Sweet 16 Predictions, And Beyond

Tricia Pearson
March 22, 2017

The Tar Heels are in the Sweet 16 as expected, but their scare against No. 8 seed Arkansas in the second round, before winning 72-65, even had coach Roy Williams saying, "We were really lucky".

The Tar Heels are an impressive 10-1 SU in their past 11 Sweet 16 appearances, but a middling 6-5 ATS in their past 11 tournament contests when favored by six or more points.

Gonzaga is a high-major program and it does not matter what conference the Bulldogs play in*. That does not mean there haven't been upsets or unbelievable moments, but the power conferences (outside the ACC) have really shown up this season, and with that, here are my Sweet 16 and beyond predictions. They are also 1-3 ATS in their last four but have won the past three meetings with the Mountaineers.

Only 5 percent had South Carolina moving on to the Sweet 16, and approximately 0.1 percent correctly picked the East Region's Sweet 16 teams of Baylor, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida.

The Bulldogs made it to the "Elite 8" previous year for just the second time in its program's history. You look at teams like Xavier, Michigan and Wisconsin and you have to think each of those teams has a decent chance at making a Final Four run.

Hall of Fame Mike Krzyzewski's red-hot Duke Blue Devils suddenly and inexplicably imploded Sunday evening when they were upset by No. 7 seed SC in the second round 88-81. I think Wisconsin will top Baylor purely due to experience and it seeming like it may be the wrong place and wrong time for Baylor. But, hey, the East Region is wide open so why not the Gamecocks? If Few is going to change that, he'll have to go through West Virginia's Bob Huggins, who has coached his teams to the NCAA Tournament in 22 of the past 25 seasons and has been in two Final Fours. Throughout the season, the conference looked like the definition of mediocrity. "When you work that hard and you go out there and lose like that, it hurts".

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It seems silly to think back to what we were all saying about SC at the start of the tournament - or even before the game on Sunday night: That they were a good - in a scrappy kind of a way - team, but a one dimensional one.

It's there they'll face their stiffest challenge from either UCLA or Kentucky. And I have the Bruins and Zags - West Coast stand up! - meeting in the national title game with the victor being the same victor I had winning the national title on Selection Sunday - Lonzo Ball and the UCLA Bruins. Can North Carolina find a way to salvage some kind of positive result for the underachieving ACC with a run to at least the Final Four?

In an uncharacteristically and unpredictably predictable first true day of the NCAA Tournament, Thursday saw four ACC teams take the court. They beat us. Nebraska beat us. North Carolina is a 7.5-point favorite against Butler on Friday and the +500 second choice to win the championship behind Kansas (+475). Six absorbed fairly one-sided losses in one of the first three rounds, starting with Wake Forest's 95-88 loss to Kansas State in an 11th-seed play-in game on March 14 in Dayton and ending with Duke's 88-81 loss to South Carolina Sunday in Greenville, S.C.

Of course, Kansas will have something to say about that, and as the Jayhawks showed against Michigan State on Sunday, they are very, very good. Otherwise, you've got MI - a championship contender less than five years ago - and familiar tournament face Xavier. I had OR vs. MI in the Sweet 16, and with the injury to Chris Boucher and the run that MI has been on, I have no reason yet to pick against the Wolverines.

But the ACC is down to one bullet and in the same locale with three other big guns. The ACC can't go the college football route and claim that their teams were "disinterested" or didn't have anything to play for.

My Final Four predictions remain as they were last week at this time, with Wisconsin taking the place of Villanova. I'm going with SC to punch its ticket to Phoenix and a trip to the Final Four.

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