The first weekend is done, meaning that the cream of the crop has risen to the top (or something like that). Apparently, the Midwest Region didn’t get the memo though as the one seed, along with seeds 3-7 are all out. Even Houston, the two seed needed a complete collapse by Rutgers, in order to advance. The Cougars are now likely the favorites to win this region, although with an injured Dejon Jarreau, and a non-talent dominated team, that might even be questionable. Loyola-Chicago has the Final Four experience, thanks to their run in 2018, they seem like the pick for the majority of the people. Syracuse is looking to do a full 2016, going from on the bubble to in the Final Four. Meanwhile, Oregon State has gone from no one thinking about them, to winning five straight, including their first-ever Pac 12 Championship. This region has been wild, so if it goes as planned we could get a double-digit seed in the Final Four, let’s first break down the Sweet 16 games.
8.Loyola-Chicago vs. 12.Oregon State
2:40 PM ET on CBS
The Ramblers are looking to get back to the Final Four for the second time since 2018, which is incredible for a Missouri Valley program. The Ramblers have used their #2 ranked defense (according to KenPom) to get past Illinois and into the Sweet 16. Cameron Krutwig is the Nikola Jokic of the Missouri Valley, he’s an elite low-post scorer and passer, that has an extremely high basketball-IQ. Krutwig is joined by a collection of get-hot guards that can have any of them beat you on any game. For game one it was Braden Norris, for game two it was Lucas Williamson and Marquise Kennedy.
21 days ago, no one was thinking about Oregon State, yet the Beavers have used a five-game win streak to win their first-ever Pac 12 Tournament title and advance to the Sweet 16. Ethan Thompson is the team’s leader, he’s a good overall guard that can score, pass and rebound at a high-level. Jarod Lucas is an elite knockdown shooter who looks like a potential great scorer for the Beavers. The rest of the Beaver fever is mixed with a collection of players that have stepped up on different occasions.
The first Sweet 16 game of the day, looks like it will be a low-scoring game as neither team will look to push the tempo. The Beavers will have a legit shot at winning if they can get about 10 threes made in this game, given the low-possession game that will be on display. I will ride with the Ramblers to win this game, although I think this game will stay within two possessions.
Prediction: Loyola-Chicago 65 Oregon State 60
2.Houston vs. 11.Syracuse
9:55 PM ET on TBS
The Houston Cougars are in this Sweet 16 thanks in large part due to a late-game collapse by Rutgers and their elite offensive rebounding. The Cougars run a three-guard, two-big lineup where the guards are all good shotmakers and the bigs all are elite at crashing the glass. American Player of the year Quentin Grimes has been playing at an All-American level this season, he’s developed his scoring to an elite level. Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, and Dejon Jarreau (although hobbled with an injury) all can score at a high-level on any given evening.
Syracuse barely got into the NCAA Tournament field, the Orange went from the wrong side of the bubble to an 11 seed avoiding the play-in game, thanks to a strong finish. Of course, when it comes to a 2-3 zone in March, no one knows how to handle it, and as a result, the Orange are back in the Sweet 16. Jim Boeheim’s son, Buddy Boeheim has developed as an elite scoring wing, he’s scored 55 points in their first two NCAA Tournament games. The rest of the team is filled with solid scorers like Joe Girard, Quincy Gurrier, and Robert Braswell, who can get their own as well, but Buddy is the star of this team.
I think from a toughness and physicality standpoint, the advantage is heavily in the Cougars’ favor, you can reasonably expect them to control this game on the offensive glass. That said, there is something about Syracuse, Boeheim, and the 2-3 zone that makes the Orange very alive for this game. I’m rolling with the Cougars in a low-possession, grind-it-out game but don’t be surprised when the Orange advance to the Elite Eight once again.
Prediction: Houston 69 Syracuse 65