HOUSTON — The Sweet 16 field is set, with only a pair of one seeds and two seeds advancing while a 15 seed in Princeton and a nine seed in Florida Atlantic find themselves playing meaningful basketball late into March. Madness indeed.
With Kansas, Purdue, Marquette, and Arizona all out of the tournament, the Locked on College Basketball podcast analyzes which remaining teams have the best chance of winning it all, while looking at this week's upcoming matchups.
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7) Michigan State vs. 3) Kansas State (6:30 PM ET on Mar. 23)
FanDuel odds: MSU -1.5
The last remaining of the eight Big Ten teams to make the dance, Michigan State will square off against a Kansas State squad picked to finish last in the Big 12 before the season. Markquis Nowell has been one of, if not the best, player throughout the NCAA Tournament for the Wildcats, succeeding at getting to the basket and distributing the ball despite his small frame.
Guard play wins in March, although Michigan State upset Marquette and star point guard Tyler Kolek their last time out. Kansas State may be the better team, but bet against Tom Izzo in March at your own peril.
8) Arkansas vs. 4) UConn (7:15 PM ET on Mar. 23)
FanDuel odds: UConn -3.5
The Razorbacks pulled off a surprising upset over No. 1 Kansas on Saturday, with veteran guard Ricky Council continuing to play the best basketball of his career. Arkansas has elite wing defenders in Jordan Walsh and Anthony Black, but they'll need the frontcourt to step up in order to take down Adama Sanogo and UConn.
Sanogo is the leading scorer through the first two rounds of the Big Dance, and until someone proves they can stop him this Huskies team should keep rolling to the Final 4.
9) Florida Atlantic vs. 4) Tennessee (9:00 PM ET on Mar. 23)
FanDuel odds: Tennessee -4.5
The Vols had little momentum heading into March Madness, losing in the SEC Tournament and playing without star point guard Zakai Zeigler who suffered a season-ending injury.
However, the Vols blew past a hot Duke team into the Sweet 16, where they will take on an upstart FAU squad that defeated Memphis and 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson to find themselves dancing into the second weekend.
It's hard to imagine Tennessee's defense won't carry them to victory in this one, even if their offense is inconsistent at times.
3) Gonzaga vs. 2) UCLA (10:45 PM ET on Mar. 23)
FanDuel odds: UCLA -2.5
The Zags are in the Sweet 16 for the eighth straight year, a streak only matched in the modern era by Duke (1998-2006) and North Carolina (1985-1993). They'll take on a UCLA team that lost Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark to a season-ending ankle injury and narrowly pushed past Northwestern in the second round.
However, Mick Cronin's team is among the best defensive squads in the country, and Gonzaga will have a hard time stopping Jaime Jaquez and Amari Bailey around the rim.
These two teams have played multiple elite NCAA Tournament games in the past, and Thursday evening should once again be more of the same.
5) San Diego State vs. 1) Alabama (6:30 PM ET on Mar. 24)
FanDuel odds: Alabama -7.5
The second biggest spread in the Sweet 16 belongs to the Crimson Tide, the number one overall seed entering the tournament. Nate Oats' team has played great so far in the big dance, and while they will have their hands full with an experienced, physical Aztecs team - the elite defense and shot creation from guys like Brandon Miller and Noah Clowney should make this another win for Alabama.
5) Miami vs. 1) Houston (7:15 PM ET on Mar. 24)
FanDuel odds: Houston -6.5
Miami easily dispatched Indiana to advance to the Sweet 16, and their guard play with Jordan Miller, Isaiah Wong, and Nijel Pack make them a very dangerous March opponent.
However, a healthy Houston team is nearly impossible to defeat, and they showed that in a 27-point second half spread over Auburn in the second round. As long as Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead are good to go on Friday, this should be another trip to the Elite 8 for Kelvin Sampson and the Coogs.
15) Princeton vs. 6) Creighton (9:00 PM ET on Mar. 24)
FanDuel odds: Creighton -9.5
The biggest spread of the week goes to the Blue Jays, who are taking on a plucky but very talented Princeton team. Princeton stunned Arizona in the first round before taking care of Missouri in Round 2. Now they'll have to worry about a Creighton team that boasts one of the most efficient offenses in the country, led by point guard Ryan Nembhard and center Ryan Kalkbrenner.
It's not easy to discount a team of destiny like Princeton, but this is a tough matchup and Creighton should advance.
3) Xavier vs. 2) Texas (9:45 PM ET on Mar. 24)
FanDuel odds: Texas -3.5
Xavier managed to advance to the Sweet 16 despite losing center Zach Freemantle to a season-ending injury. Souley Boum has hit big shots while Jack Nunge stepped up around the rim for Sean Miller's team.
Texas has looked like one of if not the best team in the dance, however, and as long as they are hitting their shots the guard trio of Marcus Carr, Tyrese Hunter, and Jabari Rice is as good as it gets. Advantage Longhorns.