Brackets are busted, Cinderella’s are dancing, and the games are thrilling. This is March. The first weekend has come and gone, with 48 of the 63 games having already occurred. The second weekend of play begins tonight as teams eye a Final Four berth.
Final Four Predictions Entering the Sweet 16
South Region – Louisville, KY
This region might as well be renamed the Alabama region. Not to put pressure on the Crimson Tide, but if they don’t advance to their first Final Four with their current draw, they might never. Alabama won both of their games by over 20 points. Additionally, Brandon Miller didn’t even score in their first game, and they almost broke 100 points. Firstly, they’ll take on a methodical San Diego State team in the Sweet 16. The Aztecs and Nathan Mensah have held both of their opponents to under 60 points, a number Alabama has failed to crack only once all year. That will be the magic number in this game. If the Tide break 60, they’ll beat San Diego State. Spoiler alert, they’ll break 60.
The other two teams in the region are Creighton, the 6-seed, and Princeton, the 15-seed. The Blue Jays, with Ryan Kalkbrenner, should handle the Tigers with ease. However, it is March, and Princeton has already knocked off the 2-seed and 7-seed. If Creighton wins, Alabama matches up well with their tall and talented starters. If Blake Peters stays hot, the Tigers’ magical run could continue for one more night. Either way, Alabama is and should be favored to make their first Final Four in school history.
Midwest Region – Kansas City, MO
Before the NCAA Tournament began it seemed as if Houston and Texas were on a collision course. The two best teams from the Lone Star state have a chance to battle it out to advance to the Final Four, which is in Houston. Firstly, Houston has to beat Miami. As long as Marcus Sasser is healthy, the Cougars should be able to defeat Isaiah Wong‘s Hurricanes. Houston struggled significantly in the first half against Auburn, but that game was essentially an Auburn home game.
Secondly, Texas has to beat Xavier. After a 35-minute scare in the opening round, Colby Jones allowed the Musketeers to cruise in the second round against Pitt. Xavier essentially runs a 6-man rotation which is a huge mismatch against a deep Longhorn team. Surprisingly, Dylan Disu has been the best player for Texas through two tournament games.
The Longhorns have now won six consecutive games. A win over Xavier would make it seven, making it their longest streak of the season. Texas and Houston would make for an excellent game in Kansas City. Furthermore, the last time Texas played in Kansas City was the Big 12 Tournament, when they won three games in three days and were crowned champions. This Texas team has talent up and down the roster and will advance to the Final Four as they continue their quest for their first NCAA Tournament title.
West Region – Las Vegas, NV
Without a doubt, the west region has the best group of four teams remaining. UCLA, Gonzaga, and UConn all rank in the top seven, according to KenPom. Arkansas is ranked 18th and has already defeated Kansas, the defending national champions. Both games will be amazing matchups.
The 2021 Final Four matchup between UCLA and Gonzaga was an instant classic. In case you forgot the ending, here’s a refresher. This game has the potential to be the game of the Sweet 16, and potentially the game of the tournament. Drew Timme has dominated for the Bulldogs, and Jaime Jaquez Jr has done the same for the Bruins. The Bruins are more well-equipped to pull off this win, but the west region winner will come from the other game.
UConn had a little trouble with Iona in the first half but easily dominated their next three halves of basketball. Adama Sanogo is thriving in the tournament so far for the Huskies. Arkansas is also a very talented team that is hitting their stride late in the season, especially with Davonte Davis. Entering the tournament UConn had all the underlying stats of a potential national champion. After watching them for two games, this still holds true. The Huskies seem poised to head to Houston for the Final Four.
East Region – New York, NY
In a word, this region has been chaos. The 1-seed Boilermakers became the 2nd ever 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed. The 2-seed Golden Eagles also failed to make it past the opening weekend. That leaves the remaining teams with one thing in common, an opportunity. FAU and Tennessee have never made the Final Four. One of them is guaranteed to have the opportunity. Tom Izzo has the opportunity to finally get his 2nd NCAA Tournament title at Michigan State and become the 17th coach with multiple national championships. Kansas State has the opportunity to make their first Final Four since 1964 and attempt to shed the little brother label.
Tennessee obliterated Duke, even without their star guard, Zakai Zeigler. Tennessee has started to prove their doubters wrong and could prove them wrong once and for all. FAU won a phenomenal game against Memphis thanks to Nick Boyd and then held off Fairleigh Dickinson. The Owls were 0-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament prior to this year and would make for a shocking Final Four team. However, the teams looming are more equipped to make the Final Four.
Michigan State has the team of destiny feel. Tom Izzo is Mr. March, and Tyson Walker has the Spartans firing on all cylinders. The 7-seed Spartans are actually favored over the 3-seed Wildcats. However, Kansas State is the best team left in this region. They’re battle-tested and have the best duo in Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell. They’ve been disrespected all tournament and are ready to prove that their regular season success was not a fluke.
This would set up an Alabama vs. Kansas State (a Sugar Bowl rematch) and a Texas vs. UConn Final Four. These would be two thrilling games leading up to the national championship.