Sweet 16 Preview

Story posted March 25, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Nolan Wick

This is March, everyone. The first two rounds came and went, and March Madness couldn’t have lived up to its name more than it has in 2022. There have been so many upsets so far such as Kentucky’s loss against Saint Peter’s, Baylor’s loss against North Carolina and Iowa’s loss against Richmond to name a few.

Here’s an analysis on the remaining 16 squads in the 2022 rendition of the NCAA Tournament.

West Region

No. 1 Gonzaga currently has the highest odds to win the tournament at +225, which makes sense because the Bulldogs are loaded with talent and depth. Five players average over 10 points per game, which provides a cushion to catalysts Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren.

Gonzaga is coming off a close 82-78 victory against No. 9 Memphis, which is cause for concern against a very good Arkansas team. The No. 4 Razorbacks also have depth but don’t play as well as Gonzaga. However, these are two high-scoring teams that will play a good game.

Perhaps the more intriguing matchup in this region is No. 3 Texas Tech versus No. 2 Duke. The storylines are interesting, with 2022 being Coach K’s final run while the Red Raiders are doing great despite Chris Beard bolting for Texas last offseason.

Both teams are loaded with talent, with Duke led by Paolo Banchero, while Texas Tech boasts a strong tandem of Terrence Shannon Jr. and Bryson Williams.

Prediction: Gonzaga, Texas Tech

East Region

The East Region looks nothing like most experts predicted it would, with Baylor and Kentucky eliminated. That leaves No. 15 Saint Peter’s and No. 3 Purdue, a matchup that will be interesting simply because the Peacocks are this year’s Cinderella story. This would ordinarily be an easy matchup to predict, but Saint Peter’s can’t be counted out.

Meanwhile, No. 8 North Carolina will face No. 4 UCLA. The red-hot Tarheels took down Baylor and flew under the radar for much of the season under first-year head coach Hubert Davis. The status of Jaime Jaquez Jr., who suffered an apparent injury against Saint Mary’s, will be huge for UCLA.

If Jaquez plays, the Bruins have a much better chance of winning. However, North Carolina looks like a team on a mission right now, having lost once since Feb. 19.

Prediction: Saint Peter’s, North Carolina

South Region

There have been two significant upsets so far in the South Region, with No. 6 Colorado State and No. 3 Tennessee both losing to No. 11 Michigan.

Juwan Howard’s Wolverines will clash with Jay Wright and No. 2 Villanova in a star-studded matchup. Michigan will bring Hunter Dickinson to the hardwood while Collin Gillespie is Villanova’s standout player.

Villanova has played well so far, while Michigan has played through a season in which preseason expectations were not met and Howard was suspended. Now, Michigan has proved its doubters wrong but the task at hand may be too much.

Meanwhile, No. 1 Arizona will face No. 5 Houston. Arizona has an inexperienced, yet talented, team, as only one of its top-five scorers is an upperclassmen.

Arizona averages 84.6 points per game and makes 35.4 percent of its three point attempts, so the offensive talent is there. Meanwhile, Houston has been fine without top-scorer Marcus Sasser. The Cougars are second in the Kenpom rankings ahead of Arizona, so this will be a good defensive matchup.

Prediction: Villanova, Arizona

Midwest Region

And finally, the Midwest Region. Chaos has ensued, as Auburn, Wisconsin, Iowa and LSU have all been eliminated. That leaves No. 1 Kansas and No. 4 Providence in the first matchup. Kansas is a much better defensive team, as the Jayhawks are No. 5 in the Kenpom rankings, while the Friars are No. 33. The Jayhawks are deeper and better with talent that includes Ochai Agbaji. However, this should be a very close game if not an upset.

No. 11 Iowa State will face No. 10 Miami in the battle of the misfits. Iowa State is a sneaky team led by Izaiah Brockington and Tyrese Hunter, but there isn’t much depth. Miami is well-coached with veteran Jim Larrañaga in charge, and there is more depth with four of the top-five scorers averaging over 10 points.

Prediction: Kansas, Miami

Nolan Wick is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email nhw5046@psu.edu.