Author: Dawson Haywood
The Sweet 16 of the March Madness tournament is my favorite round of the entire tournament. You've got your Cinderella teams, like Oral Roberts, whose stories are either going to continue developing or unfortunately come to an end and you have teams that have been powerhouses all year that are going to have to perform their very best to beat out the competitive competition. I can make all the predictions I want and for the sake of keeping the tournament interesting, I hope I'm wrong with most of these. With that being said here are my predictions.
#1 Gonzaga v #5 Creighton
Prediction: Gonzaga Win
Gonzaga has proven to be the cream of the crop this year and they do not look like they are slowing down. They have three dudes that could go in the first round of this years NBA draft. Jalen Suggs who knows how to run the point efficiently, Corey Kispert who can drain a three at any given moment, and Joel Ayayi who is a guard that gets boards like a big man. Don't sleep on Sophomore Drew Timme though who gets buckets with 18.8 points a game and is a very effective scorer with a 65.5 field goal percentage.
Creighton sneaks their way into the tournament every now and then and is a reputable team entering the Sweet 16. This is their first time in the Sweet 16 and they're out to prove they belong. Beating this Gonzaga team would be huge for the program. This team reminds me a lot of the 2014 UConn team in that they have the potential to blow up, even being a lower seed, and win this whole thing if they play to their true potential.
#6 USC v #7 OREGON
Prediction: USC Win
USC has arguably the best player in the NCAA this year with Evan Mobley. USC also has a phenomenal coach in Andy Enfield who has had five twenty plus win seasons in his eight seasons at USC. Two of which from the last two seasons. The fact that USC beat Oregon already and has the best player amongst the two teams gives them my bid for this game.
Oregon has been consistently good in the past few tournaments losing to National Champion Virginia in 2019 and losing in the Final Four in 2017. A win for Oregon would have to come off of Chris Duarte's back and his exceptional shooting. Oregon is a reputable team in the tournament and has a solid resume in the tournament. Oregon lost to USC by fourteen this past season and will be the second time they face off this year
#1 Michigan v #4 Florida State
Prediction: Michigan Win
Juwan Howard is a Champion. If you look up his name on any site the word "champion" shows up at least five times. Michigan won the Big Ten regular season championship and that is arguably one of the hardest things to accomplish in the NCAA this year. The conference is stacked. They know how to win. This is the first time since 1992 they are seeded number one and they lost in the finals that year. Michigan has been in the tournament eight out of the last ten seasons and is looking hard at the throne.
Florida State was the runner up in the ACC tournament this year and with Duke and Carolina performing less than standard this should have been their year to win it. Coach Hamilton received his 600th win this year and is an experienced coach. This will be his eighth tournament with the Seminoles and his clock is running out. Scottie Barnes and MJ walker will need to have the performance of their life to pull this one out with a win.
#11 UCLA v #2 Alabama
Prediction: Alabama Win
Alabama is arguably one of the most entertaining teams in the tournament because they came out of nowhere this season. From being a team that was barely breaking .500 to now being the number one team in the SEC in one season is miraculous. They are currently on an eight game win streak and show no signs of easing up. Alabama plays team ball and in the NCAA that can take you far.
UCLA placed fourth in a less than exceptional PAC-12 this year and came into the tournament with a four game losing streak. BYU was an impressive win, I'll give them that, but they do not have any games that they won that stick out to me that make me think they can make it much further than this.
#1 Baylor v #5 Villanova
Prediction: Baylor Win
Baylor, oh Baylor. Dunk city as I have heard people call it. The two losses they had this season I can excuse and still make an argument for them to win this whole thing. The trio of Butler, Teague, and Mitchell might be the best trio in the NCAA this year. This team is fast, explosive, and gets buckets. Not many teams that I have seen are averaging over 80 points a game but Baylor is. At this point I expect a Gonzaga v Butler final and who is to win that game? Flip a coin for me.
Villanova. Could they win this game? Yes. Do I see it happening? No. Am I letting my emotions of them beating Carolina in the 2016 National Championship get in the way of making this pick? Maybe just a little BUT Baylor is just that team. The Big East this year has been less than exceptional and 'Nova has lost a few games that it shouldn't have. If I had to put money on a game in the Sweet 16, it would be this one.
#3 Arkansas v #15 Oral Roberts
Prediction: Arkansas Win
It honestly pains me to predict an Arkansas win because I would love to see a small school, like Oral Roberts, make it further than the Sweet 16. All of Arkansas's losses this season has come from teams that are currently in the tournament.
Oral Roberts is in the Summit League and finished fourth. How they even made the tournament I'm not even sure. They also lost to Arkansas earlier this season so it pains me to say that it will happen again. I'll be optimistic and say they are more prepared and maybe since Arkansas beat them earlier this season they think it is a freeby which could lead to their defeat, but Arkansas is well coached and I do not see that happening. If Baylor loses and they wind up playing Villanova in the Elite 8 I can see Arkansas making it to the Final 4.
#8 Loyola Chicago v #12 Oregon State
Prediction: Loyola Chicago Win
I'm jumping on the Sister Jean bandwagon. Loyola has God on their side and are currently on an eight game win streak which includes beating Illinois in the Round of 32 and ACC Tournament Champion Georgia Tech in the first round. They are hot. I feel like if you don't go for Loyola this round God might send you to hell for a day.
Oregon State placed sixth in the PAC-12 regular season and I'll say it again, the PAC-12 was less than exceptional this year. They did beat Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State which is very impressive and maybe they could beat a lot of other teams in the Sweet 16 but beating one player over two powerhouse teams is hard for me to overcome. Loyola to the moon.
#11 Syracuse v #2 Houston
I know, I know. This might be my dumbest pick in this whole article. But Syracuse I feel is very underrated and Houston I feel is very overrated. Their last loss was against a Virginia team that could have won the ACC tournament had COVID-19 not knocked them out. And they only lost by three. Their last three losses came from Virginia, ACC Tournament Champion Georgia Tech, and Coach K's Blue Devils. Had it not been for those powerhouses they would be really hot right now. So... Underrated
Houston is the most fraudulent team in the tournament this year. Don't let their 26-3 record despise you. Texas Tech is their only quality win this season and then they lost to Tulsa, East Carolina, and Wichita State. Cmon. Frauds
Final 4 Prediction
#1 Baylor v #8 Loyola Chicago
#1 Michigan v #1 Gonzaga
#1 Baylor v #1 Gonzaga