Sweet 16 2012: Power Ranking the Remaining Tournament Teams
Fifty-two teams have been tossed aside, leaving just 16 to battle for college basketball's ultimate prize.
Upsets, injuries and suspensions have devastated some of the nation's elite programs, but the Sweet 16 is still full of familiar names.
Sure, there are a few surprises (Ohio, anyone?), but the top of the Sweet 16 power rankings is crowded with pre-tournament favorites. Here's how the rankings look now, as decided by the committee of one.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats have yet to be seriously tested in the tournament, winning their first two games by an average of 15.5 points. Iowa State hung with them for a little while, but Kentucky buried them with a 49-point second half.
With their size, athleticism and general talent level, the Wildcats are a matchup nightmare for every team in the tournament. Throw in Marquis Teague's recent emergence, and the Wildcats should still be the overwhelming title favorites.
2. Marquette Golden Eagles
There's still some higher seeds in the tournament, but Marquette has been the most impressive team outside of Kentucky. After blowing out a quality BYU team, the Golden Eagles took down the 30-win Murray State Racers in the Round of 32's best game.
Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom have been unstoppable, and I'm expecting them to lead Marquette to the Final Four. Through the first two games, they've combined for 79 points and and 36 rebounds.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Thanks to Draymond Green and Tom Izzo, the Spartans are a serious threat to win their third national title.
Green has been phenomenal in the tournament, dropping a triple-double on LIU Brooklyn and flirting with another one against St. Louis. Don't be surprised if the versatile big man leads his team all the way to the championship game on April 2.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes have had their moments of weakness in the tournament, but they might be the most complete team outside of Kentucky.
They play strong defense, have great scorers on the wing in Deshaun Thomas and William Buford, and one of the country's best post players in Jared Sullinger.
The catalyst of the Buckeyes, however, is point guard Aaron Craft. If he plays up to his potential, Ohio State will reach its 11th Final Four.
5. Syracuse Orange
The Orange put their fans through a tumultuous week, from Fab Melo's suspension to their near-loss against 16th-seeded UNC-Asheville.
Since then, they've re-established themselves as legitimate title contenders, thanks to the efforts of Scoop Jardine. He is as tough as anyone in the country, and he won't let Syracuse go down without a serious fight.
The Orange have a tough matchup against Wisconsin this week, but I still like Syracuse to advance to the Elite Eight.
6. North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina would be second or third on this list if not for the unfortunate injury to Kendall Marshall.
With John Henson back in the lineup against Creighton, the Tar Heels finally looked like they were living up to their potential. That is, until Marshall went tumbling to the ground, fracturing his right wrist in the process.
It's uncertain whether or not he will play, but if even he does, I can't picture UNC winning the title. Marshall controls the entire flow of their offense. If he's not at 100 percent, the Tar Heels won't advance past the Elite Eight.
7. Baylor Bears
The Bears are the only team in the country who can match Kentucky's length, athleticism and talent.
They've got athletic scorers (Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy and Pierre Jackson) and a special weapon in Brady Heslip. I doubt he'll hit nine threes in another tournament game, but if Heslip catches fire, the Bears can beat any team in the field.
8. Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks haven't been overly impressive, but with Thomas Robinson still on the floor, I just can't put them lower than eighth.
The big man struggled with his shot against Purdue, hitting just 2-of-12 field goals. However, Kansas was still able to win.
Look for Robinson to rebound from his poor performance by lighting up North Carolina State.
9. Louisville Cardinals
Louisville has been playing suffocating defense in the tourney, with opponents hitting just 7-of-35 three-pointers against its zone.
The Cardinals have multiple guys who can go off on a given night (Russ Smith, Kyle Kuric, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng) and a true leader in Peyton Siva. I wouldn't be shocked at all if the Cardinals upset Michigan State to advance to the Elite Eight.
10. Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers have already beaten Kentucky once this season, and with Cody Zeller playing well, they're definitely capable of doing it again.
If Indiana gets past the Wildcats this week, they'll have to be considered among the favorites to win it all.
11. Florida Gators
Florida has some fatal flaws, but with its ability to shoot the three, the Gators can take down any team in the tournament.
Bradley Beal, Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Erving Walker make up the deepest backcourt in the country. If one or more of them catches fire on Thursday, they'll have a great shot at beating Marquette.
12. Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers can beat anybody thanks to their stifling defense.
In the Round of 32, they completely shut down Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins, the two best scorers in the SEC. The prolific duo was only able to hit 7-of-25 field goals against the Badgers' pressure D.
I'm expecting Syracuse to eliminate them on Thursday, but a Wisconsin victory would be shocking.
13. Xavier Musketeers
Xavier was able to fend off the feisty Lehigh Mountain Hawks thanks to a dominant effort from big man Kenny Frease. The seven-foot senior put up 25 points and 12 rebounds against Lehigh, propelling his team into the Sweet 16.
However, there's no way Frease goes off like that against Baylor's menacing front line. If Xavier is going to advance, it will be because of strong performances from guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons.
14. Cincinnati Bearcats
The Bearcats took out a Final Four-caliber team in Florida State, despite shooting just 38 percent from the field.
Cincinnati is as tough as any team in the tourney, and I wouldn't be surprised if they upset Ohio State on Thursday. They've got great guards in Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright, plus a physical big man in Yancy Gates.
If Gates can frustrate Jared Sullinger, the Bearcats will have a great chance of advancing.
15. North Carolina State Wolfpack
As they proved in the ACC tournament, the Wolfpack can hang with any team they face.
N.C. State has a balanced offense, with five players averaging at least 10 points per game. Kansas will have a tough time dealing with all their scorers, meaning the Wolfpack are certainly capable of pulling off another upset.
16. Ohio Bobcats
I'm not expecting the 13th-seeded Bobcats to win any more games, but crazier things have happened in the tournament.
Against USF, Ohio killed it from beyond the arc. Walter Offutt hit all four of his threes, while Nick Kellogg, D.J. Cooper and T.J. Hall combined to knock down 5-of-13 from outside.
If two or three of those four get hot on Friday, Ohio may be able to shock North Carolina.
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