Sweet Sixteen Power Rankings
Madness continues this weekend as the remaining teams left in the NCAA tournament try to keep their seasons alive. After what was an exciting first weekend it is clear that this is a top-heavy tournament in terms of talent. With some of the top teams having scares this weekend though it still is important to keep track of who is where. Now let’s take a look at where each team currently sits in this week’s power rankings. Also let’s look at who you should be picking to win it all from this Sweet Sixteen based on performance this far. All odds provided by Oddshark.
1.) University of North Carolina– +600
UNC features several real college basketball stars in veteran Luke Maye and the NBA draft board rising Coby White. Cam Johnson seems to go unnoticed in that offense however he is leading the team in scoring. At 16.9 points per game, Johnson may be one of the most dangerous and underrated players in the NCAA. To go along with that 3 headed monster is a forward by the name of Nassir Little. A Mcdonalds All American coming into college Nassir is a monster that could be the x-factor for another Tarheel championship run.
The Tarheels plays at a scorching pace that not many teams can keep up with. The Tarheels have the fastest pace of any team left in the tournament and it was evident this past weekend. Teams who compete with UNC early in games often seeing themselves blown out in the second half. This was evident in their win over Washington over the weekend. This scorching pace is matched with a team that can really shoot the 3 ball well leaving most teams in the dust.
2.) Gonzaga– +500
Gonzaga is a team that came into the tourney as a team that dominated all season. The question mark for them is what can they do against elite competition that they do not see most of the year. However, this team beat Duke this year and feature a lot of really talented players.
Gonzaga is led by forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, who average 19.7 and 17 points respectively. Rui is a guy that can take over a game at any time, rounding out a balanced Gonzaga offense. The guy to watch for Gonzaga is Josh Perkins. Norwell is what drives the offense forward leading the team in assists with 6.4 per game.
The team that has dominated all year will face a tough test in the first game this weekend against FSU. With size and athleticism to spare, Florida State could give Gonzaga fits. If they survive that matchup watch out for Gonzaga to win it all.
3.) Duke– +300
Everyone in the world has heard about the Duke Blue Devils this year. Led by superstar Zion Williamson, Duke has been on a rampage across the country this year. Zion, likely the first player taken in the NBA draft, has been stellar all season. However, since returning from Zion has gone from good to great. Since the injury Williamson has averaged almost 29 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Zion is a force of nature that most teams cannot contend with inside, weighing in at a massive 285 pounds. If Duke is to win it all Zion will be driving the team there himself.
Duke also has two other soon to be lottery picks on the roster. RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish are both forwards that complement each other well. RJ is very good at getting to the rim and making aggressive finishes. Sometimes he gets very trigger happy but for the most part he is still a very good college player leading Duke in scoring with 22.8 a game. Reddish on the other hand has been a question mark all season. A silky smooth stroke and solid athletic build has not led to the success projected for him as the 3rd overall recruit coming into this season. Reddish has shot 35% from the floor on the season, that is very bad. If Duke wants to make a run this year Reddish will have to be the x-factor.
Duke is a very top-heavy team that lacks a true bench. They also are just not a team that shoots the ball from deep that well. If their NBA level players do not play great games from here on out they can be in trouble.
4.) Tennessee– +1600
Tennessee is a team that caught many off guard this first weekend. They came into the tourney as a 2 seed but they still had not gotten the national hype that a lot of other teams have gotten. Tennessee is an offense that absolutely tears up the court offensively. They play at a fast pace and get up lots of 3 pointers and shoot at a high clip. This offensive strategy has led to them being world beaters when they are hot.
Tennessee is led by a pair of college stars in Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. Grant Williams is more of an inside and to the rim threat. Williams leads the team in scoring with 18.8 points per game shooting 56.5% from the field. Admiral not only has an awesome name but has a sweet shooting stroke to match. Shooting 47% from the field with 41.5% from deep, Schofield can light up a scoreboard like he did this past weekend.
Tennessee is a team that could easily get hot and knock off any team on this list. Watch out for them this weekend and the rest of the way.
5.) Virginia– +500
Virginia is a defensive team that has excelled all season. The only thorn in their side has been Duke this year, who they have lost to one two separate occasions. Virginia is an offensively limited team that excels defensively and slowing down the pace of play. I think that this year they are greatly limited with that attack. With so many very good offensive teams left it is tough to think that Virginia will be able to win it all.
6.) Michigan State– +1400
The Spartans are a veteran Big Ten hardened. Led by point guard Cassius Winston, almost 19 points and 7.5 assists, the Spartans are a balanced team. Michigan State plays an inside outside approach with Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford lighting it up from the outside. The counterpart to those two guards is Nick Ward, who is a mountain inside for Michigan State. Ward averages almost 14 points and 6.2 rebounds, giving his team a constant post threat. Michigan State is a good team that could very well win it all.
7.) Florida State- +3300
One of the more impressive teams over the first weekend was Florida State. Their unique blend of athleticism and size at every position makes them dangerous going forward. Florida State does not have the elite talent some of their opponents will going forward. Only two players, Mfiondu Kabengele and Terrance Mann, have averaged double digit points this year for FSU. This lack of a true dominant scorer is a plus for the Seminoles. They run a very balanced and fast break orientated offense that could knock off some top seeds this weekend.
8.) Kentucky- +1400
Kentucky is a team that will always be there at this point in the year. This team however does not have the appeal that Kentucky teams have had in the past. With PJ Washington being a question mark to play this tournament it is unlikely Kentucky can muster a deep tourney run. Thing to watch out for is whether or not Washington makes a comeback for the Wildcats. Also of note is whether stud shooter Tyler Herro, 14 points per game, can take over for Kentucky.
9.) Texas Tech- +2000
Texas Tech is a team that could very easily be much higher if they had gotten more opportunity to showcase their talent. Led by future top-5 pick Jarret Culver in almost every category Texas Tech is my sleeper team the rest of the way. They play Michigan in their next game which I think is going to be a tough matchup for the Wolverines. Texas Tech puts a lot of points up with 71 a game, shooting a very efficient 47% from the field and 37% from three. Watch out for Texas Tech
10.) Michigan- +1400
Michigan is a school that has had an impressive run in tournaments over the past few years. This was capped by their championship appearance last season. This Michigan team does not feel like they have what it takes to go deep this year. Defensive orientated without a truly overpowering scorer Michigan is a good team but I do not know if they can get over the hump. Michigans offense has been solid over the year but is stagnant getting only 13.9 team assists per game. Ignas Brazdeikis, 14.8 points per game, is the guy that has to step up to give Michigan a chance to win it all.
11.) LSU- +5000
12.) Purdue- +1600
13.) Virginia Tech- +4000
14.) Houston- +2500
15.) Auburn- +2500
16.) Oregon- +6600
The end of this tourney should be very exciting. One thing to note when making your picks, this is a top-heavy group. The top 3 from this group are extremely likely to win it all and you should pick accordingly. Hope you are ready for some more madness this week.