It’s hard to beat a great team three times in one season, no matter how good a team doing all the winning is. Kansas is the best team in the country, but a potential Final Four showdown with Big 12 rival Oklahoma could be their undoing.
2 of 16John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated
Why won’t the Terrapins win it all? Well, they have to play Kansas in the Sweet 16. Maryland did not win one game this season in which they were the underdogs. Kansas is favored by 6.5 points on Thursday.
3 of 16Erick W. Rasco for Sports Illustrated
Just like Maryland, Villanova did not win a game in which it wasn’t the favorite all season. That does not bode well for a likely matchup with Kansas in the Elite Eight. In fact, Thursday’s matchup with Miami could be the last time the Wildcats are favored this season.
4 of 16Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire
If chalk prevails the rest of the way, Miami will have to go through the regular season champions of the Big East, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC to cut down the nets in Miami. No team has a more challenging path to the championship.
5 of 16John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated
No one questions Oregon’s offense. With Duke and Oklahoma standing in their way in the West Region, and a potential matchup with Kansas in the Final Four, can their defense do enough to keep them dancing? The bet here is no.
6 of 16Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
The Blue Devils face the same defensive issues as Oregon, only their defense is even worse. Could it really stand up to consecutive games against the Ducks, Sooners and Jayhawks? They might be able to get through one or two of those games, but not all three.
7 of 16Orlin Wagner/AP
Buddy Hield has the Sooners positioned to emerge from the West Region, but they’ve already lost to Kansas twice this season. If the two teams meet in the Final Four, why would meeting No. 3 go any differently?
8 of 16Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Texas A&M (3)
The Aggies would be watching the rest of the tournament from home, if not for the most unlikely comeback in college basketball history. They’ll be there soon enough, though, because they do not have the answer to this question: Who among the Aggies can slow down Buddy Hield?
9 of 16Grant Halverson/Getty Images
North Carolina (1)
All season long, three point shooting has been the Tar Heels fatal flaw. As good as they are inside with Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson, their 31.4% rate from behind the arc, which ranks 308th in the country, will ultimately catch up to them.
10 of 16Jeff Haynes for Sports Illustrated
The last trait a team wants to bring into a matchup with North Carolina is average interior defense. That is exactly what the Hoosiers have in the paint, ranking 182nd in the country in opponents’ two-point percentage. They won’t be able to slow down the duo of Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson.
11 of 16Andrew Shurtleff/AP
Notre Dame (6)
The Irish rank seventh in adjusted offensive efficiency, but their defense is going to keep them from winning four more games. They don’t force turnovers and let their opponents knock down 37.2% of their threes. That bodes terribly for a matchup with Wisconsin, let alone teams like Virginia, Kansas and Oklahoma, which could be looming should they advance.
12 of 16Jamie Squire/Getty Images
No one would have dreamed Wisconsin would be here when they were 9-9, including 1-4 in the Big Ten, in the middle of January. They do have the experience as they only team to make the Sweet 16 each of the last three seasons, but they’re also one of the least talented teams remaining in the field.
13 of 16Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire
The Cavaliers are the overwhelming favorites in the Midwest Region with Michigan State out, but both Iowa State and Gonzaga have the offense necessary to threaten their pack-line defense. The Cyclones especially could speed them up and get them out of their comfort zone. Plus, a rubber match with North Carolina could await them in the Final Four.
14 of 16Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Iowa State (4)
As good as the Cyclones are offensively, your defense has to show up to beat Virginia. The Cavaliers surrendered 70 or fewer points in six of their seven losses this season. Teams simply don’t score 80 on Virginia, and that means Iowa State will need its best defensive effort of the season, simply to get to the Elite Eight.
15 of 16Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Let’s be honest. The Orange are lucky to be here. They barely made it into the field, and had the most favorable draw of any team, with just Dayton and Middle Tennessee State standing between them and the Sweet 16. The duo of Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer will be kryptonite to the 2-3 zone.
16 of 16Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
The Bulldogs have been one of the most impressive teams of the tournament, cruising to wins over Seton Hall and Utah by a combined 39 points. They may get past Syracuse, but would then be looking at consecutive games against Virginia, North Carolina and Kansas to win the title. In other words, Gonzaga will have to settle for the third Elite Eight in program history.
You May Like
More College Basketball
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!