Sweet 16: Re-seeding March Madness survivors, starting with Duke, Kansas and Villanova
The bracket is a beautiful catastrophe -- so who are the best teams left?
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As we've learned from this year's NCAA Tournament, seeding means very little once the games begin. Just ask No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago, which finds itself in the Elite Eight after another clutch win. But who are the best teams left?
Taking a scan of the Sweet 16, I must admit that putting these teams in order is as challenging as ever. It's not an exceeding strongly final 16, but the bottom 75 percent is interchangeable.
Half of the teams seeded 3 or better are out. Contrast this to last year when 12 of the top 16 teams seeded by the committee made the Sweet 16. Right now, the South is historic: The first regional to ever not have a top-four seed mke the second weekend. Kentucky could get to the Final Four without playing anything higher than a 9 seed! The West, like the South, doesn't have a 1 or a 2 alive. The East held its lines: a 1, 2, 3 and 5. The Midwest has Syracuse crashing the party, but top seeds Duke and Kansas still stand tall.
So it's time for a seed scrub and a re-ranking of the field. A reminder here that I look at how teams played in their past two games but also factor in what they did in the regular season. It's a combination of resume, first weekend performance and my opinion on how good I think these teams are.
|Actual seed: No. 1 in the East Regional. Not much an argument against the 32-4 Wildcats. They're one of two No. 1 seeds left in the field. They rank as the top team in in the field in every mainstream metric. Their offensive efficiency is first in college basketball. They have four future NBA players, at least, and are loaded with veterans. This is the best team in the sport still eligible to win the 2018 national title. It also has the highest floor of any of the 16 teams. You will have to beat Villanova because it will not beat itself. It flicked away Radford and then made putty of Alabama in the first weekend.|
|Actual seed: No. 2 in the Midwest Regional. The Blue Devils (28-7) played in Pittsburgh the first weekend, right there with Villanova, and looked just as good. The Blue Devils have to be No. 2 in seed at this point. Their zone defense is paying dividends much more often than not. The bigs (Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter) are in a groove. Grayson Allen's not playing consistently well but he is still doing a lot more than what we saw early in the season. Trevon Duval faced a guard-heavy URI team and had only one turnover. Rams coach Dan Hurley said Duke looks like it has five first round picks. It's not as dependable as Villanova, but it's equally as dangerous.|
|Actual seed: No. 1 in the Midwest Regional. The Jayhawks got past Penn, 76-60, then held off Seton Hall, 73-69. The Penn game was close for three quarters of it. KU at No. 3 is a season-long view of this team. It's 29-7 and has beaten a lot of good clubs. It's still one of the most flawed Kansas teams of the past 10 years, yet the resume is too good to drop KU lower than third at this point. Devonte' Graham is under Player of the Year consideration here at CBS Sports. Malik Newman's performance vs. Seton Hall was exactly what the Jayhawks need to make it to San Antonio. Udoka Azubuike fighting through injury was also impressive.|
|Actual seed: No. 2 in the East Regional. The Boilermakers would be third if not for the elbow issue with Isaac Haas. Purdue (30-6) remains my national champion pick; I think it's got the shooters to go all the way. Matt Painter's team is the No. 2 3-point shooting team and No. 2 offense in college basketball. Matt Haarms is learning on the job, though. The wavy-haired freshman played a season-high 29 minutes vs. Purdue on Sunday. That Butler game was close but it never seemed like Purdue was in trouble. Vincent Edwards is due for a big moment this Friday vs. Texas Tech, I think.|
|Actual seed: No. 3 in the East Regional. This team is filled with veteran athletic talent. And it's got a freshman in Zhaire Smith who is one of the best dunkers in the sport. The East is obviously the strongest region at this point. Three of the top five teams are playing in Boston this weekend. The Red Raiders are 26-9 and have sprung back after losing four of their final five regular season games. TTU has wins over four Sweet 16 teams: Kansas, Kansas State, West Virginia and Nevada. It's got the No. 4-ranked per possession offense. Chris Beard's guys are better than people are giving them credit for, still, and can absolutely head home to Texas for the Final Four.|
|Actual seed: No. 4 in the West Regional. Now at 32-4, the Bulldogs are poised to make back-to-back Final Fours thanks to a West Regional that's broken their way. To think, this was going to be a down year for the Zags. Hardly. They've validated their No. 6 slot not on with the win total and victories this season over tournament teams Ohio State, Texas and Creighton, but also because their tight wins over UNC Greensboro and Ohio State brought out why this program is good year after year. Zach Norvell Jr. had 28 against the Buckeyes -- a season-high. It shots 59 percent from 2 and isn't turnover-prone. The favorite in Los Angeles to get to San Antonio.|
|Actual seed: No. 3 in the West Regional. If the Zags don't win the West, Michigan probably will. The Wolverines are lucky to be here; they had no business winning that game vs. Houston on Saturday. But here they are. The top-ranked defense left in the field is riding high after Jordan Poole's tournament-saving shot. Watch it again. That gets better every time. When it initially happened I didn't think it was a top-20 buzzer beater in tournament history. I think I've changed my mind on that. Overall, Michigan's won 11 straight. The defense is the reason. From a resume perspective, owns wins over tournament teams Texas, Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and UCLA.|
|Actual seed: No. 5 in the East Regional. The fact I have the Mountaineers eighth has me doubting myself. WVU was a half-trendy upset pick against Murray State. It won 85-68. Then some wondered if Marshall could crazy it up against the Mountaineers. The final: 94-71. While "Press Virginia" gets a lot of chatter for its defense, the truth is this team has been better with the ball than without it this season. It beat Virginia this season, one of only three teams to do so. It is in the top half of the remaining 16 teams. Senior point guard Jevon Carter is not going out quietly.|
|Actual seed: No. 11 in the South Regional. At 30-5 with wins over Florida, Miami and Tennessee, the Ramblers are quickly shifting from Cinderella story to bona fide Final Four consideration. Porter Moser's team ranks in the top 15 in 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage. Clayton Custer is the perfect point guard for this system. You can't really phony your way to 30 wins if you come from the Missouri Valley. Sister Jean is the biggest story with the Ramblers, but I think there's more to come with this team. Custer hit a winner and so did Donte Ingram. Who's next up? Junior guard Marques Townes, your number could be next.|
|Actual seed: No. 7 in the South Regional. No team had a nuttier opening weekend the Nevada, which didn't miss a field goal in OT against Texas, a game it probably shouldn't have won, and then rallied from 22 down to beat Cincinnati. The 29-7 Wolf Pack have regular season wins over tourney teams Radford, Rhode Island, San Diego State and Davidson. Caleb and Cody Martin transferred from NC State and have clearly made the right choice. Nevada's done this without point guard Lindsey Drew. Impressive run. This was the best team in the Mountain West.|
|Actual seed: No. 5 in the South Regional. Think UK is too low? For reference, it ranks as the 10th best team of the 16 left at KenPom. The 26-10 Wildcats being 11th here speaks to how tight this field is between No. 4 and No. 12. Kentucky got a scare from Davidson and then ran away from Buffalo. John Calipari's squad has been able to win all but one game in the past month because its 3-point defense is the best of any team in the field. UK holds foes to 29.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Regular season wins over tournament teams: Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee.|
|Actual seed: No. 5 in the Midwest Regional. Tigers fans, I've got your team this low because of the injury to Donte Grantham. Through 19 games Clemson was 16-3. Since then it's 9-6. A fair ranking. But I will give credit to how well Clemson looked over the weekend. I thought New Mexico State would win with some comfort against the Tigers. Nah. Clemson took it 79-68. Then it destroyed -- I mean, burned and buried -- Auburn, 84-53. Wins over the field include Ohio State, Florida, Miami and North Carolina.|
|Actual seed: No. 7 in the West Regional. From preseason SEC favorite to mid-season letdown to the most impressive team in the first weekend of the tournament. Considering the opponents, the Aggies come out on top for me. Now at 22-12, Billy Kennedy's team will face Michigan in the midst of its strongest stretch of the season. West Virginia, Buffalo, Missouri, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Alabama all fell to this team this season. But there are 12 losses too.|
| Actual seed: No. 9 in the West Regional: Well, let's address this: |
I tweeted that after FSU fell in the ACC tournament but was still going to make it into the NCAAs. To me, the Seminoles didn't look equipped to win a game, certainly not two. Yeah, except now that's just what they've done. At 22-11, FSU got by No.1 Xavier thanks to a 12-point comeback in the final 10 minutes. Yet I'm still not sold on this team all that much. Nothing personal. It's not top-30 in offensive or defensive efficiency. It won at Florida, but other than that, didn't beat a tournament team in non-con play. But it does have two wins vs. teams still in the field. FSU needed three total overtimes to beat Syracuse and Clemson at home.
|Actual seed: No. 9 in the South Regional. Here's where we hit the drop-off. I'm ranking K-State 15 instead of 16 because Dean Wade said he expects to play in Thursday's game against Kentucky in Atlanta. Bruce Weber is in the fourth Sweet 16 of his life. The last time he was there was with Illinois in 2005, en route to the national title game. Here's why K-State can't be ranked higher: It didn't beat one team in non-conference play that made the NCAAs. In the Big 12, it went 0-7 against the three best teams, which are all still alive: Kansas, West Virginia and Texas Tech.|
|Actual seed: No. 11 in the Midwest Regional. At 23-13, the Orange are the easy pick to bring up the caboose. They've got the most losses of any team in the Sweet 16. They were the final team in the field on Selection Sunday. Jim Boeheim has said this team isn't great. But that zone is befuddling and can be a hex on certain teams in the tournament. The Orange held off Arizona State 60-56 in the First Four. Then they quietly ended sixth-seeded TCU's season 57-52. Against Michigan State, SU looked like it had a spell on Sparty. A hideous 55-53 win. How you make a Sweet 16 averaging 57 points, and scoring fewer points with each opponent being tougher than the last, is a mystery. Buffalo, Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson are this team's regular season wins over tournament competition. Now comes Duke, which held the Orange to a season-low 44 points in February.|
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