By Chris Carlson: After a wild and wacky opening weekend in the NCAA Tournament it will be very interesting to see how many underdogs advance in the rounds of 16 and 8. The madness of March was in full-effect no doubt but an argument could be made all 3 #1 seeds will qualify for the Final 4 and the majority of the favorites will win starting Saturday. Of course that’s why they play the games so let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
#1 Michigan vs. #4 Florida State: Even without the services of Isaiah Livers the Wolverines got by a high-scoring LSU squad in the 2nd round. Once Florida State separated from Colorado the Seminoles never looked back. Before the month of March came around Michigan looked the part of a National Champion. A few losses and a sizable injury now has them limping to Saturday’s matchup. If FSU delivers an overwhelming performance as they did a while back against Virginia they will win. The depth of Michigan will be enough to get the “W”.
The Pick: Michigan
#2 Alabama vs. #11 UCLA: The Bruins were one of the best teams in the PAC-12 for most of the year but ended the regular season on a 4-game slide so naturally they made it to the Sweet 16. Alabama was unbeaten in league play until they stumbled for a stretch but managed to find a groove and win the SEC conference title and tourney. Winners of 8 in a row the Crimson Tide will keep it rolling over UCLA in a competitive game that Alabama pulls away in the last 5 minutes or so.
The Pick: Alabama
The East Region Final Four Representative will be Michigan
#1 Gonzaga vs. #5 Creighton: The overall 1 seed saw Drew Timme score a career high 30 points in their win over Oklahoma. Coming into the big dance it seemed as though inconsistent play and distractions for Creighton would equate to an early exit. The Zags are loaded at all the key positions so unless they put up their worse effort they’ll advance here. Sometimes adversity has a way of bringing a program closer so we can’t completely rule out Creighton. Las Vegas giving 13.5 points to Gonzaga may be on the extreme side but Gonzaga gets it done regardless of the final score.
The Pick: Gonzaga
#6 USC vs. #7 Oregon: The PAC-12 got no respect heading into March on a national level and one could argue for good reason based off the lack of success in the 2000’s especially #1 seeds. But all that is in the past and pretty much everyone should eat their crow and give credit to the league. The Trojans won the first and only meeting against the Ducks and that was without a huge game from big man Evan Mobley. Before losing to Oregon State in the PAC-12 tourney final, the Ducks won 11 out of 12. This will be a high-scoring game which favors USC as they are the better defensive team with a rim-protector.
The Pick: USC
The West Region Final Four Representative will be Gonzaga.
#1 Baylor vs. #5 Villanova: The Baylor Bears have all the ingredients to win a championship and are the clear favorite to advance out of the South Region. Villanova has the better coach and a built in culture of winning on the highest level. Nova got lucky with their round of 32 opponent but now its make or break time. Beyond Baylor being the more talented team without guard Collin Gillespie Villanova will need to play out of their minds in all areas. Competitive for a while Baylor should win comfortably when the clock reads zero.
The Pick: Baylor
#3 Arkansas vs. #15 Oral Roberts: The Hogs played Oral Roberts back in December and trailed by 10 at the half. The scoreboard said 11-point win to make it look like a clean run of the mill victory. Fast forward to late March and it would be stupid to discount the Golden Eagles after their impressive showing versus Ohio State and Florida. Oral Roberts will definitely need to start fast and this time not allow Arkansas to go 57-36 in the 2nd half. I’m guessing the Razorbacks will learn from the tape and keep Oral Roberts at arm’s length in route to the victory.
The Pick: Arkansas
The South Region Final Four Representative will be Baylor.
#2 Houston vs. #11 Syracuse: Many experts didn’t quite know what to think about the Cougars in a Covid-19 season. Jim Boeheim 2-3 zone is difficult to look good against especially if the Orangeman our knocking down shots on the other end. Both teams are known for defense so this will be a grind it out style. Houston beat Texas Tech early the season and managed to get by a pretty good Rutgers team in the second round. 5 days to drill and prepare for what Syracuse will throw at Houston is enough to sneak out an ugly win in overtime.
The Pick: Houston
#8 Loyola-Chicago vs. #12 Oregon State:
Here we go again just like 2018, Loyola-Chicago is back in the Sweet 16 and the Ramblers mean business. Oregon State earned their first NCAA tourney win since 1982 and then pulled off a huge upset over Oklahoma State in the round of 32. This podcaster is still very much in shock the Beavers beat the Cowboys. Two great stories here but only one team can advance to the Elite 8. It’s hard not to both believe in and root for Loyola-Chicago.
The Pick: Loyola-Chicago
The Midwest Region Final Four Representative will be Loyola-Chicago
Quick Hits & Opening Weekend Recap
-Abilene Christian’s major upset over #3 Texas in the last second made it 4 teams seeded 13 or higher heading to the round of 32 for the 1st time in history.
-Side Note: The Texas Longhorns had 23 turnovers in 60 possessions and still almost won the game.
-9 double-digit seeds making it to the round of 32 are the 2nd most in history.
-Loyola-Chicago moves to 15-5 all time in the NCAA tourney tying them with the Duke Blue Devils for the best winning percentage.
-Oral Roberts trip to the Sweet 16 as a #15 seed hasn’t happened since 2013 when Florida Gulf Coast (aka Dunk City) made it.
-For the 3rd straight time as a double-digit seed Syracuse advanced to the Sweet 16.
-Baylor has qualified to the Sweet 16 for the 5th time in school history with all 5 coming since 2010.
-The PAC-12 when 9-1 (not counting Oregon over VCU) with 5 of those victories coming as underdogs.
-After going 6-3 in the first round, the Big Ten fell flat on their faces with a 7-8 record overall and just 1 team in the Sweet 16.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio