Moller: Ranking the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament
Nate Moller | Friday, March 26, 2021
As expected, there were lots of upsets and surprises in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. With that being said, it is time to move onto the Sweet 16 and rank the teams that survived and advanced past the first weekend.
The Bulldogs have been perfect this year, as they now hold a 28-0 record. In the first and second round of the tourney, the Bulldogs looked like the best team in the tournament, as they took care of business against Norfolk State and Oklahoma very easily. In both games, the Bulldogs put up over 85 points, and if their offense continues to click like it has all season, it is hard to envision anyone beating the Bulldogs down the stretch. It feels like it is time for Mark Few’s squad to finally break through after being so close in so many past tournaments. Behind the firepower of Drew Timme, Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs, it will be a challenge for any team to keep this Bulldogs team under 80 points in a game.
Likewise to Gonzaga, the Golden Bears also had a very comfortable first weekend in the NCAA Tournament. They took care of business against sixteenth-seeded Hartford and then took care of Wisconsin handily by 13 points. Baylor’s performance against the Badgers showed the strength of their offense, as Wisconsin has had a stellar defense all year. Baylor might have the best chance at giving Gonzaga a game should the teams meet in the championship game.
Despite having a shaky start against Iona in the Round of 64, the Crimson Tide regrouped in time to win that game handily and then proceeded to beat tenth-seeded Maryland by a score of 96-77. Alabama might have the best guard play in the country behind Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly and John Petty Jr. with all three of these guys averaging double digits a game. A potential matchup against Michigan in the Elite Eight is intriguing.
The Wolverines simply took care of business in their Round of 32 win against LSU. Yes, it was shaky at times, but the Wolverines showed that they could get the job done. Without Isaiah Livers, many thought the Wolverines would fall early in the tournament, but their win against LSU showed that they have the depth to still perform well going forward.
The Trojans’ beatdown on Kansas was arguably one of the most shocking games in the tournament so far. In its 85-51 win, the Trojans showed that they are a serious contender going forward in the tournament. While the Jayhawks did shoot an abysmal 29.0% from the floor in that game, I’ll give the Trojans’ defense at least partial credit for that. With the firepower of the Mobley brothers at the forward positions, the ceiling is high for the Trojans going forward.
6. Loyola Chicago:
The Ramblers upset a red-hot Illinois team and showed Loyola has to be one of the favorites going into the Sweet 16. The Ramblers were hitting on all cylinders in that victory. They will likely be full of energy heading into their Sweet 16 matchup against Oregon State. This team looks even better than the Ramblers’ Final Four team from a couple of years ago, and I firmly believe if things go right, Loyola could find themselves in contention for a national championship. While big man Cameron Krutwig has an unorthodox style, he’s one of the best players in the tournament this year. The Ramblers also still have Sister Jean in their back corner saying her prayers too; I would be afraid to play this Ramblers team going forward.
The Ducks put an absolute beatdown on Iowa in the Round of 32 after advancing without playing in the first round. The Hawkeyes did not play good defense, but Oregon has to receive some credit for putting up 95 points. With their speed and athleticism, Oregon has a chance to pull some more upsets going forward.
It definitely was not a pretty victory for the second-seeded Cougars against Rutgers this past weekend, but they survived and advanced. The Cougars have solid guard play, making them a dangerous team going forward, but they will have to play better. It doesn’t help that star guard Dejon Jarreau will have to battle through a bruised hip for the remainder of the tournament.
The Razorbacks looked great at times this weekend, but they also struggled mightily at times as well. In their first game, it looked like Colgate was going to give them trouble for a while, and then they had to squeeze out a narrow victory against Texas Tech. They will have to play better going forward.
10. Florida State:
The Seminoles are a confusing team. They did not look great in their last three ACC games, losing two to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. They played much better in the tournament, however, and they will look to keep up their solid play in the Sweet 16 and possibly beyond.
After suffering a stunning loss to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament, the Wildcats were able to rattle off wins against twelfth-seeded Liberty and thirteenth-seeded North Texas. The real test lies ahead for Nova, as they have a matchup with one-seed Baylor in the Sweet 16.
The Orange are once again embracing their lower seed and performing well in the NCAA Tournament. After beating San Diego State and West Virginia, Buddy Boeheim and the Orange look confident. They could be a tough matchup for Houston in the Sweet 16.
13. Oregon State:
After winning the PAC-12 Tournament to make it to the Big Dance, Oregon State has stayed hot in the tournament by upsetting Tennessee and Oklahoma State in impressive fashion. The Beavers are one of the hotter teams in the nation right now. They will look to continue their Cinderella run against Loyola in the Sweet 16.
The Bruins are another one of the surprising PAC-12 teams. Most expected UCLA to fall to Michigan State in the First Four. But, after winning that game in overtime, the Bruins have pulled off victories over BYU and Abilene Christian. They will have a tougher test against Alabama in the Sweet 16.
The Bluejays were very lucky to escape their game against UC Santa Barbara. After winning that game, they looked a lot better against thirteenth-seeded Ohio. They will need to play their best game this weekend if they are to beat top-seed Gonzaga.
16. Oral Roberts:
As just the second fifteen-seed to ever make the Sweet 16 in NCAA Tournament history, Oral Roberts will look to continue to make history by advancing to the Elite Eight this weekend against Arkansas. While Oral Roberts has had a magical run so far, it seems unlikely they will go much further. In a year full of uncertainties, though, Oral Roberts might have a chance to go further.