The men’s Sweet 16 kicks off Saturday with four games, and four more on Sunday. Here’s one thing to watch on every team:
The Tide’s vicious top gear. Maryland experienced this up close on Monday, and when Alabama’s offense is at its very best—hoisting threes early in the shot clock and bombing them in from all over the court—it’s truly a sight to behold. Against the Terps, a 14–0 run took just 1 minute and 26 seconds from start to finish.
Justin Smith. The former Indiana big man has blossomed in Eric Musselman’s system, and he’s had an excellent tournament so far, scoring 20 points vs. Colgate and pouring in 29 vs. Texas Tech.
Davion Mitchell’s end-to-end dominance. The junior is one of the country’s top defenders, yet is also shooting 58.0% from two and 46.1% from three on a combined 259 shot attempts. He’s one of the more under-appreciated players in this tournament considering all he does for the Bears.
Mitch Ballock’s absurd range. The senior, who shoots 39.5% from three, has been known to pull up (and hit) from anywhere. With nothing to lose against Gonzaga, we expect him to let it fly.
Point-forward Scottie Barnes. The talented 6′ 9″ Barnes, a likely NBA lottery pick, was third in the ACC in assist rate.
Drew Timme’s handlebar mustache. His mom tried to get him to shave it, but it sounds like it’s sticking around. Stay tuned for updates in this saga.
Offensive rebounding. The Cougars do it at a better rate than all but one team in the country. Against the Syracuse 2–3 zone, they’ll be licking their chops.
Its defense. The Ramblers’ D is a thing of beauty to follow. Pay attention to their rotations and the on-ball ability of Lucas Williamson and Aher Ugack, in particular.
Mike Smith assists. The undersized, former Ivy League point guard has a great story to be starring at Michigan, and he had a 15-assist game in the Big Ten tournament.
Kevin Obanor. You know about super-scorer Max Abmas, but the Golden Eagles wouldn’t be here without Obanor’s huge tourney so far. And like Abmas, he’s played all 95 available minutes.
Chris Duarte. The senior has had an absolutely stellar year, and he would be a household name to broader college hoops fans if he played on the East Coast.
Roman Silva blocks. In 10 games before the NCAA tournament, the 7′ 1″ center had seven blocks total. He had seven combined in the Beavers’ first two games in Indianapolis. Can he keep it up?
Buddy Boeheim threes. Jim’s son has made at least five threes in five of his last six games. Pretty good stuff.
The chance to go from First Four to Final Four. No First Four team has made it all the way to the final weekend (or even the Elite Eight) since one of the very first ones, 2010-11 VCU. Can the Bruins join that list?
Its giant starting lineup. Andy Enfield starts four players ranging from 6′ 7″ to 7′ 0″, the tallest of which is the dominant Evan Mobley. No wonder this team is No. 1 in two-point defense.
The new role of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. With Collin Gillespie sidelined, the Wildcats have been using the 6′ 9″ sophomore in a facilitator role. So far, it’s been working.
We revisited men’s college basketball’s last unbeaten, 1975–76 Indiana, to get their thoughts on Gonzaga’s chase and more. (By Greg Bishop)
Who looks strongest heading into the women’s Sweet 16? We rank every team. (By Elizabeth Swinton)
Family, basketball and a sweet reunion: Mick Cronin and his father, Hep, are extra thankful for UCLA’s Sweet 16 run. (By Pat Forde)
Both Nate Oats and Eric Musselman have revived SEC basketball programs with a transfer-laden, fast-paced approach. (By Ross Dellenger)
Will double-digit seeds Oregon State and Syracuse keep rolling? We analyzed the remaining teams in the Midwest Region. (By Kevin Sweeney)
What will the other West Region teams need to do to upset Gonzaga? (By Nick Selbe)
Best Thing We Saw
Enjoy a video of a 3-year-old Buddy Boeheim, current Syracuse star, palling around with Carmelo Anthony, former Syracuse star.
Pick ‘Em: Sweet 16
(Women’s) No. 1 South Carolina over No. 5 Georgia Tech: Going up against the Gamecocks’ elite defense, the Yellow Jackets likely don’t have the offensive firepower needed to make this upset happen.
(Women’s) No. 1 Stanford over No. 5 Missouri State: The Cardinal are too balanced and too versatile to make an early exit here.
(Men’s) No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 5 Creighton: The Bluejays’ offense is very solid, but this looks like another game where the opponent just doesn’t have enough horses to keep up.
(Men’s) No. 4 Florida State over No. 1 Michigan: The Seminoles’ defense has stepped it up of late, and it can make life difficult on the offensive end for the Wolverines in ways LSU could not.
Saturday’s Paige Bueckers vs. Caitlin Clark (O.K., UConn vs. Iowa) battle will live up to the hype, though the Hawkeyes probably won’t be able to hang with the top-seeded Huskies forever. We’ll go ahead and predict that the two freshmen combine for at least 50 points.
At the Buzzer
On this day in 1939, the very first men’s NCAA tournament (which had a grand total of eight teams) came to a conclusion with the national championship. Oregon beat Ohio State, 46–33, at Patten Gymnasium on Northwestern’s campus. We’re guessing this year’s title games will have just a bit more points scored.