SportsPulse: While there are no real Cinderellas left in the tournament USA TODAY's Trysta Krick explains why that is fine and looks at the Sweet 16.
And then there were 16.
The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament reduced the 64 teams to 16, and now these survivors will be coming Thursday and Sunday with a trip to Sweet 16 and Elight Eight joins the Final Four on the line.
But which of these teams has the best chance of cutting the nets in Minneapolis? USA TODAY Sports counts the Sweet 16 teams by title potential.
1. Gonzaga (Seeds # 1, 32-3): Bulldogs' high octane offense shows no signs of slowing and blows out Fairleigh Dickinson and Baylor. Rui Hachimura (20.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Brandon Clarke (16.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg) are versatile 6-8 strikers against whom it is difficult to assert themselves. Hachimura was a first-team All-American team, but it was Clarke who broke Baylor in the second round of the "Zags" with 36 points and five blocks. Coach Mark Few has proved that he can train his rivals, best by defeating Duke in November.
Gonzaga Bulldogs striker Brandon Clarke (15) reacts with striker Corey Kispert (24) in the first half of the NCAA 2019 second round against the Baylor Bears at the Vivint Smart Home Arena. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
2. Virginia (# 1 seed, 31-3): The Cavaliers have the best defense. They limit the number of opponents to 55 points per game this season and keep their first opponents at the weekend – Gardner-Webb and Oklahoma – 53.5 points per game. This is also the tournament's best three-point shooting team (41 percent), though Kyle Guy was shot from three to 0 in the UVA win over OU. The Cavs had survived a first-half deficit in their first game – a performance that last year went from no. 16 UMBC had been upset – and now play with added motivation.
3. Duke (# 1 seed, 31-5): The Blue Devils survived a game against UCF No. 9, in which even coach Mike Krzyzewski had admitted that his team should have lost , This happens when a well-trained team like UCF plays with urgency and forces Duke to shoot outside (Tre Jones was 1-8 in the UCF game). The disturbing fact on Sunday showed how beatable Duke is and makes the Blue Devil title chances suddenly feel a lot more difficult, but Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett have the ability to step up in punchy situations.
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4. North Carolina (Seed # 1, # 1, 29-6): The Tar Heels looked like title contenders in their second halves during the victories over Iona and Washington after coach Roy Williams made adjustments. Their first half, however, was another story, with UNC at halftime # 16 Iona. Luke Maye remains a consistent force, while point-keeper Coby White has blossomed into a star. Naz Little delivered 20 points and seven rebounds from the bank against Washington.
5. Florida State (No. 4 Seeds, 29-7): The Seminoles pounded Murray State to advance to Sweet 16 to continue their strong game at the end of this season. Their only losses in the past two months have come against Duke and North Carolina. Leonard Hamilton's team is big – starting with 7 foot 4 man Christ Koumadje. Leading scorer Mfiondu Kabengele, a 6:10 striker, beat an average of 21.5 points and 8.5 boards in the tournament.
6. Texas Tech (# 3 Seed, 28-6): The profile of the Red Raiders has risen from a Final Four pick to one of the frontrunners. Jarrett Culver was exceptional in the NCAAs. He scored 29 points in the first round against Northern Kentucky, scoring 16 points and 10 rebounds against Buffalo, who were capped at 58 points in the season.
7. Kentucky (# 2 Seed, 29-6): The Wildcats survived a fearful fear of Wofford and advanced to Sweet 16 without leading scorer and rebounder PJ Washington, who will play this weekend. Kentucky has perhaps improved more than any other team this season from November to March, and it starts with the British first semester. Veteran Reid Travis has added an extra dimension since returning from injury, averaging a double-double (16 points, 10 boards) in these NCAs.
8. Michigan State (No. 2 Seeds, 30-6): The Spartans did not look very good in these NCAAs. They struggled to knock out No. 15 seed Bradley and turn the ball over Minnesota 22 times in their second round. However, Cassius Winston gives this team a chance to win every night, and tall man Nick Ward is nearing the state of his health.
9th Michigan (# 2 Seeds, 30-6): The Wolverines look like a national title contender if they do not play Michigan State, which they have lost three times this season. Michigan moved past Florida in the second round and coach John Beilein raised the team's defenses to the level of second place in the national title last year, with Virginia lagging only in points. The Wolverines are insulted in various ways, but the point-keeper Zavier Simpson is the catalyst. Do you need proof? Watch Simpson's cross-court bounce pass to Isaiah Livers for a Dunk .
10. Purdue (# 3 seed, 25-9): The Boilermakers split titleholder Villanova by 26 points in the second round. Carsen Edwards's 42 points in this routine helped the All-American Guard break out of a shooting slump and showed what a threat Purdue can be if his offense matches his defensive value.
11. LSU (No. 3 seeds, 28-6): Since head coach Will Wade was suspended, the tigers were considered vulnerable. But the SEC champion in the regular season still stands after beating Yale and Maryland. On paper, this could be the most talented team in the tournament. Tremont Waters (15.1 ppg, 6.0 apg) leads four players averaging double digits, and Naz Reid, a 6-10 tall man, is an NBA talent who plays this team with his game on both ends can ignite.
Emmitt Williams (24) of LSU Tigers celebrates her victory over the Maryland-Terrapins in the second round. (Photo: Matt Stamey, USA TODAY Sports)
12. Houston (# 3 seed, 33-3): The Cougars crossed against Georgia State and Ohio State on the first weekend, beating both teams by a total of 45 points. Houston was clearly the best team in the American Athletic Conference, with UCF and Cincinnati as the best challengers. Now it could reach the Final Four. Corey Davis Jr., with an average of 23.5 points, was one of the tournament's biggest stars, scoring seven three-point points against Georgia State.
13. Auburn (No. 5 seed, 28-9) : The Tigers have won 10 games in a row, including an impressive tempo controlling win over Kansas in the second round and an entry Point victory against the state of New Mexico in the first round. This team lives and dies of the three. The backcourt duo of the Jared Harper and Bryce Brown tigers scored 43 points against KU, which made up nine out of 13 Auburn's threes.
14. Oregon (# 12 Seed, 25-12): The Ducks have a 10-win winning streak and coach Dana Altman has made this team a defensive Moloch. In the wins against Wisconsin in the first round and against UC Irvine in the second round Oregon looked dominant. Kenny Wooten (seven blocks against UC Irvine) and Payton Pritchard (an average of 18.5 points and 7.5 assists in the NCAAs) are the main factors influencing this outsider.
15th Tennessee (# 2 Seeds, 31-5) : The volunteers avoided one of the biggest breakdowns in NCAA tournament history, outperforming Iowa by 25 points, but won in the second round in extra time. SEC Player of the Year, in which Grant Williams had six points and an assistant in OT. In postgame comments, Admiral Schofield aptly summarized why the Vols on this Sweet 16 list are so low: "The way we started the game is the team we win with. We can not do it as we finished the game. " have that. "
16th Virginia Tech (# 4 Seed, 26-8): The Hokies played two defeated opponents in Saint Louis and Liberty and did not show much.The Return of Point Watcher Justin Robinson was an enormous boost, but it will not be enough to repeat February's win over Duke when Williamson was out of action due to a knee injury.