As always, the NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend was packed with action. March Madness is in full effect. We have a 15 seed advancing past the Round of 32 once again and the blue bloods have gone home earlier than expected. 16 teams are left, all hoping to cut down the nets. It’s time to reassess and provide an updated Sweet 16 team power rankings.
Alabama Crimson Tide
This one was clear-cut and easy. The Alabama Crimson Tide have been the country’s best team all season—and they’ve proved that through two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Future top-five NBA Draft pick Brandon Miller is a bonafide shotmaker, who can erupt at any moment.
Not only that, but Bama has big men who compete on the glass and a big spark off the bench in Jahvon Quinerly. It’s almost impossible to keep coach Nate Oats’ team at bay for a full 40 minutes. The Crimson Tide have +340 odds to cut down the nets.
Yes, Houston hasn’t looked all that great since the NCAA Tournament began, but they’re still one of the most talented rosters in the country. Need a bucket in crunch time? Well, the Cougars have a few options in Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead, and Tramon Mark.
Coach Kelvin Sampson has an experienced and talented group that’s hoping to cut down the nets in their home city. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a team capable of out-physically playing Houston in this year’s tournament.
The Texas Longhorns were counted out way back in the middle of the season when former head coach Chris Beard was relieved of his duties. However, interim coach Rodney Terry has done a marvelous job keeping this team on track.
Texas has a very talented group across all positions. Guards Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter handle the bulk of the ball handling duties, but they have gotten major contributions from Dylan Disu, and Sir’Jabari Rice. They need better efforts from Timmy Allen and/or Dillon Mitchell to make a title run though. They enter as -4.5 point favorites against Xavier.
Many counted out the UCLA Bruins following the news that contributing guard Jaylen Clark would be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Yet, coach Mick Cronin’s team appears to have not skipped a beat, receiving greater play from five-star freshman guard Amari Bailey.
Of course, the Bruins still get consistent play out of experienced veterans Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell. Through two rounds, UCLA has won a high-scoring contest and a drag-it-out affair. They’ll need their offense to show up in the Sweet 16 against Gonzaga.
The job that coach Bobby Hurley has done at UConn is undervalued by many. He has the Huskies looking like that of Jim Calhoun’s squads in March, playing an aggressive style led by guards and a dominant big man.
Currently, UConn sits with +850 odds to win the National Championship. The Huskies play Arkansas for a chance to head to the Elite 8. Notably, UConn has cut down the nets each of the last two times they advanced to that round (2011, 2014).
Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs entered this year’s NCAA Tournament in a different position than past seasons, a 3 seed with little pressure to cut down the nets. Despite a year in which they won 30 games, few expected Gonzaga to cut down the nets. Yet, here they are two wins away from reaching the Final 4.
Star big man Drew Timme is helped by Julian Strawther and Malachi Smith. Meanwhile, any help they get from former highly-touted recruits Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis is viewed as a bonus. The Zags will pin their high-flying offense against UCLA’s in one of the most anticipated Sweet 16 matchups.
Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State took down Kentucky in a battle of the Wildcats in the Round of 32. Guard Markquis Nowell picked up the slack for a struggling Keyontae Johnson, pouring in 27 points to go along with nine assists. In a game that included Oscar Tshiebwe and Cason Wallace, Nowell proved to be the best player on the court.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the 2022-23 NCAA basketball season, Kansas State will look to keep their eye-opening season alive against Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
Without starting point guard Zekei Zeigler, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes finally has the Volunteers back in the Sweet 16. They have a chance to reach their first Elite 8 since 2010 with a win over Florida Atlantic. Tennessee plays a hard-nosed style of ball—and if the officials let them play physical—they can suffocate opponents defensively.
Few viewed them as likely to get past the formerly red-hot Duke Blue Devils in the Round of 32, but a magnificent showing from Olivier Nkamhoua and an intense defensive effort got the job done. They’re limited offensively, so they’ll need to keep FAU under 65 points to have a chance.
Shocking, Eric Musselman has his Razorbacks playing its best basketball in March. Arkansas has an opportunity to reach its third-straight Elite 8, which is really an impressive feat. Led by a pair of lottery pick hopefuls, Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas plays bully ball and they are nearly unbeatable when shots are falling from the outside.
Moreover, the Razorbacks have enjoyed big contributions from smooth-shooting guard Davonte Davis, who is averaging over 20 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. Their Sweet 16 matchup against UConn is going to be electric.
Coach Sean Miller’s Xavier squad has taken out a pair of double-digit seeded teams to reach the Sweet 16. Competition is about to get a whole lot stiffer when they face the Texas Longhorns for a spot in the Elite 8. The Musketeers have a balanced scoring attack, with about five players capable of putting forth double-digit scoring efforts on any given night.
Xavier finished runner-up in the Big East Conference, but they haven’t played their best ball in the NCAA Tournament. That doesn’t mean they can’t turn things around, but the Musketeers will need to play a great 40 minutes of basketball if they want to knock off the Longhorns.
Guard play goes a long way in the NCAA Tournament, and Miami has it in spades. Nijel Pack, Isaiah Wong, and Jordan Miller have all contributed in the first two rounds—and they’ll need to play well to get past the Houston Cougars in the Sweet 16.
The Hurricanes have gotten to the free throw line and hit shots from beyond the arc in their first pair of games against Drake and Indiana. Coach Jim Larranaga has a stellar trio of guards, but don’t sleep on Arkansas State transfer forward Norchad Omier, who has been absorbing rebounds throughout the tournament.
Creighton Blue Jays
Preseason darling, Creighton Blue Jays, had an up-and-down year. Yet, coach Greg McDermott has his squad playing their best basketball at the right time. Through two rounds, Creighton has demonstrated the ability to win with different players leading the charge.
Ryan Kalkbrenner and Ryan Nembhard each put up a 30 piece thus far, while the team waits for Baylor Scheierman to get going. The Blue Jays are in prime position to reach their first Elite 8 since 1941, with 15 seed Princeton standing in their way.
San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State—the lone team left out of the Mountain West Conference—has beaten upset hopefuls Charleston and Furman to reach the Sweet 16. Their defensive prowess has carried over to the big dance, as they have allowed an average of 54.5 points per game through two contests.
Southpaw guard Matt Bradley has made timely shots through the first two rounds, and he’ll need to keep leading an efficient offense if they’re to get past the tournament’s top overall seed.
Michigan State Spartans
Tom Izzo has his team peaking at the right time once again. The Spartans managed to slow down the pace in order to take down the East Region’s No. 2 seed Marquette in the Round of 32. Michigan State have forced an average of 13.5 turnovers per game through their first two March Madness contests.
The Spartans are -1.5 point favorites against Kansas State in the Sweet 16. They bring a balanced attack and a smart brand of basketball into each game, making them a tough out for anybody.
The majority of submitted brackets had Florida Atlantic losing to Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers in the Round of 64, but the Owls used a wild finish to advance. They then knocked off 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the Round of 32, utilizing their athleticism to put an early end to FDU’s magical run.
Florida Atlantic has the best winning percentage of any team left in the NCAA Tournament—and sophomore guard Johnell Davis showed that he can take over a game—posting 29 PTS, 12 REB, 5 AST, and 5 STL in the Owls’ win over Fairleigh Dickinson.
This comes as no surprise, but this year’s Cinderella comes in ranked at number 16. The Princeton Tigers took down the West Region’s No. 2 seed Arizona before dominating No. 7 Missouri. Coach Mitch Henderson’s squad will face No. 6 Creighton in the Sweet 16.
With a win, the Tigers will be the second-straight 15 seed from the state of New Jersey to reach the Elite 8, following in Saint Peter’s footsteps from a year ago. Princeton has been sharing the ball well and they got hot from deep in their Round of 32 game, which they’ll need to advance.