In a matter of days, a field of 68 teams for the NCAA Tournament has been reduced to just 16 teams. All of the teams that made it through the first weekend of the Big Dance now hope to advance even further. Since the remaining teams in the bracket are just two wins away from the Final Four, scouting for the Sweet 16 has already begun with the regional semifinal matchups set.
This is ground that Arkansas, Houston, and UCLA all know well. However, it is uncharted territory for Princeton and FAU, among others. The regular season’s rhythms are gone, and the opponents are new. Even though these seasons are already guaranteed to go down in program history, there is still a chance to accomplish something legendary.
Taking into account what we witnessed the first weekend with No. winning games against the 15th and 16th seeds and teams like No. Due to the early exits of No. 1 seeds Kansas and Purdue, it is probably prudent to anticipate the unexpected this week. By Sunday night, only four teams will remain in the Big Dance, reducing the field to just four contenders for the national title.
Let’s take a quick look at what’s in store for the Sweet 16 now that the matchups have been determined.
UConn can defeat opponents in a variety of ways, according to scouting the Huskies. Joey Calcaterra, Alex Karaban, and Jordan Hawkins all shoot well from three-point range. Due to the attention that Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan command in the position, they also receive a lot of open looks. Sanogo is coming off two incredible performances during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and Clingan is a threat as a shot blocker at 7 feet 2 inches. Earlier in the season, the AP Top 25 poll ranked UConn in the top five for five weeks in a row. However the Huskies are only a No. As a 4 seed, they appear to be a top-five team heading into the Sweet 16.
Scouting the Razorbacks: Arkansas entered the NCAA Tournament having lost four of its last five games before pulling a surprise and defeating Kansas, the defending champion, last weekend. Despite their poor 3-point shooting, the relentless defense of the Razorbacks creates transition opportunities. When playing the Razorbacks, teams turnover the ball 14.3 times per game, with five players averaging double figures. As he tries to reach the Elite Eight for the third time in a row, coach Eric Musselman is as big of a star as anyone on the roster.
(2) UCLA vs. Gonzaga Scouting the Bruins: Senior point guard Tyger Campbell and senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. may be UCLA’s best veteran leaders in the Sweet 16. They lead the Bruins in scoring and have been through some tough times in their careers. In a time when 3-pointers are favored, the Bruins are unusually dependent on 2-pointers. But Jaquez knows how to find good looks, and over the course of the season, the Bruins have become one of the best defensive teams in the country.
Scouting the Bulldogs: Drew Timme, a senior forward who leads the roster in both points and rebounding, is leading Gonzaga. However, the Zags have a variety of offensive weapons, as is typical. Julian Strawther is a unique playmaker on the wing who has emphatically further developed his 3-point shooting this season, and forward Anton Watson has come areas of strength for on too. Due to the absence of the elite rim protection that Chet Holmgren brought to the team last season, the Zags’ defense is somewhat volatile. Even when the Zags don’t play much defense, it’s hard to keep up with them.
Scouting the Volunteers: KenPom.com says that Tennessee’s identity can be found on the defensive side of the court, where the Volunteers have ranked as the best defensive team in the country for most of the season. This physical team, which imposes its will with a rotation of four bigs who aren’t afraid to pick up fouls while trying to swat your shot, gives opponents just 57.3 points per game. Repulsively, senior gatekeeper Santiago Vescovi is the motor that makes things go, particularly in the midst of a season-finishing injury to point watch Zakai Zeigler.
When scouting the Owls, FAU has excellent volume and percentage 3-point shooting. The Owls are quick players who also defend. However, this team’s depth is arguably its most significant feature. Bench minutes rank FAU among the nation’s leaders. Nine players average at least 15 minutes per game, and no one plays more than 26 minutes per game on average. Because of this, FAU is able to maintain a high defensive intensity and tempo throughout the game.
(3) Kansas State vs. Michigan State (7) Scouting the Wildcats: Markquis Nowell, a 5-8 point guard, is Kansas State’s heartbeat. He leads the Big 12 in both assists and steals this season and is the team’s second-leading scorer. Keyontae Johnson is a dynamic, physical wing who can score at all three levels, so Nowell and Johnson make a great team. The Wildcats don’t shoot well from three points, but they like to run and are great in transition. This fast-paced team has a lot of fast-break opportunities because they force 14.8 turnovers per game. Jerome Tang, a first-year coach, is a steady presence who could win National Coach of the Year for the remarkable turnaround he has orchestrated.
Scouting the Spartans: Tyson Walker and Joey Hauser, Michigan State’s leading scorers, both shoot better than 40% from three-point range for a team that ranks among the best in the nation in terms of outside shooting percentage. However, as the Spartans demonstrated in their victory over No. Marquette, the second-ranked team, can win even when their outside shots aren’t falling if they stay focused defensively. In that game, MSU only hit two of its 16 long-range attempts, but it prevailed 69-60 thanks to 16 forced turnovers and a 15-8 advantage in second-chance points. You want veterans like Walker and Hauser this time of year, and Tom Izzo is one of the greatest March coaches ever.