NCAA Power "Sweet" 16 Rankings

Tue, 03/23/2010 - 8:56pm

By Josh Cochran and Joel Steiner
NCAA Power "Sweet" 16: March 23rd

Northern Iowa’s stunning upset of Kansas destroyed half of America’s tournament brackets and reshuffled the pool of favorites. That being said, plenty of chalk remains and it is hard to pick against the big boys. Following a breathtaking opening weekend, we’re back to take a different approach to breaking down the Sweet 16. Let’s take a look at the remaining teams, specifically Vegas' odds for each team to win it all, plus how each team got here and how far we think they can go.

1. Kentucky

How They Got Here: The Wildcats absolutely steamrolled East Tennessee State and Wake Forest. Those performances, coupled with the Kansas loss make Kentucky the current favorites to claim the title. It’s hard to be picky when you look as dominant as Kentucky did last weekend, but the 7 of 17 performance from the line against Wake Forest needs be better if they face a team on it's A game.

How Far They Can Go: For Kentucky and its fans, it is  national championship or bust. Based on talent, this team can win the title, but can they grind out a win over West Virginia or Syracuse if they are having a poor shooting night? Right now, we'd be surprised if they do not cut down the nets in Indianapolis.

2. Syracuse

How They Got Here: Forget about what happened in the Big East Tournament after Syracuse dominated Gonzaga without Arinze Onuaku. Wes Johnson looked like the potential No. 3 pick in the draft the past two games by knocking down 7 of 11 from behind the arc. Questions about Johnson’s health have been rumored since his hard fall against Providence on February 2nd, but he looked fully recovered this past weekend.

How Far They Can Go: When the Syracuse zone is active, the Orange look like a championship contender. A Kentucky – Syracuse championship game has a lot of intrigue, as a good zone defense has the ability to upend Kentucky. If Onuaku comes back and is healthy don’t be surprised if Syracuse gets championship number two, because the patented 2-3 zone could wreak havoc for Kentucky.

3. Duke

How They Got Here: The Blue Devils took care of business by blowing out Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Cal. This was especially impressive given the poor performance by their senior leader, Jon Scheyer. Duke fans are hopeful that he got his bad shooting night out of the way with that 1-11 performance versus Cal.

How Far They Can Go: Selection Committee Chairman, er Duke head coach, Mike Krzyzewski’s team became the heavy South Region favorite the moment the brackets were announced. I still can’t understand the Selection Committee’s logic behind the construction of the South Region bracket. Regardless of that rationale, the games are still played on the court and not on paper. The Blue Devils have been impressive so far and they shouldn’t have too much trouble with a Robbie Hummel-less Purdue team. However, the Baylor Bears are the type of long, athletic ball club that has given Coach K’s teams fits over the past five seasons. If Duke can survive that game, I don’t see them getting past Kentucky in the Final Four.

4. Kansas State

How They Got Here: Kansas State has been as impressive as the No. 1 seeds after knocking off North Texas and BYU with little trouble. Defensively against BYU, they were able to handle Jimmer Fredette and the other BYU shooters, as you never had the sense the Cougars could win the game.

How Far They Can Go: Kansas State is the only team that has the ability to knock of Syracuse in this bracket, because of their backcourt. This team has Final Four potential, but poor free throw shooting will be their downfall and will ultimately keep them from winning the title.

5. West Virginia

How They Got Here: After an easy wins over Morgan State in Round #1 West Virginia was able to handle the Mizzou pressure and advance to the Sweet 16. Over this season, teams that could pressure West Virginia in the full court gave the Mountaineers fits, so handling Mizzou was impressive.

How Far They Can Go: West Virginia received a blow on Tuesday night with the announcement that Darryl "Truck" Bryant would miss the rest of the tournament with a broken foot. Their Vegas odds should take a similar shot after the injury, though Bryant has been known for questionable decision-making as a point guard. You still do not want to get into a grinder with this team and give Da’Sean Butler a chance to beat you at the end of a game. This team still has the potential to beat teams defensively, but it's difficult to see them being able to offensively overcome the loss of their point guard over the next four games to win the title.

6. Ohio State

How They Got Here: The Buckeyes were able to advance past the first weekend despite not playing their best basketball. Turnovers were a problem against Georgia Tech, but the hot shooting of Jon Diebler and solid defense led to an OSU win. Evan Turner grabs all of the headlines, but the other Buckeye starters made the difference in rounds one and two.

How Far They Can Go: Following Northern Iowa’s stunning upset of Kansas and the season-ending injury to Kalin Lucas, Thad Matta’s squad is the prohibitive favorite to win the Midwest region. They need to control the pace and keep Tennessee from scoring in transition in order to advance. Much of that responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Evan Turner. He was a bit unspectacular, by his own standards, in the first two rounds. However, if he rises to the occasion the Buckeyes could reach the national championship game for the second time in the Thad Matta era, and an epic showdown between Turner and Wall could be in the cards.

7. Baylor

How They Got Here: The Bears won their first NCAA Tournament game in 60 years by pulling away late against Sam Houston State. They followed that performance by claiming their first ever trip to the Sweet 16 with an 8-point win over Old Dominion. Baylor now heads three hours south to Houston, where it should have tremendous crowd support for the next two rounds.

How Far They Can Go: Despite its NCAA Tournament inexperience, this Baylor team has the potential to reach the Final Four. Scott Drew’s roster is the tallest in the country and it has the athleticism to match. The Bears also have one of the most explosive guard tandems in the Sweet 16 with LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter. The one-on-one battle between Ekpe Udoh and Omar Samhan will have the attention of NBA scouts and it could be the deciding factor in the Baylor – St. Mary’s game. I expect Baylor to get the win and then move on to face Duke. This is where it gets interesting. While I think this year’s Duke team is better equipped to handle a team like Baylor, I’m taking the Bears to reach the Final Four. Better guards, better athletes and better talent equals a victory. 15-1 seems high for them, but then again they're in the South.

8. Michigan State

How They Got Here: Much like their Sweet 16 opponent, the Spartans won a tight first round game followed by a thriller in round two. Korie Lucious knocked down a three-pointer at the buzzer to save Sparty from a 16-point blown lead against Maryland. Tom Izzo’s team was rolling early in the second half of that game until losing their All Big Ten point guard, Kalin Lucas, to an Achilles injury.

How Far They Can Go: Northern Iowa’s upset of Kansas created an opportunity for the Spartans to reach the Final Four. However, that opportunity went up in flames with the loss of Lucas. I think Sparty is likely headed for a Sweet 16 exit, but a Tournament rule of thumb is never underestimate a Tom Izzo ball club.

9. Tennessee

How They Got Here: Give Bruce Pearl and his team credit, they’ve battled since the mid-season dismissal of Tyler Smith. The Vols survived a tough opening round game against MWC tournament champs, San Diego State. Then they pummeled the Ohio Bobcats, who had just pulled off the biggest upset of the first round over Georgetown. This team has done it with defense all year and that carried over to the first weekend of the Tournament.

How Far They Can Go: Speaking of defense, the Vols are undefeated this year when holding opponents under 1-point per possession. They do it by locking teams down at the three-point line and by forcing turnovers. That could be a recipe for success against a perimeter-oriented Ohio State team. The question is, can the Volunteers generate enough offense? I think it’s unlikely and Tennessee may fall to the Buckeyes in the Sweet 16 for the second time in four years. However, the Final Four is possible if Bruce Pearl’s team can create turnovers and get buckets in transition.

10. Xavier

How They Got Here: After knocking off inconsistent Minnesota, the Musketeers were able to outlast Pittsburgh and make a third straight Sweet 16. Jordan Crawford is looking like a potential late first round pick showing excellent shooting touch and explosiveness around the rim.

How Far They Can Go: Over the past three years, Xavier has been such a good tournament team because of toughness and the ability to get critical stops and baskets in crunch time. A win over Kansas State is possible, but I don’t think it will happen due to the excellent play of the Kansas State backcourt. Overall, Xavier is just not a Final Four team because of the lack of ability to pressure a quality backcourt leading to turnovers and easy baskets.

11. Washington

How They Got Here: After earning their way into the Big Dance as the automatic qualifier from the Pac 10, the Huskies decided they wanted to play an extra weekend by upsetting Marquette and New Mexico. When you look at the Huskies’ first two opponents you realized they were just more athletic, more relentless on the boards and played better defense earning a spot in the Sweet 16.

How Far They Can Go: The Huskies are an under the radar “Hot” team with a nine game winning streak. Even though UW is playing well, they will meet a team that plays better defense and will outwork them on the boards, as the Mountaineers will end their season.

12. Northern Iowa

How They Got Here: The Panthers reached the Sweet 16 on the shoulders of the most popular player in college basketball, for this week at least, Ali Farokhmanesh. The 6’0” senior guard hit two huge threes that were the difference against UNLV and Kansas. Northern Iowa is a good team as they won the Missouri Valley and have been ranked in the top 25 this season. That being said, no one thought they would beat Kansas, which was our pick to win it all.

How Far They Can Go: Well, they beat the consensus #1 team in the country, so they could obviously beat anybody in a one game scenario. Typically, the clock strikes midnight for Cinderella in the Elite Eight and that’s the likely outcome here. Michigan State’s frontline lacks size, and the Spartans could have difficulty with Jordan Eglseder. This team is strikingly similar to Wisconsin, so expect a Big Ten-style grinder against Tom Izzo’s club.

13. Butler

How They Got Here: Butler surprised a lot of people by dominating UTEP in the first round and surviving a pesky Murray State club to get to the Sweet 16. The surprising part about the run is Gordon Hayward was relatively quiet with Shelvin Mack playing leader and playmaker.

How Far They Can Go: Beating UTEP and Murray State is one thing, but Syracuse is a different monster. It will take a superb shooting night from Hayward, Mack and Veasely for Butler to have a chance. Don’t expect an Elite Eight appearance even though Butler making it to Indy for the Final Four would be a feel good story.

14. St. Mary's

How They Got Here: The Gaels pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the second round by defeating the No. 2 seeded Villanova Wildcats. If you didn’t know Omar Samhan before his 32-point, 7-rebound outburst against Villanova, you likely do now. The loquacious 6-11 senior was the MVP of the Tournament’s first weekend.

How Far They Can Go: If Samhan continues to put up 30 points and 9 rebounds, and the Gaels continue to knock down three-pointers, they could go to the Final Four. On the flip side, this is not a strong defensive team. We knocked Villanova over the last two months because of their subpar defense and St. Mary’s isn’t much better. The Gaels will have their hands full with Baylor, which ranks #5 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per In addition to that advantage, I like Baylor to win this game because their length and athleticism should be enough to disrupt St. Mary’s offense.

15. Purdue

How They Got Here: Despite being 29-5 and sharing the Big Ten regular season title, many people would consider Purdue to be a surprise Sweet 16 team. That’s due to their play following a season-ending injury to Robbie Hummel, which included an embarrassing Big Ten tournament loss to Minnesota. Matt Painter’s team responded to that loss with a strong first round win over Siena and a thrilling overtime victory over Texas A&M in round two. They won both games with stellar defensive efforts, which masked their poor offensive output.

How Far They Can Go: The Boilermakers surpassed expectations by making it this far, but the party stops here. Duke is playing its best basketball of the season and more importantly, they’re healthy. The Boilermakers are forced to rely too heavily on JaJuan Johnson and E’twaun Moore on the offensive end due to the loss of Robbie Hummel. As a result, they have scored well under one point per possession in their last three games. That trend is likely to continue, as Duke is one of the best defensive teams in the country. Purdue fans remember what Duke did to them in Mackey Arena last season, and unfortunately it might happen again.

16. Cornell

How They Got Here: The hot-shooting Big Red had little trouble advancing to the Sweet 16 with wins over Temple and Wisconsin. We knew they could shoot, but they played well defensively against high-efficient slow-paced offenses in the first two rounds.

How Far They Can Go: It’s not often that an Ivy League team is in the Sweet 16, but how often does an Ivy League team have two future professionals like Ryan Wittman and Jeff Foote? Even with their talented duo, the road is expected to end for Cornell in Syracuse against Kentucky. Please remember that Cornell gave Kansas a scare at the Allen Fieldhouse earlier this year. I guess I am saying there is a chance for a least one more upset when you shoot like the Big Red, albeit a small one.

Follow Joel and Josh on Twitter at NBADRAFTNETJJ.

Questions or comments, email Joel and Josh at: [email protected] and [email protected]

llperez's picture
Registered User
Joined: 04/13/2009
Posts: 13184
Points: 15345
People still sleeping on

People still sleeping on Washington? When they beat West Virginia, that should open up more eyes I guess.

morgatil's picture
Registered User
Joined: 01/15/2009
Posts: 206
Points: 14

Kentucky has the tallest team in the country.

Registered User
Joined: 03/26/2010
Points: -2
Juicy clothes Buy full line

Juicy clothes
Buy full line Juicy couture products from our site at a low price to make yourself a fashionista! Dress juicy couture clothing, holding juicy couture
Shop prom dresses, formal dresses, prom shoes, 2010 designer prom gowns at dres4sale.
for cocktail dresses, dresses for prom, homecoming dresses, and evening dresses. Cheap prom dresses or couture designer evening gowns for your next formal.
evening dresses
Evening Dresses. Women's Formal & Special Occasion Dresses ... Welcome to Cheap Evening Dresses for Sale! ... Buy Cheap Evening Dresses Sales & Accessories
prom dresses

RSS: Syndicate content