Sweet 16/Elite 8 Primer

And… we’re back! The NCAA Tournament continues this week with great match-ups in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. A lot of the favorites may be knocked out of the Tourney, but that doesn’t mean we can’t remember their successful madness from the past. See: Mario Chalmers v. Derrick Rose in 2008…

The Schedule – 

Thursday:

  • South: Stanford (10-seed) v. Dayton (11-seed) – CBS – 7:15pm (Prediction: Stanford)
  • West: Wisconsin (2-seed) v. Baylor (6-seed) – TBS – 7:47pm (Prediction: Wisconsin)
  • South: Florida (1-seed) v. UCLA (4-seed) – CBS – 9:45pm (Prediction: Florida)
  • West: Arizona (1-seed) v. San Diego State – TBS – 10:17pm (Prediction: San Diego State)

Friday: Sweet Sixteen

  • Midwest: Tennessee (11-seed) v. Michigan (2-seed) – CBS – 7:15pm (Prediction: Michigan)
  • East: UConn (7-seed) v. Iowa State (3-seed) – TNT – 7:47pm (Prediction: UConn)
  • Midwest: Kentucky (8-seed) v. Louisville (4-seed) – CBS – 9:45pm (Prediction: Kentucky)
  • East: Virginia (1-seed) v. Michigan State (4-seed) – TNT – 10:17pm (Prediction: Michigan State)

Saturday: Elite Eight

  • South: TBA
  • West: TBA

Sunday: Elite Eight

  • Midwest: TBA
  • East: TBA

The Favorites –

Florida – Florida is the #1 team in the country and played like it thus far in the tournament. They’ve got an experienced squad led by seniors and a Coach who’s done this before. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago when Coach Billy Donovan won back-to-back titles with Florida in 2006 and 2007. This year’s team has been a dominating force in the tourney, especially with the play of senior guard Scottie Wilbekin. What should we expect from Florida? They’ll be tested, but unless there’s a shocking upset, expect the Final Four — this team is built to win the whole thing. 

Michigan State –  Timing, luck, hard work, good health — It’s a beautiful thing when everything comes together at the right time. And that is what appears to be happening for Michigan State. After a season of injuries, tough opponents and adversity, everything seems to be going right for Michigan State. Under the leadership of Coach Tom Izzo and the play of Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, Michigan State seems primed to bring another National Championship back to East Lansing. What should we expect from Michigan State? If they can get past Virginia in the Sweet 16 (and we think they will), expect them to ease past the Elite Eight and off to Dallas for the Final Four.  

The Contenders –

Virginia – Maybe it’s time we give Virginia a little more respect. The #1 seed in the East is a great team, but no one seems to think of them that way. They  dominated the ACC, and have performed well (on both sides of the court) in the tournament so far and yet we’re not really talking about them as the favorites. They are well coached by Tony Bennett, and they have tough leaders in Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon and very well could make it to the Final Four. What should we expect from Virginia? Virginia is good, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to beat a healthy and strong Michigan State team. Toughness might not be enough to overcome inexperience. 

Arizona – Remember that time the media said Arizona was done after the loss of Brandon Ashley? Well, Arizona didn’t listen. Don’t get me wrong, they miss Brandon Ashley, but they are doing just fine without him. After two strong opening games in the tournament, Coach Sean Miller and Nick Johnson and freshman Aaron Gordon look poised to lead their team onward into the Madness. What should we expect from Arizona? Maybe we’re bold, but the San Diego match-up is going to be closer than most think. Close enough, that they might just lose.

Wisconsin – Wisconsin is another Big Ten team doing well in March so far. They’ve been pretty solid all season and arguably deserved a 1-seed in this year’s tournament. After two fairly easy wins over two pretty decent teams, Wisconsin really hasn’t been tested which is exactly what the Sweet Sixteen is all about. Coach Bo Ryan, is pacing this team faster than usual on offense and they remain their standard strong selves on defense especially with Frank Kiminsky down low in the paint. What should we expect from Wisconsin? They’re playing a tough squad in Baylor, but they should advance to at least the Elite Eight.

Michigan – Just like last year, Michigan is back in the Sweet 16. And although they might look different, they are nonetheless using last year’s tournament experience and this year’s regular season play to propel them forward. They’ve got a star in Nik Stauskis and a great coach in John Beilein and look poised to continue to make a run in the post-season. What should expect from Michigan? Look, Michigan is good — they won the Big Ten and they are talented, but Tennessee is a tough match-up and appears to be on a mission. Let’s hope they’re ready…  

San Diego State – San Diego State is good, y’all. The West Coast teams may not necessarily get all the attention in the world, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as good. After a strong season in the Mountain West, veteran Coach Steve Fischer (once upon at time with the Runnin’ Rebels) and star player Xavier Thames look to lead the Aztecs to the Elite Eight. What should we expect from San Diego State? They will face a great defensive team in Arizona, but if they can get Xavier Thames going, they could definitely pull off the upset.

Louisville – Don’t look now, but last year’s champs are back. More than that, Louisville is gunning for their third straight final four and their second straight national championship. They are led by Coach Rick Pitino and three veteran players from last year’s title team including: Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell. Although they might have been in a weak conference this year, they look poised and ready to compete once again for a national championship. What should we expect from Louisville? These guys know how to win and they’ve been in high-pressure situations before. With that said, they face a peaking Kentucky team in the Sweet Sixteen. Did we mention that Kentucky is their biggest rival? So yeah, anything could happen… from losing their next game, to winning the whole thing.

The Underdogs –

UCLA – It’s no surprise that UCLA made the Sweet Sixteen, but that doesn’t mean they are going to win the whole thing. They have a good coach in former Indiana legend Steve Alford and a great offense lead by the talented Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. What should we expect from UCLA? It’s not that they can’t beat Florida on any given night, it’s just that Florida is a better team and we don’t think this will be their night.

Baylor – Once upon a time, there was talk that the Big 12 was the best conference in this year’s NCAA. After the end of the first weekend in the tournament, we were only left with two teams from that conference. That doesn’t mean that Baylor isn’t a good team, but it does mean the Big 12 might have been slightly overrated. Baylor has looked strong, especially after they dominated Creighton in their third round game, but there’s no telling that will be enough to carry them further into the Elite Eight. What should expect from Baylor? Isiah Austin and the entire team have looked strong, but they face a tough test in a steady Wisconsin team that is ready to get in their way.

Kentucky – Talk about peaking at the right time. After beginning the pre-season as #1, Kentucky went through what many young teams go through: growing pains. The thing is, growing pains are not exactly acceptable in Big Blue Nation. Luckily, the Wildcats are surging at the right time. With all-star playing by freshman Julius Randle and solid playing by the Harrison twins, Kentucky is back in the fold and looking to get Coach John Calipari his second National Championship. After defeating Wichita State, they look like they could do it. What should we expect from Kentucky? They face their biggest rival in Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen, but if they can get past them, then all cards are on the table.

Connecticut – UConn is more than a one man show, but one talented player stands above the rest. Shabazz Napier is really really good. Coach Kevin Ollie has done a good job with his squad, and Napier has put the team on his back. With that said, they still have a long road ahead. What should we expect from Connecticut? They face another good team (Iowa State), with a great player in DeAndre Kane, and it’s quite possible this game could come down to who can carry his team the farthest.

Iowa State – Iowa State was one of the best teams in the Big 12, and proved it when they knocked off Kansas in the conference tournament and went onto to win the title. They faced a tough break when they lost Georges Niang to a season ending injury but under the amazing play of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. What should we expect from Iowa State? After a comeback win over UNC in the third round, Iowa State proved they can be resilient under pressure. Will that be enough to go onward in the tournament? Time will tell.

The Cinder(f)ellas –

Stanford – When people think of Stanford, they generally think of great football and women’s hoops, and good overall athletics. So where does that leave men’s hoops? Well, let’s just say people are starting to talk. They’ve got a good coach in Johnny Dawkins, a great player in Dwight Powell, and are built around a wise, upperclassmen-led big team that plays gritty defense. They’ve surprised us all after beating New Mexico and Kansas in their opening games, and look ready to continue the ride. What should we expect from Stanford? They’ve got a good shot at winning in the Sweet Sixteen when they take on another Cinderella in Dayton. If they get past Dayton, they will have to play Florida or UCLA next which would without a doubt be tough. 

Dayton – Don’t believe in Dayton? Don’t worry, they believe in themselves. After defeating in-state rival Ohio State and then upsetting Syracuse in their first 2 games, Dayton doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. A true Cinderella, they’ve been playing great basketball as of late but whether this magic is sustainable is the key question. What should we expect from Dayton? Although it’s not a given they can beat Stanford, if they can overcome their size. After that, they will need some serious glass slippers with a strong heel if they have to face Florida or UCLA.

Tennessee – After reviewing the scores of Tennessee’s first round games, it seems weird to call them a Cinderella. The thing is… while UMass and Mercer have talent, and while Tennessee is playing well, they still have a lot to prove. What should we expect from Tennessee? They are playing like a team on a mission and it’s definitely possible that they could take down Michigan, but it won’t be easy and they will have to show up prepared.

 

NCAA Tournament Primer

March Madness is as fun as it sounds, but it can also be intimidating — Let us guide you through it! To get you even more excited, remember the time that Christian Laettner hit the greatest shot in NCAA Tournament history? Here’s a refresher…

The Basics (Survival Guide)

Where can I find a bracket?

  • That’s an easy one, the bracket can be found here.

How does this whole thing work?

Here’s the gist of it: The NCAA Tournament features 68 teams all competing for a shot at the National Championship.

  • Eight teams must play in the First Four, aka the play-in games to get 4 wildcard spots on March 18th and 19th to get into the official opening weekend of the tournament.
  • This round is technically called the second round and kicks off on with 64 teams on Thursday, March 20 and Friday, March 21. From here, it’s a full on frenzy of basketball, with great games back to back and often at the same time.
  • The madness continues in the third round on Saturday, March 22 and Sunday, March 23 as the second round winners move onto their next games.
  • By Sunday night, we will be left with 16 teams that will move onto the Sweet Sixteen that kicks off Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28 and then onto the Elite Eight that takes place Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30.
  • From here, we’ve got your Final Four, which takes place in Arlington, Texas on Saturday, April 5.
  • The last two standing will play for the National Championship on Monday, April 7.

What do I really need to know?

  • There are four regions (East, West, South and Midwest), and each features 16 teams — a total of 64 (after the play-in games conclude). The way the seeding works is that each region will have a 1 seed through 16 seed. The lower seeds (such as 1) are considered better teams, and the higher seeds (such as 16) are considered worse. In the opening weekend, when the second round games kick off, you can tell who will play by doing simple math — everything adds up to 17 — so 1 plays 16, 8 plays 9, 3 plays 14, etc.
  • Given all of this information, how do you predict what will happen? That’s the thing — you really can’t. It helps if you live and breathe college hoops, but that doesn’t mean you will necessarily get it right. Something crazy always happens. What’s more exciting than that??

Our Insights (How to Sound like an Expert)

East (New York)

  • The East region is definitely not the toughest in the bracket. Don’t get us wrong, there are really good teams, but compared to the other regions, it’s a little bit light. Virginia may be a strong top seed but don’t count out a finally healthy Michigan State team to make a run to the Final Four. Look out for a tough Harvard squad to make a potential run to the Sweet Sixteen and don’t forget about a talented Iowa State (From a very good Big 12 league) playing with something to prove.
  • Sweet Sixteen predictions: Memphis, Michigan State, Iowa State, UConn

West (Anaheim)

  • The West region has some of the most interesting potential match-ups in the bracket. Arizona is a really good squad but if they meet Oklahoma State in the second round they could be trouble. Nebraska is playing great and could prove to be a Cinderella as an 11 seed. Wisconsin might be slightly overrated as a 2 seed but based on their potential path, it seems unlikely that they’ll have too much trouble reaching the Sweet Sixteen.
  • Sweet Sixteen predictions: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wisconsin

South (Memphis)

  • The South region has the overall #1 seed in Florida, but is probably the second toughest side of the bracket. If Joel Embiid gets healthy for Kansas, things could get especially interesting. It’s hard to predict what Syracuse will do — whether they can hit their stride will be a key question.
  • Sweet Sixteen predictions: Florida, VCU, Kansas, Dayton

Midwest (Indianapolis) 

  • The Midwest is the toughest region, and by that we mean really tough. Duke, Louisville and Michigan were all in the conversation for 1-seeds in the past week and somehow ended up in the same side of the bracket in the region that has been affectionately called the “bracket of death.” Louisville has been a big topic of conversation as many question how they are such a low seed. Here’s the thing, they didn’t really beat anyone good and were in a very poorly ranked conference.  On another note, Wichita State’s reward for going undefeated at 34-0 might be a potential game with a surging Kentucky team. Wait a second, that’s not a reward…
  • Sweet Sixteen predictions: Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Texas

The Schedule (Rounds 2&3 — March 20&21 and March 22&23)

Where do I watch?

  • The games will be staggered slightly throughout Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and will be on CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV. You can also watch every game online here.

Round 2 — Must Watch Thursday:

All of the games are great, but here are a few that stand out…

  • 6 seed Ohio State v. 11 seed Dayton (March 20th, 12:15pm – CBS)
  • 2 seed Wisconsin v. 15 seed American (March 20th, 12:40pm – truTV)
  • 5 seed Cincinnati v. 12 seed Harvard (March 20th, 2:10pm – TNT)
  • 5 seed Saint Louis v. 12 seed NC State (March 20th, 7:20pm – TNT)
  • 4 seed Louisville v. 13 seed Manhattan (March 20th, 9:40pm – TNT)

Round 2 — Must Watch Friday:

Definitely try to catch all of the games, but these could be potentially awesome…

  • 3 seed Duke v. 14 seed Mercer (March 21st, 12:15pm – CBS)
  • 6 seed Baylor v. 11 seed Nebraska (March 21st, 12:40pm – truTV)
  • 3 seed Creighton v. 14 seed La-Lafayette (March 21st, 3:10pm – truTV)
  • 8 seed Gonzaga v. 9 seed Oklahoma State (March 21st, 4:40pm – TNT)
  • 6 seed UNC v. 11 seed Providence (March 21st, 7:20pm – TNT)
  • 8 seed Kentucky v. 9 seed Kansas State (March 21st, 9:40pm – CBS)
  • 4 seed UCLA v. 13 seed Tulsa (March 21st, 9:57pm – truTV)

Round 3 — Looking ahead to Saturday and Sunday:

We can’t say for sure but…this year could feature a lot of Cinderellas! 

  • Depending on who wins, there could be a lot of fun scenarios. There is no doubt that there could be surprises, but having peaking teams like Kentucky and Oklahoma State as 8/9 seeds is not good news for the 1 seeds in each of their brackets. Take our predictions with a grain of salt, sometimes when you predict upsets, all of the top seeds win. On the other hand, if you don’t pick any upsets, you will regret it. Basically, just have fun with your picks!

Our Tips (Do’s and Don’ts) 

  • Do — Be brave with your picks! If you’re nervous, make a bracket based on logic and one based on your heart.
  • Don’t — Pick a 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed (maybe it will happen someday but for now…)
  • Do — Pick one 2 seed to lose to a 15 seed (Bold picks can be fun)
  • Don’t — Choose based on favorite colors or coolest mascots (get a little more creative than that!)
  • Do — Watch the games, it’s exciting to get in on the fun!
  • Don’t  — Just watch the basketball, pay attention to the phenomenal human interest stories too
  • Do — Plan some watch parties with college hoops themed snacks
  • Don’t — Forget that a 12 seed often beats a 5 seed
  • Do — Enter a bracket challenge!
  • Don’t — Miss One Shining Moment — this doesn’t happen until April 7, so don’t worry, we’ll remind you 🙂

Players to Watch (Names to Know)

There’s no doubt new stars will be born, but here are the headliners to keep an eye on…

  • Jabari Parker, Duke – Extraordinary freshman phenom and Duke’s best player (amazing to watch)
  • Andrew Wiggins, Kansas – Incredible talent and likely top 3 pick in the NBA draft (he’s awesome)
  • Aaron Craft, Ohio State – Tough as nails senior guard who has been at Ohio State forever (seriously)
  • Joel Embiid, Kansas – Started playing bball at 16 – out with a back injury for the opening weekend (7-footer)
  • Shabazz Napier, UConn – One of the best point guards in the country who could carry his team (winner)
  • Fred Vanvleet, Wichita State – One of the reasons the Shockers went 34-0 (no turnovers here)
  • Nik Stauskas, Michigan – Don’t leave him open for threes – he will hit them (44.5% – high for hoops) 
  • Marcus Paige, UNC – Smooth point guard who UNC needs to be at his best for his team to go far (clutch)
  • Doug McDermott, Creighton – The player of the year candidate is the best scorer in college hoops (coach’s son)
  • Russ Smith, Louisville – Ville’s ‘Russdiculous’ leader wants to lead his team to back-to-back titles (2013 champs)
  • Rodney Hood, Duke – Duke’s leader and second best player is an offensive dream (he’s the best)
  • Melvin Ejim, Iowa State – The Big 12 player of the year is out to prove that Iowa State is legit (they’re good)
  • Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – Center of controversy v. Texas Tech but nothing to debate about his skills (toughness)
  • Scottie Wilbekin, Florida – Overcame a suspension to lead Florida to the overall #1 seed (Great senior team)
  • Gary Harris, Michigan State – Gifted player on both sides of the court (a la defense and offense)
  • Aaron Gordon, Arizona – Another talented freshman who might be an NBA lottery pick (lots of potential)
  • Malcolm Brogdon, UVA – Along with teammate Joe Harris, his leadership has led UVA to a top seed (resilient)
  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin – 7-footer who protects the rim for Wisconsin (All Big Ten 1st team)
  • Julius Randle, Kentucky – Best player on Kentucky, and an outstanding rebounder in the paint (powerful)
  • Kyle Anderson, UCLA – One of the most difficult players to guard because of his height and skills (smooth)

Talk that Talk (Stories on Stories on Stories!) 

NBA All-Stars Thoughts
So you want to win $1 billion dollars…
NBA superstars share their logic and predictions for the brackets

Marketing Madness 
Branding is everything 
Basketball is just the beginning of why business loves March

Rock Chalk Duo
The young stars align in Kansas
Kansas is hopeful that freshmen Andrew Wiggins and a hopefully healthy Joel Embiid can lead them to Dallas

Advice from JJ
March Madness is nothing new to JJ Redick
JJ Redick shares his tips on how to pick the perfect bracket for this years NCAA Tournament

That’s all for now — we’ll be back, but for now: GOOD LUCK!