If you're a basketball fan, this may be the most enjoyable time of the year. On Friday, we had a 16 seed in FDU defeat #1 seeded Purdue. This was the second time in tournament history that a 16 has defeated a #1 seed.
On Saturday, 8th seeded Arkansas got hot down the stretch and took down #1 seeded Kansas, 72-71. #15 Princeton continued its magical run with a convincing 78-63 drubbing of Missouri.
On Sunday, 7th seeded Michigan State took down #2 Marquette, 69-60. #6 seed Creighton also played spoiler in a 85-76 win over third-seeded Baylor.
The Sweet 16 is now set with games resuming on March 23rd. If we had to re-seed the tournament, here's how we would rank the remaining the 16 teams as they set their sights on The Final Four in Houston.
Re Ranking the Sweet 16 (2023)
The Crimson Tide haven't been challenged in wins of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland. Brandon Miller reminds me of Carmelo Anthony, who lead Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA Championship at Syracuse. Despite playing several freshmen, Alabama has incredible length, experienced guard play with Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears, and several players that will play in the NBA.
The Longhorns escaped a tough match-up with Penn State, 71-66, on Saturday night. We know their guards can score, but the emergence of big man, Dylan Disu, gives this team another element. In my opinion, Texas has three or four guys that they can isolate in crunch time. The down side to this is that they are prone to bad shots, and their offense can get incredibly stagnant when guys are missing shots.
I liked the Huskies all season due to their balanced scoring attack and size inside. KenPom ranks them 4th overall in the country based on their ability to both score efficiently and defend. While Arkansas is a tough "out," Uconn has a massive advantage inside, which should lead to open shots on the perimeter.
The Cougars managed to survive without Marcus Sasser. Now, with him back, they have the offensive firepower needed to compliment the 4th ranked defense in the country (according to KenPom). Houston has "grown men" inside and is one of the most physical teams in the country. Where they get in trouble is a lack of perimeter shooting.
I like the Zags to beat UCLA and here's why: they can score. Drew Timme is experienced, consistent, and has been getting better support from his teammates in the second half of the season. Anton Watson is underrated inside, and Mark Few is well, Mark Few. Gonzaga's perimeter play has been better as of late but could be their downfall.
The reason to like UCLA here is the opposite of why I like Gonzaga: they defend. According to KenPom, they have the second best defense in the country. Amari Bailey has become a nice second option to Jaime Jacquez offensively. What scares me about UCLA is their lack of depth. David Singleton went down with an ankle injury in their win against Northwestern, and Jaylen Clark is already out.
Creighton is starting to play like the team that was ranked in the top 10 in the preseason. With Ryan Kalkbrenner down low, they have a legit rim-protector, who also helps them spread the floor on offense. If Ryan Nembhard and Trey Alexander can continue to take advantage of double-teams to Kalkbrenner, they can score a lot of points. Creighton should beat Princeton to advance to the elite 8. Beating Alabama, however, is a bit of stretch.
I didn't think Tennessee could beat Duke without Zakai Zeigler. However, Tennessee's physicality and ability to defend the rim were on full display against the Blue Devils. Like Creighton, the Vols should beat FAU in the Sweet 16. I still think they lack the offensive firepower to make it to the Final Four. However, we've seen crazier things happen.
9. Kansas St.
As head coach Jerome Tang said, "We've got some dudes." K State has some tremendous athletes, and most importantly, a "go-to" guy in Markquis Nowell. Can K-State get to The Final Four? Absolutely. Their downside is their lack of perimeter shooting, which has plagued them all year and was almost the reason they lost to Kentucky. Credit Nowell for hitting some big shots down the stretch to beat the Wildcats. They're going to need to be more efficient offensively to advance.
The Hogs just beat #1 Kansas, so why are they ranked so low? Arkansas has been inconsistent all year. I love the fact that Devo Davis and Ricky Council have stepped up offensively. However, you'd think things would return to the mean for Arkansas. Uconn is going to have a major size advantage. Arkansas is going to need to be able to defend inside and stay out of foul trouble to have a chance in this one.
One one hand, you could argue that Miami should've lost to Drake in the first round. On the other, they thoroughly outplayed Indiana last night from start to finish. I like Miami's guard play, and if they can hit shots, they can beat Houston. They're going to have to match the physicality of the Cougars inside.
12. Michigan St.
The Spartans took a high-powered Marquette offense out of their rhythm on Sunday and managed to score enough points to beat them. Michigan State defends and rebounds at a high level. However, they are prone to stretches of not being able to score the basketball. Tyson Walker is going to have to continue to make shots, and I like Joey Hauser as an X factor with his ability to stretch the floor.
13. San Diego St.
The Aztecs scored 75 points on Saturday, as they thoroughly dismantled Furman. We know SDSU can defend. In most Mountain West matchups, they have a size and length advantage. Against Alabama, all of that goes out in the window. SDSU has had a fine season, but I see this as the end of the road.
Sean Miller has done a hell of job since returning to Cincinnati. After almost getting beat in round one, the Musketeers played well in round two against a high-scoring Pitt team. Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr will put the clamps on Souley Boum. Xavier lacks depth, and that will be exposed against a Texas team that simply has more talent.
Most bracketologists expected to see Purdue here. I thought Memphis would beat FAU in round one. We were both wrong. You don't win 33 games if you're not a good basketball team. However, this is a terrible matchup for FAU against a big, physical Tennessee team. I think the ball stops bouncing on Thursday night.
The Tigers shocked Arizona in round one and then beat a good Missouri team on Saturday night. In that game, they led from start to finish. Princeton takes care of the ball, rebounds well, and shoots it well from deep. In a lot of ways, they're built for the NCAA tournament. Big man, Tosan Evbuomwan is an incredible athlete and moves a bit like Giannis (here's certainly not Giannis), but his length and speed are something you don't see in the Ivy League. Creighton plays a similar style but with better players. I like the Bluejays to advance to the Elite Eight.
One of the best things about March Madness is the incredible unpredictability of it all. Offensive and defensive rankings go out the window. Seeds mean nothing. Any team can literally beat another on any given night. Will my rankings prove true this weekend? Only time will tell.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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