In many ways, this has been an unpredictable first weekend — Middle Tennessee’s historic upset of Michigan State, Northern Iowa’s one-of-a-kind collapse, rare NCAA tournament wins for Yale and Hawaii.
At the same time, the Sweet 16 field is totally predictable. All four No. 1 seeds advanced to the second weekend. Blue bloods like Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and Indiana are in every bracket. The lowest-seeded teams to make it this far are familiar names — Wisconsin, Syracuse and Gonzaga.
As the NCAA Tournament moves into its second weekend, this is a perfect time look back at Athlon’s picks for the 2015-16 season. Like many college basketball coaches looking back on their own seasons, we saw some things we liked and some things we didn’t.
Our preseason No. 1 team (Kentucky) is already out of the field. Our preseason No. 2 team (Duke) played with fire against UNC Wilmington and Yale, but still advanced to the second round.
Yet, Kentucky is the only team in our top preseason seven that didn’t reach the Sweet 16.
We’ll take that.
Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of how Athlon’s preseason college basketball preview stacked up with the Sweet 16 and the overall field.
• Athlon had 13 teams from the Sweet 16 in our preseason top 25. Miami, Notre Dame and Syracuse are the only Sweet 16 teams we did not have in our preseason top 25, though we projected all three in the field.
Here’s how our top 25 compared with the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament:
Athlon's Top 25 in the Sweet 16
Other Athlon Top 25 Teams
No. 2 Duke
No. 1 Kentucky
Lost to Indiana in the second round
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 8 Arizona
Lost to Wichita State in the first round
No. 4 Maryland
No. 12 Michigan State
Lost to Middle Tennessee in the first round
No. 5 Virginia
No. 13 Cal
Lost to Hawaii in the first round
No. 6 Kansas
No. 14 Wichita State
Lost to Miami in the second round
No. 7 Iowa State
No. 15 Vanderbilt
Lost to Wichita State in the First Four
No. 9 Oklahoma
No. 16 Purdue
Lost to Little Rock in the first round
No. 10 Villanova
No. 18 UConn
Lost to Kansas in the second round
No. 11 Gonzaga
No. 20 Butler
Lost to Virginia in the second round
No. 17 Indiana
No. 22 Michigan
Lost to Notre Dame in the first round
No. 19 Wisconsin
No. 23 Louisville
No. 21 Oregon
No. 24 SMU
No. 25 Texas A&M
• Athlon's preseason bracket predicted 43 of the 68 teams in the field. Among the 25 teams Athlon predicted to be in the field that didn’t make it were the two ineligible teams that would have made the field under normal circumstances (Louisville and SMU). The Mustangs were banned form the postseason Sept. 30, and the Cardinals announced their self-imposed ban in February.
Our preseason picks included eight regular season champions in one-bid leagues that were upset in conference tournaments: North Florida (Atlantic Sun), Hofstra (Colonial), UAB (Conference USA), Valparaiso (Horizon), San Diego State (Mountain West), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Texas Southern (SWAC) and New Mexico State (WAC).
A generous reading, then, would say Athlon pinpointed 53 NCAA Tournament-caliber teams: The 43 teams that actually made the field, the two teams that were banned from the post season and eight one-bid conference champions.
• Athlon missed on nine teams from major conferences that made the field as at-large bids. Seeding-wise, Seton Hall was our biggest miss. The Pirates won the Big East tournament and earned No. 6 seed, but lost to Gonzaga in the first round. We projected Seton Hall as the No. 8 team in the Big East and going to the NIT. USC probably was the biggest overall miss, as Athlon picked the Trojans to finish 11th in the Pac-12. Andy Enfield's team ended up making the tournament safely as a No. 8 seed.
These are the major teams that we projected for the NIT or worse that made the NCAA Tournament:
What actually happened...
Eighth in Pac-12, NIT
No. 8 seed, lost to No. 9 UConn
10th in ACC, NIT
No. 10 seed, lost to No. 7 Wisconsin
Eighth in Big East, NIT
No. 6 seed, lost to No. 11 Gonzaga
Seventh in A-10
No. 8 seed, beat No. 9 Cincinnati, lost to No. 1 Oregon
Seventh in AAC
No. 10 seed, lost to No. 7 Iowa
Eighth in Big 12
No. 8 seed, lost to No. 9 Butler
Fourth in AAC, NIT
No. 11 seed, lost to No. 11 Michigan
11th in Pac-12
No. 8 seed, lost to No. 9 Providence
Fourth in A-10, NIT
No. 10 seed, lost to No. 2 Oklahoma
• Athlon predicted seven major teams to make the field, but they ended up in the NIT or worse (not counting Louisville and SMU)
What actually happened...
Fifth in SEC, NCAA First Four
Tied for eighth in SEC, NIT
Sixth in ACC, NCAA second round
11th in ACC, NIT
Fourth in Big East, NCAA second round
Eighth in Big East
Fourth in SEC, NCAA second round
Tied for third in SEC
Ninth in ACC, NCAA First Four
13th in ACC
Second in A-10, NCAA first round
Seventh in A-10
Fourth in Pac-12, NCAA second round
10th in Pac-12