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March Madness Sweet 16: Preview and Predictions

Publish Date: 03/21/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Sweet 16 Preview and Predictions

After a crazy first weekend, the Madness rolls into the Sweet 16 with heavy favorites such as Alabama and Houston and Cinderella like Princeton and Florida Atlantic. Almost half of the Sweet 16 is ranked lower than a four seed, which means 6 out of 16 teams should not be here. None of these games looks to be a one-sided blowout.

 

No. 7 Michigan State Spartans vs No. 3 Kansas State Wildcats

Thursday, 6:30 p.m. ET, TBS

Both teams have been led by experienced, dynamic guards who were instrumental in their respective journeys to this stage. Tyson Walker (17.5 PPG in the NCAA tournament) is 13-for-21 from beyond the arc with six assists and no turnovers as leader of another Tom Izzo Sweet 16 squad; Markquis Nowell has recorded 44 points, 23 assists, and nine turnovers over two NCAA tournament wins while connecting on 43% from 3. I believe that on that night the better player will lead his team to the Elite Eight.

Prediction: Kansas State 75  Michigan State 66

Video: Markquis Nowell's 27 points, passing wizardry vs. Kentucky ✨

Markquis Nowell’s 27 points, passing wizardry vs. Kentucky ✨

No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks vs No. 4 UConn Huskies

Thursday, 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS

Many expected Arkansas to be something special this season. Before the NCAA tournament, however, they weren’t quite there yet. Still, their win over Kansas in the second round proved they have abundant depth and talent – qualities that make the Razorbacks a dangerous team. But UConn boasts more than that; their offensive presence through Sanogo and multiple shooters make Danny Hurley’s squad challenging to defend. Furthermore, Arkansas boasts three NBA prospects, including five-star recruit Nick Smith Jr. and it appears as though Arkansas is finally finding its stride.

Prediction: Arkansas 72  UCONN 71

Video: No. 8 Arkansas BEATS No. 1 Kansas to go to THIRD STRAIGHT NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 | CBS Sports

No. 8 Arkansas BEATS No. 1 Kansas to go to THIRD STRAIGHT NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 | CBS Sports

No. 9 Florida Atlantic Owls vs No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers

Thursday, 9 p.m. ET, TBS

Tennessee quickly routed Duke in the second round (.85 points per possession), who had no response for a formidable Vols squad featuring five seniors who anchor the best defense in America. This season, SEC opponents connected on just 44.9% of their shots inside the arc against Tennessee; FAU will face similar obstacles as it attempts to penetrate Tennessee’s defense and attack their rim. While FAU has been an impressive 3-point shooting team this season, Tennessee’s physicality often forces teams into tougher 3-pointers than usual, so it could be a long night for FAU at Tennessee!

Prediction: Tennessee 66  Florida Atlantic 54

Video: No. 4 Tennessee TAKES DOWN No. 5 Duke to Advance to Sweet 16 [GAME RECAP] | CBS Sports

No. 4 Tennessee TAKES DOWN No. 5 Duke to Advance to Sweet 16 [GAME RECAP] | CBS Sports

No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs No. 2 UCLA Bruins

Thursday, 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS

Two legendary programs will meet again, this time with many of the same top players from two years prior. (These teams also played an unforgettable tournament game 17 years ago!) But this time the script is different; instead of Gonzaga winning on a buzzer-beater. The Bruins are stronger, more talented and more experienced than TCU who just played the Bulldogs into the 40th minute; Drew Timme continues his remarkable work but opponents are making 2s against Zags this season for the first time since 2000! UCLA is the better team, but this is March and that means madness can ensue, and I think it will here.

Prediction: Gonzaga 75  UCLA 73

Video: Gonzaga vs. TCU - Second Round NCAA tournament extended highlights

Gonzaga vs. TCU – Second Round NCAA tournament extended highlights

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs No. 5 San Diego State Aztecs

Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET, TBS

The Aztecs are adept at forcing opposing offenses deep into the shot clock. On the contrary, Alabama often attempts a high percentage of their shots within the first 12 seconds of possession. SDSU could potentially make this a 60-plus possession contest, but that doesn’t guarantee Alabama any advantage. Brandon Miller is highly effective across multiple speeds and SDSU’s best chances on offense may come early in the clock.

Prediction: Alabama 78  San Diego State 64

Video: Alabama vs. Maryland - Second Round NCAA tournament extended highlights

Alabama vs. Maryland – Second Round NCAA tournament extended highlights

No. 5 Miami Hurricanes vs No. 1 Houston Cougars

Friday, 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS

What a game this promises to be! Norchad Omier, the legendary Houston warrior who eluded Kelvin Sampson’s grasp, just demolished Indiana’s front line with 17 rebounds in 26 minutes. While Omier may be impressive, Miami must contend with Houston having Omier-level players throughout their roster – Tramon Mark was incredible against Auburn, and UH still has unfinished business from last year when both Mark and Marcus Sasser missed the tournament entirely. Expect this matchup to be fast-paced and closely contested throughout its duration.

Prediction: Miami 75  Houston 74

Video: No. 5 Miami DEFEATS No. 4 Indiana To Advance To Sweet 16 In NCAA Tournament I CBS Sports

No. 5 Miami DEFEATS No. 4 Indiana To Advance To Sweet 16 In NCAA Tournament I CBS Sports

No. 15 Princeton Tigers vs No. 6 Creighton Bluejays

Friday, 9 p.m. ET, TBS

Princeton earned its way to the Sweet 16 by showcasing an array of skills. Their win over Arizona was a battle; then they scored 78 points in 63 possessions against Missouri. Now in Creighton, Princeton finds itself facing off against an opponent that’s been waiting for this moment since losing to eventual national champion Kansas a year prior. This time Ryan Kalkbrenner and Ryan Nembhard are healthy, and Baylor Scheierman could potentially start dropping some 3s anytime now.

Prediction: Creighton 80  Princeton 69

Video: Creighton vs. Baylor - Second Round NCAA tournament extended highlights

Creighton vs. Baylor – Second Round NCAA tournament extended highlights

No. 3 Xavier Musketeers vs No. 2 Texas Longhorns

Both teams have made major adjustments during the season. Rodney Terry took over as acting head coach after Chris Beard’s dismissal in January. He has put himself in a great position to secure the job permanently with Texas’ Sweet 16 run that ranks top-10 for adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. On Feb. 1, Zach Freemantle (15.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG) got hurt and was ruled out for the rest of the season; however, Jerome Hunter is averaging 19.0 PPG through two rounds – setting up an exciting matchup between two teams with Final Four potential.

Prediction: Xavier 85  Texas 84

Video: Xavier vs. Pitt - Second Round NCAA tournament extended highlights

Xavier vs. Pitt – Second Round NCAA tournament extended highlights

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