter can set tone of the game with his offense ability and strong defensive presence for the Mountaineers. Villanova should come out on top 75-73 as Bridges could hit the game winning shot.
The other game in this region matches Texas Tech Red Raiders versus the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue will count on two players in Carson Edwards and Vincent Edwards as both of them are averaging double digits in points scored for the season. The Red Raiders will turn to senior guard Keenan Evans to push them forward into the next round. This game should also be a back and forth game with the Boilermakers coming out on top 78-72 as the two Edwards boys combine for 47 points to lead the way.
The Midwest region will be the final region to breakdown. The first game will be involving the top ranked Kansas Jayhawks taking on the fifth seeded Clemson Tigers. The Tigers advanced by beating the Auburn Tigers 84-53 as the Jayhawks beat the Seton Hall Pirates 83-79 to advance. Kansas will be counting on senior guard Devonte’ Graham to galvanize the troops. Graham is averaging 17.4 points per game this season. The Tigers will turn to senior guard Gabe Devoe as he is averaging 13.7 points per game this season. The final score could be the widest margin of the Sweet 16 as Kansas’s offense of Graham, Lagerald Vick,and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will be too much for Clemson to handle in a 85-60 victory.
The Duke Blue Devils will be in the final game of the Sweet 16 as they take on the Syracuse Orangemen. Syracuse upset the third seed in Michigan State Spartans 55-53 in the Round of 32. They were led by Tyus Battle with 17 points and freshman forward Oshae Brissett with 15 points. The Blue Devils will look for their front court duo of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. to lead the way. The Orange will look to count on their zone defense to hold Duke’s offense. The Blue Devils’ front court will be too much for Syracuse to handle, resulting in Duke winning 86-71.