There’s all the time the priority that an upset-laden opening weekend makes for a boring conclusion to the NCAA match. Up to now, that hasn’t been the case within the males’s bracket even after a barrage of upsets via the primary 4 days. The Candy 16 nonetheless produced fascinating basketball, and most significantly saved the highest groups rolling proper into the Elite Eight.
All three No. 1 seeds that superior out of the primary weekend are nonetheless alive as we head to the regional finals. We nonetheless have elite NBA expertise enjoying within the match, with projected top-three picks Evan Mobley (USC) and Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga) about to face-off in a showcase recreation on Tuesday. Even the groups we will’t consider are right here — UCLA and Oregon State, particularly — have the scale and the perimeter play to drag yet another upset.
This match has already been a lot enjoyable, and it appears like the very best is but to return. We ranked the remaining eight groups within the males’s match by who has the very best shot at profitable all of it.
8. Oregon State Beavers (No. 12 seed)
It could be an excessive understatement to say Oregon State wasn’t imagined to be right here. The Beavers had been picked to complete useless final within the Pac-12 earlier than the season. They hovered round .500 for many the 12 months, and had no likelihood of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA match. Oregon State entered the Pac-12 match on March 11 figuring out each recreation it could play from right here on out was a should win. After six video games, the Beavers are nonetheless rolling.
Oregon State knocked out No. 8 seed Loyola-Chicago, 65-58, within the first recreation of the Candy 16 on Saturday by flummoxing the Ramblers with a zone protection. After Loyola regarded so good in knocking out No. 1 seed Illinois of their final recreation, the Beavers’ mixture of dimension and athleticism lastly made them appear to be a mid-major crew. Ethan Thompson (22 factors) is popping right into a star capturing guard, Jerod Lucas can hit pictures, Warith Alatishe is a long-and-bouncy wing who excels defensively, and Roman Silva is a 7’1 senior middle who can hassle pictures on the rim. The Beavers milk the shot clock on each possession, and have the size to shut out exhausting on shooters. It isn’t all the time fairly, however there’s no denying the outcomes at this level.
This Beavers run is actual. Houston shouldn’t be too snug.
7. UCLA Bruins (No. 11 seed)
The winningest program within the historical past of faculty basketball ought to in all probability not rely as a Cinderella, however there’s no different strategy to clarify how unlikely this UCLA run has been. The Bruins entered the 12 months ranked No. 22 within the preseason polls, however misplaced arguably their finest participant, 6’10 ahead Chris Smith, to a torn ACL eight video games into the marketing campaign. UCLA bounced again to dominate a big portion of its Pac-12 slate, however then misplaced its final three video games of the common season and earlier than getting knocked out in its first recreation of the convention match. The Bruins simply slid in to the massive dance, incomes a First 4 matchup towards Michigan State, which it trailed for many of the evening earlier than forcing time beyond regulation and pulling away within the further body.
The Bruins beat BYU and Abilene Christian simply to bust into the Candy 16, however a date with Nate Oats and Alabama was all the time going to be a considerably harder take a look at. UCLA was not imagined to win that recreation, not even when it took a double-digit lead into halftime, not when star wing Johnny Juzang fouled out, and particularly not when the Tide compelled time beyond regulation with a deep buzzer-beating three from Alex Reese. However by some means, UCLA responded in ultra-impressive style within the further 5 minutes to maintain this run going.
UCLA will probably be an underdog towards Michigan within the Elite Eight, however the shot-making of their two 6’6 wings — Juzang and Jaime Jaquez — offers them a puncher’s likelihood. It’s weird that the Bruins ever made it this far. Why cease now?
6. Arkansas Razorbacks (No. 3 seed)
There’s a complete technology of faculty basketball followers who’ve by no means seen Arkansas take pleasure in this stage of success in March Insanity. The Razorbacks entered the second weekend of the NCAA match for the primary time since 1996, again when head coach Nolan Richardson helmed the most effective packages within the nation. Eric Musselman isn’t on that stage but in his second season on the bench for the Hogs, however he’s already taking the crew to heights it hasn’t seen since Richardson’s heyday.
Oral Roberts gave the Razorbacks every thing they may deal with in its bid to be the primary No. 15 seed to ever attain the Elite Eight, however Max Abmas’ game-winning shot bounced off the rim and the Hogs superior with a 72-70 victory. It’s the second straight two-point win for Arkansas within the match, and as soon as once more it was not fairly. The Hogs shot solely 1-of-9 from three-point vary, and principally gained the sport by dominating the offensive glass. Northern Kentucky switch Jalen Tate led the best way with 22 factors, whereas star freshman Moses Moody shot simply 4-of-20.
Arkansas performs quick and assaults you defensively with a great mixture of high-pedigree kids and battle-tested vets who don’t get overwhelmed by the second. There aren’t any type factors available right here, however the method works, and Arkansas simply retains profitable. In the event that they beat Baylor, we’ll actually begin to consider.
5. USC Trojans (No. 6 seed)
USC was a irritating crew to observe for many of the season. Evan Mobley made it instantly obvious that he was a particular expertise, nevertheless it typically felt just like the Trojans didn’t know learn how to absolutely faucet into his superior potential. USC had tons of dimension inside however not many shot creators on the perimeter. It solely took threes on 31.7 p.c of its possessions (which ranked No. 307 in DI) regardless of having good shooters. It felt like Mobley ought to have been an excellent higher point of interest offensively. Both these issues had been all the time overblown, or the Trojans simply took a while to determine issues out. Both manner, they’re rolling on the proper time straight into the Elite Eight.
USC blew out its third straight opponent on this match by disposing of Oregon within the Candy 16 on Sunday evening. This immediately appears like a legit powerhouse, with a top-15 offense, a top-five protection, and a future NBA star tying all of it collectively. The Trojans have great size on the within with Mobley and his older brother Isaiah defending the paint. The perimeter gamers are pulling down pictures. All of this could be shocking for those who watched USC all season, however none of it looks as if a fluke proper now.
USC vs. Gonzaga could be probably the most anticipated recreation of the match thus far. The Zags haven’t seen something like Mobley but. USC’s protection is about to face the last word take a look at towards the most effective offenses school basketball has ever seen within the trendy period. USC’s match run has been stuffed with particular performances thus far. Let’s see if they’ve yet another left in them.
4. Houston Cougars (No. 2 seed)
Kelvin Sampson has quietly been constructing a sustainable winner within the American Athletic Convention over the past six years. His Houston Cougars have gained no less than 21 video games in every of these seasons, and could be making their fourth straight match look if final 12 months’s postseason wasn’t canceled. That is Sampson’s finest crew but because of a roster that has each continuity and star-power. As the massive boys within the Midwest area have fallen, Houston simply retains going.
The Cougars blitzed Syracuse’s vaunted zone with pace and capturing in a 62-46 victory within the Candy 16. Houston completed with thrice as many assists because the Orange at the same time as they shot simply 7-of-26 from three. Star guard Quentin Grimes, a former Kansas switch, led the best way with 14 factors, whereas former UMass switch DeJon Jarreau added 9 factors, eight assists, and eight rebounds. Houston is top-8 within the nation in each offensive and defensive effectivity, and sometimes performs at an extremely gradual tempo with an emphasis on hitting the offensive glass. It isn’t probably the most glamorous type, however the Cougs haven’t been stopped but.
Going towards Syracuse’s zone ought to put together Houston for an Oregon State crew that used a zone to beat Loyola within the final spherical. With yet another win, Sampson will lastly get his due for what he’s been constructing for years.
3. Michigan Wolverines (No. 1 seed)
Michigan males’s basketball was one of the profitable packages within the nation over the past decade underneath John Beilein, however there was no assure it was going to proceed when Juwan Howard took over this system two years in the past. Loads of different former NBA stars had gone again to teach their alma maters and flamed out, however Howard was all the time too sharp for that. Regardless of beginning the season as the ultimate crew ranked within the AP Ballot, the Wolverines rapidly made it obvious that they had been the most effective groups within the nation. Not even an harm to star senior ahead Isaiah Livers simply earlier than the match has modified that thus far throughout this postseason.
Florida State was a stylish decide to upset Michigan within the Candy 16, however the Wolverines owned all 40 minutes on their strategy to a 76-58 win. This recreation confirmed why Howard’s crew is ranked within the top-10 in effectivity on each either side of the ball. Franz Wagner, a 6’9 combo ahead, performed just like the NBA lottery decide he’s projected to be with 13 factors, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Star freshman Hunter Dickinson (14 factors) regarded nice within the center, whereas Chaundee Brown (12 factors) once more proved he’s one of many nation’s finest reserves. Mike Smith and Eli Brooks are an undersized backcourt, however each are so good of their roles. Brandon Johns crammed in admirably for Livers, and might want to preserve that up for this run to proceed.
The Wolverines nonetheless have an extremely proficient entrance court docket even with out Livers, and the guards are capable of get a bucket in a pinch. This appears like an especially deserving No. 1 seed even when we will’t fairly put them forward of the 2 different prime seeds nonetheless standing within the bracket.
Baylor has been the most effective groups in school basketball for 2 straight seasons now with a core led by the guard trio of Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and MaCio Teague. The Bears by no means obtained to indicate what they had been made from final season earlier than the pandemic canceled the match, however they’d have been a No. 1 seed and a favourite to succeed in the Ultimate 4 for the primary time in Scott Drew’s profession. Drew’s crew has picked up proper the place it left off this season, solely with much more weapons and one other 12 months of built-in chemistry this time round.
After a shaky first half, Baylor regarded each bit like a powerhouse in closing out No. 5 seed Villanova, 62-51, within the Candy 16 on Saturday. Mitchell was electrical together with his pesky on-ball protection and quick-strike driving potential. Butler had a chilly capturing evening however nonetheless a discovered a strategy to get to the basket for a pair key second half buckets. Adam Flagler, a newcomer this season as a switch from Presbyterian, added 16 factors off the bench. The Bears have so many alternative guards who can minimize you up on offense whereas nonetheless having the ability to get after you on the defensive finish (No. 27 in effectivity).
That is an elite crew in each manner, one that’s completely adequate to win the entire match. It’s going to take a Herculean effort for any crew to knock them out.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (No. 1 seed)
Gonzaga has regarded like the very best crew within the nation from the very first recreation of the season, once they dropped 102 factors in a breezy win over Kansas. The Zags ran the desk via the remainder of the non-conference slate — together with wins over West Virginia, Iowa, and Virginia, all of whom had been top-4 seeds in March Insanity — after which stayed undefeated by blitzing West Coast Convention opponents. This has regarded like the most effective school basketball groups in current reminiscence by the attention take a look at, and the numbers again it up: Gonzaga’s adjusted effectivity margin of +37.82 is the best since KenPom began monitoring the stat in 2002.
Creighton performed nicely within the Candy 16 and nonetheless misplaced by 18 factors in a win that confirmed off Gonzaga’s embarrassment of riches. The Zags have an All-American-caliber participant at guard (Jalen Suggs), on the wing (Corey Kispert), and within the entrance court docket (Drew Timme). Their three-guard, four-out offense is a blur of slicing, spacing, and ball motion with knockdown shooters dotting the arc. Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard could be stars elsewhere however are considerably overqualified as fourth and fifth choices with the Zags. Good luck stopping this assault.
The Zags are adequate to be males’s school basketball’s first undefeated nationwide champion since Indiana in 1976. They’re the favorites till somebody proves they will knock them off.