The Sweet 16 is finally here, and it with it comes the opportunity to backtrack and rethink the picks from my original bracket to match the current field.
Apart from a completely ravaged South Region, however, many of the projections I’d originally made are still in play; my retooled picks after two rounds still feature five of my projected Elite Eight teams, three Final Four teams and the national championship game participants.
SWEET 16 GAME PREVIEWS:
Loyola (Ill.)-Nevada | Texas A&M-Michigan | Kansas St-Kentucky | FSU-Gonzaga
Clemson-Kansas | W. Virginia-Villanova | Syracuse-Duke | Texas Tech-Purdue
Here are my updated bracket predictions for the Sweet 16 and beyond:
March Madness bracket predictions
Kentucky over Kansas State. We don’t know for certain if Jarred Vanderbilt will play for Kentucky, or Dean Wade for K-State. We know which team is better and more talented, either way.
Nevada over Loyola. The Nevada offense has so many weapons and such clever schemes, it’s hard to keep the Wolf Pack on the mat for 40 full minutes.
Gonzaga over Florida State. People who’ve watched the ACC all year are marveling that the Seminoles were able to win two games in this event. There’ll be no discussion about how they won three.
Michigan over Texas A&M. There’s a fair amount of revisionism now about A&M, that this resurgence has been building for weeks. … Nope— it was a one-day thing. The Aggies weren’t all that good in beating Providence. They were BRILLIANT against Carolina. Will they match that performance vs. UM?
Villanova over West Virginia. The one thing that favors West Virginia is that, for a change, they won’t be at a depth disadvantage. Villanova’s bench is only exceptional because that’s where they stash Donte DiVincenzo. There’s not a lot of trust yet beyond him. WVU has worn out against its best opponents, but maybe that doesn’t happen here.
Texas Tech over Purdue. Asking the Boilermakers to take down an elite team without Isaac Haas in the middle is asking too much.
Kansas over Clemson. KU needs a full dose of Udoka Azubuike to feel good about contending with a team playing as well as the Tigers. And there can’t be any more 1-of-7s out of Devonte’ Graham from this point on.
Duke over Syracuse. Everyone in the other three brackets is rooting against Duke — not out of habit, but out of hope they won’t have to contend with Bagley, Carter and Company.
Kentucky over Nevada. The Wildcats have been given a tremendous opportunity here. The only thing that might lead them to blow it is by considering how big an opportunity this is.
Michigan over Gonzaga. The truth: The Zags are more talented, are playing better and have more weapons. But Michigan is a terrific defensive team, and they were my original Final Four pick. So I’ll stick with it.
Villanova over Texas Tech. The Red Raiders don’t have the firepower to match up with Villanova.
Duke over Kansas. KU has played against zones before. They’ll do fine there. But if Trevon Duval is as engaged as he was in rounds 1 and 2, the Jayhawks won’t stop the Devils.
Villanova over Duke. Neither team is elite defensively. Both teams are overwhelming offensively. Because of Duke’s commitment to zone, the Wildcats can’t even count on trying to get Wendell Carter in perimeter mismatches. But they can rely on Jalen Brunson and hope his command of the game is too much for Duval to manage.
Michigan over Kentucky. UM’s Zavier Simpson might be the one player in college basketball who consistently can stay in front of UK’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
National championship pick: Villanova over Michigan
Final thought: The Wolverines’ defense can stop a lot of people, but it can’t stop all the people on Villanova’s side.