NCAA Tournament 2013: Power Ranking the Sweet 16 Teams

C.J. MooreCollege Basketball National Lead WriterMarch 26, 2013

NCAA Tournament 2013: Power Ranking the Sweet 16 Teams

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    The East is chalk, the West is confusing, the Midwest is still stacked and the South is Florida Gulf Coast. 

    Have you caught your breath yet? You had FGCU in the Sweet 16, right? Oh, what about La Salle? 

    Well, maybe the second weekend will make some sense out of it all. This is, after all, where Cinderella's carriage usually turns into a pumpkin.

    With that in mind, let's re-rank the field and make the same mistake that everyone has already made once—overlooking La Salle and FGCU. 


    *All advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, come from KenPom.com.

16. La Salle (No. 13 West)

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    Why They're Here: La Salle has followed the VCU model. 

    Barely get in the tournament. Once you get there, ignore anyone who says you shouldn't have made it. And oh yeah, make a bunch of threes. 

    During VCU's Final Four run in 2011, that team made 53-of-121 treys (43.8 percent) in its five tourney wins to get to the Final Four. 

    Through three games, La Salle has made 27-of-62 from deep (43.5 percent). The hottest of the hot has been Ramon Galloway, who has made 12-of-23 treys. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Elite Eight. VCU probably should have taught us not to doubt a team that had to play in the play-in game; however, a No. 13 seed has never made the Final Four, so this bet is banking on history. 

15. Florida Gulf Coast (No. 15 South)

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    Why They're Here: The Eagles have won too convincingly in their first two games to put them in the last spot. They also finished second in the Atlantic Sun, so they're going to have to settle for 15th here. 

    FGCU is about to face the best defense the program has likely ever faced in its existence. The Eagles have given us many reasons to believe: the dunks, their uptempo style and their unbelievable confidence. But in this game where another team will be able to match their athleticism and confidence, it could come down to how point guard Brett Comer plays. 

    So far Comer has been amazing, dishing out 24 assists. The next-closest is Duke's Quinn Cook with 17. And I'm pretty sure Quinn is way behind Comer in the lob category. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: This is when the runs usually end. Cinderella gets to go home and reflect on everything it has already accomplished and the magic runs out. No team below a No. 12 seed has ever made it past the Elite Eight, and a No. 13 or lower has never made it past the Sweet 16. Of course, no No. 13, 14 or 15 seed has ever played like "Dunk City." 

14. Wichita State (No. 9 West)

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    Why They're Here: If you tuned in to see Wichita State for the first time in the win against Gonzaga, you're probably under the impression that WSU is full of dead-eye shooters from deep. 

    The Shockers made 14-of-28 threes against the Zags. It was actually the most threes they'd made in a game since 2003, and they shoot 33.7 percent from deep. 

    The strength of Gregg Marshall's team is his deep bench and the fact that you never really know where the scoring is going to come from. On that night, it just so happened to come from deep. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Final Four. The Shockers are the favorite in their next game and then will be underdogs no matter what in the regional final. They already beat the region's No. 1 seed, so why not? 

13. Oregon (No. 12 Midwest)

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    Why They're Here: Oregon's defense held Oklahoma State to its lowest points per possession this season and then held Saint Louis to its third-lowest output. 

    Dana Altman has always been known as more of an offensive-minded coach, but it's his defense that has him further in the tournament than he's ever been. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: The Ducks have reached their peak. They've struggled with turnovers all season, and that's a bad sign going against Louisville.

    The Ducks had reason to complain about being a No. 12 seed, and now they have to play the hottest team in the tournament. 

12. Marquette (No. 3 East)

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    Why They're Here: Marquette is living that Butler life after winning both of its games in the final seconds by a combined three points. 

    Buzz Williams did the unthinkable on Saturday: He out-Stevens'd Brad Stevens. 

    Much like Stevens, the Marquette coach has spent his career getting teams to overachieve, and this one is no different. 

    Stevens led Butler to back-to-back championship games in similar fashion to how Williams has gotten it done thus far, so if you out-Stevens the man himself, luck just might be on your side. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Elite Eight. The Golden Eagles have been able to play two teams that were less talented than they were, and they've been a good "taking care of business" team all season. It's going to be tough to win two straight against better talent, especially if they were to get Indiana in the Elite Eight. 

11. Arizona (No. 6 West)

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    Why They're Here: Arizona is the most difficult team to read left in this tournament. 

    The Wildcats have dominated both of their games, but they've played Belmont and Harvard. They had also lost three of five coming into the tourney—twice against UCLA and once to Southern Cal. 

    They are undefeated outside the Pac-12, so maybe they just needed to get back to playing teams outside their league. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Final Four. It's going to be tough to get past Ohio State, but it doesn't hurt that the game will be played in Los Angeles. And if Arizona can win that game, it's a sweet luxury to be a No. 6 seed and be the favorite in the Elite Eight. 

10. Syracuse (No. 4 East)

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    Why They're Here: Jim Boeheim's zone is as good as it has ever been. 

    Game-planning for that zone has to be a chore. You could always settle for the available threes; however, opponents are knocking down only 28.9 percent from deep against the Orange. Montana and California combined to go 8-of-52 (15.4 percent). 

    So plan to attack the interior, right? Well, the Orange block a higher percentage of two-point attempts (18.8) than any team in the country. 

    Best of luck, Tom Crean!

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Elite Eight. Boeheim's defense is great, but it's tough to pick his team in two straight games against Indiana and then Miami or Marquette. 

    The Golden Eagles beat the Orange this season, and if any team is equipped to face the zone, it's the Hoosiers, who shoot 40.8 percent from three. Also, Boeheim has not made the Final Four since 2003, and he's had better teams than this since then. 

9. Duke (No. 2 Midwest)

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    Why They're Here: When Ryan Kelly came back and went bonkers with 36 points against Miami, all was right in Krzyzewskiville. Kelly followed that game up with 18 against Virginia Tech, but since then he has disappeared. 

    Kelly scored eight points in three straight games and then scored only one point against Creighton. Kelly has also missed his last 14 three-point attempts. 

    The Blue Devils have advanced despite their senior's disappearance. Still, something is not right, and that's worrisome for Duke. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Champs. This is how open the tournament is at this point and proof that the best teams would eventually rise to the top. Sure, we've had some Cinderellas, but nine of the top 12 are still alive. Even with Kelly struggling, there's a rule (that I made up) that you cannot ever count out Coach K.

8. Michigan State (No. 3 Midwest)

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    Why They're Here: Tom Izzo has to be a heck of a poker player. 

    Every year it seems Izzo doesn't show his hand until March. Izzo's teams always, always, always appear to peak in the tournament, and these Spartans yet again give you the impression they haven't even shown what they're capable of. 

    Two reasons reasons Duke and Louisville should fear Sparty: 

    1. The Spartans have one of the most impressive performances to date so far in the tourney by handling Memphis by 22 points. Before that, the worst loss for Memphis this season was by 13 to VCU. 

    2. Watch enough Adreian Payne, and you get the sense he is capable of more than he shows most nights. Payne, at 6'10", has range, great hands and a soft touch around the rim and is freakishly athletic. He had 14 points and 10 boards against Memphis. 

    And knowing Izzo's guys, the best is yet to come. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Champs. The talent is there. And if the Spartans get out of this region, their toughest games could be behind them. 

7. Florida (No. 3 South)

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    Why They're Here: Florida leads the country in scoring margin (plus-18.2 per game) and that's why Ken Pomeroy's ratings still have Florida at the top. If Florida wins, Pomeroy should take a picture of himself with his tongue out and send it to the selection committee. 

    The worry for the Gators (and reason they're a No. 3 seed) is their collars tighten up in close games, but Billy Donovan has cruised through this tourney before. His 2006 team won five out of six NCAA tourney games by double digits, and his 2007 team's closest tourney win was seven points. 

    The Gators could squash any concern of whether they can win a close game by just blowing everyone out. So far so good, as they've won by 32 and 14. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Champs. Four of the last five champions have finished atop Pomeroy's ratings. 

6. Michigan (No. 4 South)

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    Why They're Here: Michigan has the best guards in the country. All John Beilein's team has really been missing all season has been a presence down low. 

    Enter Mitch McGary. 

    The freshman big man had the best game of his young career against VCU, scoring 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting and grabbing 14 boards. 

    McGary is not a back-to-the-basket scorer at this point in his career, but he is a capable finisher. That's really all he needs to be with a creator like Trey Burke. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Champs. Every team on Michigan's side of the bracket is similar, except for Indiana and Kansas. The others rely mostly on guard play, and that advantage goes to Michigan. 

    And finally, if Michigan is able to make the championship game and has to play Louisville, Burke and Co. showed against VCU that they can handle a press. Michigan is last team Louisville would want to see in that game. 

5. Miami (No. 2 East)

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    Why They're Here: Point guard Shane Larkin. 

    Something about being the son of a famous guy must help players on the biggest stage. Five years ago, it was Stephen Curry tearing up the NCAA tournament; this postseason, Shane Larkin is making his famous old man proud. 

    In five postseason games (including the ACC tourney), Larkin has averaged 19.6 points and 5.8 assists. 

    Reason to believe even more in the 'Canes is that in close games, they will usually have the best weapon on the floor. Larkin's speed makes him nearly impossible to stay in front of, and if you play back, he's a 40.6 percent three-point shooter. 

    Larkin is also nails at the free-throw line. He made both his free throws with 15 seconds left against Illinois when he went to the line with his team ahead by two, and he's 25-of-28 (89.3 percent) in the postseason. 


    Best-Case Scenario: Champs. The only thing that could hold the 'Canes back is 
    they haven't been here before, but coach Jim Larranaga has, and as pointed out above, it's tough to bet against Larkin in the clutch. 

4. Ohio State (No. 2 West)

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    Why They're Here: Aaron Craft nearly played the role of scapegoat against Iowa State, but instead he hit the biggest shot of the tournament thus far. It's becoming clear the Buckeyes' fate is tied directly to their point guard. 

    What was crazy about Craft's game-winner was that he even took it. Ohio State had run the play to get leading scorer Deshaun Thomas open, and after a staggered screen, he was open enough at the top of the key to get the ball. 

    Craft waved off Thomas and decided to take the shot himself. Craft also tried to take the game-winner earlier this season at Michigan—a shot he missed—and it's obvious he wants the ball in these spots.

    Ohio State has won 10 straight games, and only Louisville (12 straight) has a longer winning streak of the teams left. The Buckeyes have every reason to play with confidence, and Craft is oozing with it right now. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Champs. Out of the high seeds, the Buckeyes have the easiest path to Atlanta. The Buckeyes also have the experience of playing in a Final Four last year on their side. 

3. Kansas (No. 1 South)

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    Why They're Here: The Jayhawks have played three bad halves of basketball on the offensive end, and it hasn't mattered much. 

    Before you throw up the red flags, consider that Kansas wasn't all that great on offense last season on its way to the championship game. That team won with defense, and this team is doing the same. 

    Jeff Withey is getting credit for dominating the first two rounds with his shot-blocking and -altering around the rim, and he did the same thing to less adulation in last year's tourney, setting a record with 31 blocks in six tourney games. 

    This time around, Withey has 12 blocks, and if KU gets to the championship game again, he's on pace to break his own record. 

    Withey's ability to block shots in games that matter is pretty remarkable. In KU's last eight tourney games, Withey has blocked approximately 16.7 percent of opponents' two-point field-goal attempts.

    Attention Michigan: Don't go at Withey if you know what's good for you.

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Champs. The combination of Withey with three other seniors that have been there before is a good formula for tournament success. If Ben McLemore does anything in this tournament, Kansas will be tough to knock out. 

2. Indiana (No. 1 East)

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    Why They're Here: Sometimes too much is made of how important guard play is in the NCAA tournament. It also helps to have a dominant big man. 

    Eight of the last 10 champs have featured a big man who averaged double figures and eventually was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. Kansas has the most dominant defensive big man, and Indiana has the most dominant big man on the offensive end left in this tourney. 

    Remember Cody Zeller? 

    Victor Oladipo hit the big shot against Temple and is getting the Player of the Year love, but Zeller is still critical to his team's championship chances. He has had an extremely productive year, and his value will no longer be misinterpreted if IU wins the title. 

    One part of Zeller's game that is under-appreciated and makes him so valuable is his ability to get easy points at the free-throw line. Only twice this season has Zeller shot fewer than four free throws in a game, and he draws seven fouls per 40 minutes. He had a rough shooting game against Temple—4-of-10 from the field—but he still made it to the line and buried 7-of-8 freebies.

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Champs. Most champions have at least one close call, and Indiana has now had that with Temple. One reason to pick against the Hoosiers at this point is the bracket isn't exactly breaking for them like it has for others. The Hoosiers have a tough path to the Final Four going up against Syracuse's zone and then possibly Shane Larkin and the old men from Miami. 

1. Louisville (No. 1 Midwest)

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    Why They're Here: Rick Pitino has the best weapon in this NCAA tournament: his vulture defense. 

    The Cardinals have the best defense in college basketball in the last decade because of their ability to force turnovers, and they've taken that to another level in the Big East and NCAA tournaments. 

    In five postseason games, Louisville has forced 108 turnovers, which translates to a turnover on 32.4 percent of opponents' possessions. In other words, Louisville's opponents are giving it back on one of every three possessions. 

    This borders on unfair and unprecedented. Over the course of the season, the Cardinals forced a turnover on an impressive 28 percent of their opponents' possessions, which ranked second only to VCU (28.5 percent). 

    The fact that the offense has been just as good—80.5 points per game so far in the NCAA tourney—is justifying Louisville's favorite status coming in. 

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Champion. According to the The New York Times' Nate Silver, Louisville started the tourney with a 23.8 percent chance to win the title. That number is up to 32.4 percent after two games, which just so happens to be how often Louisville is forcing a turnover. Eerie.