Well, technically, the tournament is almost over. With 48 of the 63 games played, we are in the end game of the famous March Madness tournament; what a ride it’s already been. As is the case with every single bracket except for one, my predictions did not come true in entirety. There remains one perfect bracket, the first ever bracket to stay correct through the first two rounds; you can view that bracket at NCAA’s website (they picked Gonzaga to win, so it won’t stay perfect.) The Sweet Sixteen begins on Thursday, which gives us time to predict the winners.
Florida State vs Gonzaga
Gonzaga wins, but it will be close. Florida State beat Virginia and held their own against Duke in the ACC tournament, but this year’s Gonzaga team is a different animal. Both teams are high scoring, so regardless of outcome, this game should be thrilling.
Texas Tech vs Michigan
Michigan but close, possibly overtime. Honestly, I don’t know either team well. Michigan has a height advantage, but not by much. Both teams seem to rely on strong defense rather than overwhelming offense; they both held their opponents to under 60 points in the first two rounds. I’d rather predict a close game than a blowout — seems more in line with the spirit of March Madness, no?
LSU vs Michigan State
Michigan State, not even close. LSU made it through the first two rounds by the skin of their teeth, beating Yale by five points and Maryland by two. Michigan State may have had a relatively close game with Bradley, but they have demonstrated all season long that their offensive prowess is largely unmatched. I imagine the game, like most in this tournament it seems, will be close in the first half but the Spartans will begin to edge the Tigers in the second portion of the game and pull away. If for some unfortunate reason you have to miss one of these games, this is the safe bet on not missing much.
Duke vs Virginia Tech
Duke but a close, classic match. No comment on how Duke managed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, other than my heart goes out to UCF (watch that game if you haven’t). Virginia Tech and Duke have a long, albeit subtle, basketball history. Duke dominates record-wise, and will continue that streak with a win here. Watch this game for the excitement of Duke’s lineup, including the name you already know: Zion Williamson.
Auburn vs UNC
UNC and it won’t be close. Auburn had an impressive showing against Kansas, but UNC is not Kansas and this game will be a statement by the Tar Heels about their desire to win the tournament. With some of the best players in the country on their roster, UNC will simply prove too much for Auburn to handle. It was a fun ride, but it has to end, Auburn fans.
Houston vs Kentucky
Too close to call, though in truth it’s more the heart wants one thing but the mind says another. Houston is back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1984 and, alongside Oregon, have become the fan favorite. Unlike Oregon, however, Houston has some serious potential against Kentucky. The Wildcats are one of the best teams out there, but they have suffered their share of defeat this season. It will take quite the performance, but Houston has a chance. One to watch if you’re a neutral fan.
Purdue vs Tennessee
Purdue by double digits. Tennessee has done nothing to show they can handle a higher seed; they barely beat Colgate (15) and Iowa (10), which makes me doubt they could stand up to Purdue (3). Purdue destroyed Villanova 87-61 and they’ll take that momentum through the Sweet Sixteen. Watch if you’re a fan of either team, otherwise this one won’t be memorable.
Oregon vs Virginia
Virginia by a lot. It was a good run, Ducks, but all good things come to an end. The dominance displayed against Wisconsin and UC Irvine was impressive, especially considering Bol Bol is out, but it’s practically a different game when you’re playing a top seed. As with half the state, I’ll be cheering for Oregon, even though I know there’s no real hope.