Louisville is looking every bit the part of a title contender, other top teams not so much
The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament has caused us to rethink some things, specifically all those brackets with Gonzaga, New Mexico and Georgetown making deep runs.
We’ve learned a little bit -- we know where Florida Gulf Coast actually is, apart from, you know, the Gulf Coast of Florida. We know La Salle is actually pretty good, despite being one of the last teams in the field.
But some things remain the same in our reassessment of the final 16 teams in the field. Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed to start the Tournament, is looking every bit the favorite as is preseason No. 1 Indiana.
Here’s our reevaluation of the Sweet 16.
SWEET 16 POWER RANKINGS
1. Louisville (Midwest)
Coach: Rick Pitino (10-0 in the Sweet 16, 6-4 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: The Cardinals’ press has hit its stride, with opponents averaging 21.4 turnovers since the start of the Big East Tournament. If that’s not enough, the Cards’ offense is doing just fine, too. Russ Smith scored 50 combined points in the first weekend while Louisville as a team shot 56.9 percent against North Carolina A&T and Colorado State.
Bad news: Louisville’s regional includes a red-hot Oregon team and either Michigan State or Duke.
Breakout: Montrezl Harris, who was released from his letter of intent at Virginia Tech less than a year ago, has been integral in the postseason. After scoring 20 against Syracuse in the Big East title game, Harris scored 19 points in 36 minutes in the first weekend.
Related: Midwest Region Preview
2. Indiana (East)
Coach: Tom Crean (1-1 in the Sweet 16, 1-0 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: Indiana demolished James Madison as it should have. The Hoosiers showed good resilience in a matchup against Temple where the Owls’ tempo forced IU to prove it could win a game without scoring 60 points -- the Hoosiers had been 0-3 when scoring less than 60 this year. Khalif Wyatt scored 31 on Indiana, but the rest of the team scored 21 on 9-of-38 shooting.
Bad news: Jordan Hulls played only 19 minutes against Temple due to a shoulder injury. The Hoosiers don’t have the greatest depth, so this will be worth watching.
Breakout: It was against overmatched James Madison, but freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell’s surprising scoring output (16 points) was good to see for an aspiring national champion.
Related: East Regional Preview
3. Michigan (South)
Coach: John Beilein (1-1 in the Sweet 16, 0-1 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: The Wolverines, who stumbled late in the season, won their first weekend games by a combined 40 points. Michigan had little trouble with Nate Wolters and even less against VCU’s defense.
Bad news: Trey Burke had seven assists in each game, but he went 2 of 12 from the field against South Dakota State and had seven turnovers against VCU.
Breakout: Freshman Mitch McGary gave Michigan a much-needed physical presence, especially with an upcoming matchup against Jeff Withey. McGary had 21 points and 14 rebounds against VCU.
Related: South Region Preview
4. Ohio State (West)
Coach: Thad Matta (3-2 in the Sweet 16, 2-1 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: The seas parted for the Ohio State to have easiest path to the Final Four, at least as far as the seeds are concerned. Arizona is the top team left in the West, and the Wildcats were shaky for most of the season. After that, it’s either Wichita State or La Salle.
Bad news: There’s no shame in going down to the wire with Iowa State. Aaron Craft missed the front end of two one-and-ones and turned the ball over twice late to put the Cyclones back into the game, but he atoned for it with his game-winning shot.
Breakout: Sam Thompson scored 20 points and 10 rebounds against Iona, but LaQuinton Ross’ 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting against Iowa State may be more encouraging. And Craft’s 18 points was his fourth-highest scoring total of the season.
Related: West Region Preview
5. Michigan State (Midwest)
Coach: Tom Izzo (7-3 in the Sweet 16, 6-1 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: Michigan State cruised past Valparaiso and then made easier work of Memphis. Adreian Payne was at his best against Memphis with 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Michigan State’s passing down low and rebounding stood out against the Tigers.
Bad news: The Spartans’ 17 turnovers against Valpo and 18 against Memphis was alarming for a team with Final Four aspirations.
Breakout: Michigan State gets a two-fer here: Derrick Nix took advantage of a size advantage to score 23 points with 15 rebounds against Valpo, and freshman guard Gary Harris scored a season-high 23 against Memphis.
6. Duke (Midwest)
Opponent: Michigan State
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (12-8 in the Sweet 16, 11-1 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: Doug McDermott scored 21 points against Duke, but it wasn’t easy, especially in the second half. The Creighton star went 4 of 16 from the field. It was an uneven effort against Creighton offensively, but the Blue Devils had the scoring depth to counter the Bluejays.
Bad news: Ryan Kelly scoring eight points against Albany and then scored one point while fighting through foul trouble against Creighton. It will be tough to get through Michigan State and Louisville/Oregon without Kelly at full speed.
Breakout: Rasheed Suliamon filled the gaps on the scoresheet against Creighton with 21 points, but Tyler Thornton was nearly as important with eight points and six rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench Sunday.
7. Florida (South)
Opponent: Florida Gulf Coast
Coach: Billy Donovan (5-1 in the Sweet 16, 3-2 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: The Gators defeated their first weekend opponents by a a combined 46 points, but the first was a No. 14 seed and the second was a No. 11 who fired its coach the next day. Worth noting, the last team Tubby Smith defeated was UCLA, which also fired its coach. Why is Florida this low? The Gators beat up on lesser teams all season. The first weekend was not totally unexpected.
Bad news: Florida let Minnesota chip away at a 21-point lead in the second half, which is a concerned for a team that failed to win close games all season.
Breakout: Mike Rosario has been frustrating to watch at times, but he carried Florida against Minnesota with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-9 from three-point range.
8. Oregon (Midwest)
Coach: Dana Altman (first Sweet 16)
Good news: Oregon defeated Oklahoma State and Saint Louis with all-around efforts in both games. The Ducks crushed both opponents on the boards, thanks to the play of Arsalan Kazemi while holding the Cowboys and Billikens to a combined 8 of 38 three-point shooting.
Bad news: Oregon didn’t have the resume of a No. 12 seed, but it didn’t have the resume of the top three teams in its region (Louisville, Duke and Michigan State), either. Will the Ducks fall to earth?
Breakout: Damyean Dotson was one of the top freshmen in the Pac-12, but he’s been at his best in the postseason. He went scoreless in a loss at Utah on March 9, but since then he’s averaging 16.8 points per game since then. He scored 17 against Oklahoma State and 23 against Saint Louis.
9. Miami (East)
Coach: Jim Larranaga (1-0 in the Sweet 16, 1-0 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: Between Larranaga’s dancing and Julian Gamble’s photobombing, Miami seems to be enjoying itself in the Tournament. The Hurricanes defeated Pacific 78-49 and survived Illinois 63-59 in the round of 32. Shane Larkin played the role of star as usual.
Bad news: Illinois kept itself in the game with 15 offensive rebounds against the Canes.
Breakout: Rion Brown has been able to offer a spark off the bench all season, adding his third 20-point game of the season with 21 against the Illini.
10. Syracuse (East)
Coach: Jim Boeheim (5-11 in the Sweet 16, 3-2 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: Syracuse trounced Montana for the biggest victory for a team seeded third or lower in the NCAA Tournament (47 points). In the second game, Syracuse held Cal’s best players, Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, to a combined 13 points.
Bad news: The second game was a little more spotty. Syracuse struggled to put away Cal despite the struggles of Crabbe and Cobbs. The Orange went 26 of 41 from the free throw line and went for 12 minutes without a field goal at one point.
Breakout: Baye Moussa Keita flourished in his matchup the the Cal frontcourt, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds. Most of Keita’s work came at the free throw line where the big man went 7 of 10.
11. Kansas (South)
Coach: Bill Self (7-2 in the Sweet 16, 2-5 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: Kansas responded to its close call with 16th-seeded Western Kentucky to defeat North Carolina 70-58 in a game that was not in question by halftime. Jeff Withey has led the way with a combined 33 points, 22 rebounds and give blocks.
Bad news: Ben McLemore was 0 for 9 against North Carolina and spent most of the second half on the bench. He’s 0 for 8 from three-point range in two Tournament games. The Jayhawks finished the weekend with five total three-pointers.
Breakout: Travis Releford filled the gaps left by McLemore, scoring 22 points against North Carolina with eight rebounds.
12. Arizona (West)
Opponent: Ohio State
Coach: Sean Miller (2-1 in the Sweet 16, 0-2 in the Elite Eight)
Good news: A popular upset pick in the round of 64, Arizona cruised past 11th-seeded Belmont and 14th-seeded Harvard.
Bad news: Do we know a whole lot about Arizona? The Wildcats were rarely challenged over the weekend, which can be a good thing. Arizona will be put to the test against Ohio State.
Breakout: A major question entering the postseason was the play of Mark Lyons. He’s playing like the seasoned Tournament veteran he is with 27 points against Harvard and 23 against Belmont
13. Marquette (East)
Coach: Buzz Williams (0-2 in the Sweet 16)
Good news: Vander Blue is emerging as one of the stars of this Tournament. He delivered the game-winner against Davidson and then scored 29 against Butler.
Bad news: Is Marquette living on borrowed time? The Golden Eagles defeated Davidson on a Wildcats meltdown, and Butler had its chances to beat Marquette thanks to a late turnover. Marquette has 14 assists to 24 turnovers in the Tourney so far.
Breakout: Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett had his best game since February with 13 points against Butler. He contributed 36 and 38 minutes off the bench in the first weekend.
14. Wichita State (West)
Opponent: La Salle
Coach: Gregg Marshall (first Sweet 16)
Good news: Talk about resilience. Wichita State trailed 49-41 and had two key players in foul trouble in the second half against Gonzaga, but came back to win 76-70. The reason was hot three-point shooting, but also defense in the first two games of the Tournament. Wichita State held Gonzaga and Pittsburgh to a combined 40 of 113 (35.4 percent) from the field and 9 of 49 from three-point range (18.4 percent).
Bad news: Wichita State had to play well to win, for sure, but how much did Gonzaga cough up an upset? The Shockers trailed by eight with less than 12 minutes to go. Wichita State’s 14 of 28 three-point shooting against Gonzaga was out of character (but, then again, so was the 2-of-20 performance against Pitt).
Breakout: Ron Baker, a redshirt freshman who missed a big chunk of the regular season with a foot injury, played 33 minutes and surprised Gonzaga with four three-pointers and 16 total points.
15. La Salle (West)
Opponent: Wichita State
Coach: John Giannini (first Sweet 16)
Good news: Ramon Galloway is one of the stars of the Tournament, scoring 24 points on Ole Miss, 19 on Kansas State and 21 on Boise State.
Bad news: La Salle played one bad half of basketball in three games, shooting 3 of 18 in the second half against Kansas State. Otherwise, La Salle shot 56.3 percent from the field.
Breakout: Known for its guard play, La Salle got a major lift from a forward. Jerrell Wright was one of the key players of the upset of Kansas State with 21 points and eight rebounds. He was extremely efficient, making all six shots from the field and 9 of 10 free throws.
16. Florida Gulf Coast (South)
Coach: Andy Enfield (first Sweet 16 appearance)
Good news: Florida Gulf Coast. In the Sweet 16. Everything about this story is good news. This is no fluke, either. FGCU led by as much as 19 against Georgetown in the second half and went on a 17-0 run against San Diego State late in the second half to seal the win.
Bad news: The secret’s out. We don’t know how Florida Gulf Coast is going to react if a good defensive team like Florida limits the alley oop/dunk game.
Breakout: The whole team is a breakout, but let’s highlight Florida Gulf Coast’s defense: The Eagles forced 14 Georgetown turnovers and 17 San Diego State turnovers, both above those team’s season averages.