• Now that we have the Sweet 16 field—with several surpise participants—who's going to win the whole thing? Well, your guess is as good as ours.
By Michael Rosenberg
March 19, 2018

We are down to 16 teams in the NCAA tournament, which means it’s time to stop talking about the fun little stories and get serious about who will win the national championship.

And clearly, that’s Villanova, the best team in the country, with the only two stars (Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges) you can really trust … although, let’s face it: Duke has the most talent and is playing like it, but then again Kansas’s Devonte Graham could totally get into Grayson Allen’s head and beat Duke in the Elite Eight, and anyway, this does not feel like a year when the most talent or the best team wins, so watch out for Florida State and Texas A&M ….

You have no idea who is going to win this thing, do you?

College Basketball
No Confetti for North Carolina This Year as Texas A&M Sends Tar Heels Home

Not a clue. There are some college basketball mysteries that I cannot solve. Like: What’s a foul? And: Why does it take so long to play the last three minutes of a close game? One of these days, officials will spend so much time at a replay monitor that one of the players on the court will graduate and be immediately eligible to play for the other team.

And the big mystery: Who wins the national championship?

Of course we don’t ever really know, but this year, we can’t even pretend to know. Every team except perhaps for Villanova seems shaky. Even coaches don’t seem to know what they have. Jim Boeheim won a play-in game and talked about how bad Syracuse’s offense has been all year. His team is in the Sweet 16 now. North Carolina had Joel Berry, Luke Maye, Theo Pinson and seemingly every intangible and bit of mental toughness and minute of experience you could want … and the Tar Heels got railroaded by Texas A&M. You could wiretap every coach in this tournament, which the FBI probably has, and be no closer to understanding who will win.

Complicating matters: This bracket is now so one-sided, if it had legs it would walk in circles.

On the left side of your bracket, we have the South and West. Average remaining seed: 6.9.

On the right side of your bracket, we have the Midwest and East. Average remaining seed: 3.8.

On the left side, the two teams that are most likely to play in the national championship game are probably Kentucky and Michigan. And neither one has been all that impressive in this tournament. Kentucky beat a 12 seed, Davidson, and a 13, Buffalo. Michigan won two ugly games, over Montana and Houston—the latter on a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

On the right side, Villanova may have to beat a hot West Virginia team, a dangerous Purdue team and that loaded Duke team just to get to the title game.

Looking for a trend? Of the 16 remaining teams, five lost a top-10 pick in last year’s NBA draft. Do you know what this means? I hope so, because I’ve got nothing.

Basically, there is a real chance that the next two weeks are just as insane as this weekend. Don’t be surprised to see Nevada in the championship game—not because I think it will happen, but because you shouldn’t be surprised by anything.

College Basketball
Michigan State Had the Draft-Worthy Talent, but Its Loss to Syracuse Proved It Lacked Experience

And get ready for a few whistles that make you want to throw your TV out the window. The Michigan-Houston game was an officiating junkyard, with so many awful ticky-tack calls that it is hard to imagine what the game even would have looked like with proper officiating, let alone who would have won. The low point was probably when Michigan’s Moritz Wagner was called for committing a personal foul with his chin.

Sunday night, as Xavier was going into full meltdown mode against Florida State, Xavier guard J.P. Macura stole the ball and was whistled for a phantom foul. It wasn’t the reason Xavier lost—the Musketeers spent the last five minutes frantically adding to the list of reasons they would lose—but it could have saved Xavier’s season.

Let’s hope the officials are not the story next week. I would like to see the Final Four decided in the only fair and logical fashion: By picking school names out of a hat.

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