While the futures of several teams are still up in the air, there are a few squads who are absolute locks to make into the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
For some, there’s just too much talent for any team in the early rounds to contain them. For others, a favorable draw should translate into a deep run.
All in all, you can guarantee to see these teams in the fourth round.
But before we zero in on a few locks, let’s take a look at the bracket.
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South: No. 1 Florida (32-2)
It’s hard to bet against the Gators.
The team hasn’t lost a single contest in 2014 and has won 26 games in a row. That includes a perfect 18-0 record in SEC play with four of those wins coming against Top-25 opponents.
Florida has absolutely dominated opponents with a stout defense, ranking third in the nation in points allowed (57.9 PPG). In fact, only three opponents have topped 70 points all season long.
Although the team hasn’t been known for its offense, that hasn’t stopped guard Michael Frazier from lighting it up. The sophomore has scored an average of 16.4 points over the last five games.
But just because the Gators are in great shape doesn’t mean head coach Billy Donovan will relax anytime soon.
“What we may do on Tuesday in practice is maybe look at some similarities and some things we’re gonna have to do in both games that will definitely be a carryover,” he said, per Gatorzone.com’s Chris Harry. “Right now, we’ve got two days here to try and make some improvements in ourselves.”
The draw certainly has been favorable for Florida as well. The team faces the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between Albany and Mount Saint Mary’s in the first round and plays the winner of Colorado and Pittsburgh in a potential second-round matchup.
There’s no reason to believe the Gators won’t be playing in the Sweet 16.
Midwest: No. 4 Louisville (29-5)
You would think being the defending national champions would earn you a little bit more respect.
Instead, the Cardinals were given a No. 4 seed and became one of the biggest shocks of the NCAA tournament bracket.
It becomes even more baffling when you consider that the team is ranked No. 5 and No. 3 in the AP and Coaches Polls respectively. Not to mention, Louisville has won 12 of its last 13 games and recently took down the AAC tournament.
Still, as basketball analyst and former NBA pro Rex Chapman notes, the drop in seeding shouldn’t stop the Cardinals from making another trip to the Sweet 16:
@CardinalMatt Thank ya, brutha. Appreciate it. Your 'Cards are a Sweet-16 lock.— Rex Chapman (@rexchapman) March 17, 2014
First-round opponent Manhattan poses very little trouble. Then there’s potential second-round foe Saint Louis, which has lost four of its last five games heading into the tournament.
If anything, this disrespect should only serve as added motivation for Louisville.
East: No. 1 Virginia (28-6)
Aside from the slipup against Maryland, the Cavaliers have been on point for the second half of the season.
Since Jan. 13, the team is an impressive 16-1. That includes victories over North Carolina, Syracuse, Pittsburgh (twice) and Duke (ACC tournament final).
While Virginia’s offense has been a question mark (No. 294), the same can’t be said about the team’s defense (No. 1). In fact, the Cavaliers have held 13 opponents to 50 points or less this season.
Thanks to a favorable draw, the team should see its defense carry it to an appearance in the Sweet 16.
First-round opponent Coastal Carolina shouldn’t pose too much of a threat. Nor should potential second-round opponents Memphis or George Washington, who have both stumbled down the stretch.
It would be a surprise not to see Virginia in the Sweet 16.