Sweet 16 Preview: South & Midwest Regions
March Madness is a season categorized by mayhem, chaos and well, madness. This year’s tournament has been no different.
With nine double-digit teams winning their first round games, this March Madness tournament has been one of the craziest in its history.
The South and the Midwest have been the two craziest regions so far.
In the South, Oral Roberts became the first 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 since 2013 after defeating both No. 2 Ohio State and No. 7 Florida.
In the Midwest, Loyola Chicago took down a favorite, No. 1 Illinois, by 13 points, and Oregon State eliminated No. 4 Oklahoma State and projected NBA Draft No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.
Eight teams on the right side of the bracket will be trimmed down to just four following the next round of games, and, if the earlier games will be any indication, nothing in these matchups will be predictable.
Here is what to watch for in the Sweet 16 in both the South and Midwest Region.
No. 1 Baylor Bears vs. No. 5 Villanova Wildcats
Baylor has continued to score at a high rate, averaging 77.5 points per game in its first two games.
Led by its terrific guard play, the Bears are looking to secure control the battle of the backcourts.
Senior guard Macio Teague led the team in scoring against Hartford with 22, and junior guards Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell each scored 16 against Wisconsin.
Villanova, a popular pick to lose in the first round to Winthrop, has continued to thrive and survive even without Collin Gillespie.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has stepped up nicely this tournament, averaging 20 points in the tournament so far, which is four points higher than his season average.
The Wildcats have faced two teams both a 12 seed or worse, so the Wildcats will have their work cut out for themselves in a showdown with No. 1 Baylor.
No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. No 15 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
According to ESPN, the Razorbacks were the least popular No. 3 seed to advance to the Sweet 16. Just 20.5% of fans picked Arkansas to make it this far, and 15.4% of fans even had this team losing first round.
Justin Smith is leading the charge for the Razorbacks. His 29-point performance against Colgate and his 20-point performance against Texas Tech far exceeded his season average of 13.9 points per game.
The Razorbacks will be leaning on the senior guard to take down the red-hot Golden Eagles.
Oral Roberts is a two-headed monster led by Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas. This duo has combined for 58 and 55 points in the tournament so far, and this combination will need to play at its best to take down another top seed.
The Golden Eagles have the Cinderella magic right now, but how long can it last?
No. 8 Loyola Chicago Ramblers vs. No. 12 Oregon State Beavers
Sister Jean and the Ramblers are back at it again.
Against Kofi Cockburn and No. 1 Illinois, senior center Cameron Krutwig scored 19 points and secured 12 rebounds helping hold the red hot Illini to just 58 points.
Now, the Ramblers will face an Oregon State team that has defeated the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in its region.
The Beavers held superstar guard Cade Cunningham to just 6-20 shooting in their last game, and Oregon State is averaging 75 points per game this tournament.
Oregon State’s leading scorer, Ethan Thompson, is coming off a 26-point performance against Oklahoma State, and this team is continuing to defy expectations.
After being picked to finish last in the Pac-12 preseason poll, the Beavers are still fighting and dancing in March.
No. 2 Houston Cougars vs. No. 11 Syracuse Orange
After barely surviving against Rutgers, the Houston Cougars will be looking to be the only seed above No. 8 to advance to the Sweet 16.
Leading scorer Quentin Grimes is averaging 20 points per game in the tournament and is looking to keep his impressive scoring going.
Grimes has shot about 50% from 3-point range in both tournament games this year, and Houston needs its top guard to continue to perform at an elite level.
However, Quentin, you haven’t faced my buddy, Buddy Boeheim.
In his two tournament games, Boeheim is averaging 27.5 points per game and shooting above 46% from 3-point range.
The father-son combination of Syracuse is looking to make a deep tournament run, and this team is anything but finished.
Eric Fenstermaker is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at email@example.com
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalist
Eric Fenstermaker is a senior from Northampton, Pennsylvania, majoring in broadcast journalism. He is also minoring in business and sports studies and pursuing a certificate in sports journalism.
Eric is involved in After the Whistle and Penn State Sports Night (PSSN). For COMM Radio, Eric contributes to a variety of different podcasts and co-hosts the Hail Mary radio show, which is dedicated to analyzing NFL games.