It wasn’t quite the level of madness we’ve grown accustomed to experiencing, but it’s clear that the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament delivered once again. From another Kentucky upset, to some action-packed thrillers, college basketball was at the center of the sports world once again and reminding us all why it’s so many people’s favorite sporting event.

As we catch our breath and prepare to cut the field to four, read up on the 16 teams remaining in order of best chance to cut down the nets in Phoenix!

1. UConn (28-3)

The Huskies became the first defending champion to reach the second weekend since Duke in 2016 and did so in dominant fashion. Stetson never had a chance and it didn’t take long for Northwestern to have the same helpless feeling on Sunday. This team is steamrolling everyone its way, with an early April Arizona date in it’s sights..

2. Purdue (31-4)

The scars from the last two years are starting to heal with the Boilermakers playing their best basketball as they dance into the Sweet 16. The 106-67 win over Utah State on Sunday was easily the most impressive performance by a team thus far and should provide hope that the ultimate redemption could be achieved in Phoenix this April.

3. North Carolina (29-7)

The Tar Heels were dealt a brutal draw in the second round but their dominance over Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament continued with a second half surge led by RJ Davis. Facing and surviving a challenge like this will only help UNC down the stretch as its tournament continues Thursday night.

4. Houston (32-4)

Houston made it back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year but it didn’t come without some stress after Texas A&M rallied from 12 down in the final two minutes to send it to OT. With four starters forced to the bench with five fouls, the Cougars somehow survived and advanced, likely needing the extra few days to get their emotions in check after the game of the year went their way.

5. Illinois (27-8)

With two offensive explosions against Morehead State and Duquesne this week, Illinois jumped to the most efficient offense in college basketball per KenPom. The 126.7 rating is the fourth highest in the KenPom era, with the other three all making it to the national championship. Will the Fighting Illini be next?

6. Tennessee (26-8)

Rick Barnes picked up a win over his old school to reach the second weekend once again but it’s this stage that he really needs to win on to reverse the narrative around his March struggles.

The good news is that it’s up to the players and he has some of the best in the country with Dalton Knecht hitting his stride. He’ll be pivotal against Creighton in one of the most intriguing matchups of the Sweet 16.

7. Arizona (27-8)

Purdue wasn’t the only team to avenge an embarrassing upset from last year’s tournament. Arizona finished strong against Long Beach State and controlled the follow-up game against Dayton from start to finish to get to Tommy Lloyd’s second Sweet 16 in three years. Caleb Love looks to have some of that 2022 magic as well…look out.

8. Iowa State (29-7)

It might not be the most popular choice but the game I’m looking forward to the most has to be between Iowa State and Illinois. In this complete contrast of styles, the Cyclones will have the edge because of an outstanding defense, which seems to trump offense in March, but stopping Terrence Shannon will be a nearly impossible task. I like the Illini, but T.J. Otzelberger’s group is a two-seed for a reason. Don’t underestimate them.

9. Marquette (27-9)

Marquette’s win over Colorado Sunday afternoon was one of the games of the weekend as the Golden Eagles tapped into their rarely utilized depth to get past the Buffaloes. With Kentucky out of the tournament, Shaka Smart will have a desirable matchup with NC State to get back to the Elite Eight for the first time since leaving VCU.

10. Creighton (25-9)

The only reason Marquette vs. Colorado wasn’t the game of the weekend was because Creighton and Oregon took that honor with a thrilling double-overtime contest to cap off an exciting Saturday. The Blue Jays went on a 15-0 run to start the final period behind timely triples and terrific foul-shooting – two components that will be huge in a heavyweight clash with Tennessee this week.

11. Duke (26-8)

You can’t ask for a more relaxing first weekend as a four-seed than what Duke did by cruising to wins over Vermont and James Madison to get to Jon Scheyer’s first Sweet 16. Both performances were impressive in their own right and will have confidence soaring ahead of the most important game so far in the two-year Scheyer era.

12. Alabama (22-9)

That was one interesting game between Alabama and Grand Canyon but the Tide prevailed to set up an exciting date with UNC on Thursday night. Mark Sears looks unstoppable right now and could be the next to put on a Carsen Edwards level performance to take his team on a deep run this weekend.

13. San Diego State (26-10)

The Aztecs are back to making noise in the tournament and will have the chance to redeem last year’s championship loss to UConn in an epic second weekend matchup. If they can pull off that upset, who’s to say it won’t be a complete redemption ending in a national title of their own?

14. Gonzaga (24-7)

Nine. Straight. Sweet. 16s. That’s what Mark Few has been able to pull off in Spokane and it’s one of the more unbelievable accomplishments in the modern era. I doubt this is the team to end the championship drought but crazier things have happened and March is due for a little madness.

15. Clemson (23-11)

The ACC is living it up this year and the surprise runs from Clemson and our next team are big reasons why. The Tigers have an experienced core that managed to hold off Baylor despite a long field goal drought to end the game and an inspired comeback by the Bears. The magic is likely to run out in a region filled with three of the most talented teams left in the field.

16. NC State (24-14)

The magical run by DJ Burns and the Wolfpack continued this week with an impressive upset over Texas Tech and an overtime win that eliminated March darling Jack Gohlke and the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. NC State is the only double-digit seed still alive, and the only seed above a six, so despite a scintillating stretch, it still sits at the bottom of our rankings heading into week number two.

Players of the Week:

Jack Gohlke, Oakland Golden Grizzlies

Who else but Jack “we are not a Cinderella” Gohlke? The latest March Madness star was born before our eyes as Kentucky fans were returned to the nightmare of 2022 with another iconic upset at the hands of a “rizzy” sharpshooter. After making 10 ridiculous 3-pointers on three total dribbles, the D-2 transfer is our clear choice for player of the week, and etched in our memories forever for his incredible effort over both tournament games.

Jermaine Couisnard, Oregon Ducks

We could go with N'Faly Dante or Cousinard here after both put on some ridiculous displays to get Oregon on the cusp of a Sweet 16 appearance late Saturday night. Creighton just had too much juice in the second overtime but Cousinard will remember his 40-point performance against South Carolina and this 32-point game against the Blue Jays for the rest of his life.

Mark Sears, Alabama Crimson Tide

We talked a bit about Sears already but it’s worth expounding on here. The Alabama offense is an unstoppable force with the Ohio transfer orchestrating it all. If he keeps playing like he is now, North Carolina is in serious trouble because the Tide could drop 120 with this level of play from their point guard.

Jared McCain, Duke Blue Devils

Kyle Filipowski is a fine player but I’m not sure how he’s a second-team All-American when he isn’t even the best player on his team. That honor belongs to McCain who started 6-6 from beyond the arc in the first half against JMU and dropped 30 points in just his third career postseason game.

Jaedon LeDee, San Diego State Aztecs

There hasn’t been a ton of buzz for Ledee this season despite a 21-point average for the defending national runner-up but that should change in a big way this week. Ledee erupted for 32 points to stave off UAB and was nearly perfect from the field to end Yale’s Cinderella run in the second round. If the Aztecs are going to knock off UConn, it starts and ends with another big performance from their superstar.

Play of the Week

It might not have resulted in the upset it could’ve been but that finish to Houston-Texas A&M is exactly what makes March so special. If you thought the game was over and went to bed after a long weekend of hoops, check out this unbelievable 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime and completed a 12-point comeback in the final two minutes.

Video Credit: @MarchMadnessMBB on Twitter


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