Sweet 16 Bracket: Updated Schedule and Upset Picks for NCAA Tournament

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2017

Trevon Bluiett will try to push Xavier past Arizona in their Sweet 16 matchup.
Trevon Bluiett will try to push Xavier past Arizona in their Sweet 16 matchup.Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

The second weekend of the NCAA tournament represents a new level of competition for the 16 teams remaining in the competition.

For the higher seeds and elite programs, the thought of having an easy game has disappeared, because every team remaining has been steeled by winning two games and is presumably ready for more.

For the lower seeds or those that were not expected to get into or past the round of 32, the Sweet 16 represents a chance to raise their basketball program considerably in the eyes of the public.

The term "upset" has a different tone to it at this point in the tournament. Since every team has already proven itself capable of winning NCAA tournament games, there are no Cinderellas left in the competition. 

Those who point to No. 11 seed Xavier, may be ignoring their Big East pedigree and the fact that the Musketeers won three of their last four games before the tournament started.

Xavier picked up one-sided victories over the Big Ten's Maryland and the Atlantic Coast Conference's Florida State, and now have a Thursday night date with second-seeded Arizona at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchups
DateMatchupTime (ET)TVPointspreadPrediction
March 23Michigan (7) vs. Oregon (3)7:09 p.m.CBSMichigan (-1.5)Michigan
March 23West Virginia (4) vs. Gonzaga (1)7:39 p.m.TBSGonzaga (-3)Gonzaga
March 23Purdue (4) vs. Kansas (1)9:39 p.m.CBSKansas (-4.5)Kansas
March 23Xavier (11) vs. Arizona (2)10:09 p.m.TBSArizona (-7)Xavier
March 24Butler (4) vs. North Carolina (1)7:09 p.m.CBSNorth Carolina (-7)North Carolina*
March 24South Carolina (7) vs. Baylor (3)7:29 p.m.TBSBaylor (-3.5)Baylor
March 24UCLA (3) vs. Kentucky (2)9:39 p.m.CBSUCLA (-1)UCLA
March 24Wisconsin (8) vs. Florida (4)9:59 p.m.TBSFlorida (-1.5)Wisconsin
*-Will win game but fail to cover point spread.
ESPN; OddsShark; Silverman predictions

Arizona comes into this game as a seven-point favorite, according to OddsShark. The Wildcats must be prepared to play a strong team that is clearly playing its best basketball of the year and is unafraid of playing a higher-seeded team.

Xavier is led by junior guard Trevon Bluiett, who is averaging 18.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He is joined by junior guard J.P. Macura, who is scoring 14.3 points per night and shooting 42.1 percent from the field.

The Musketeers have also been playing a hounding level of defense, and they are rolling right now. The Arizona Wildcats had a relatively easy game in beating North Dakota 100-82, but they were pushed hard by St. Mary's before securing a 69-60 victory.

Allonzo Trier
Allonzo TrierJohn Locher/Associated Press

Sophomore guard Allonzo Trier is averaging 17.1 points per game and, after scoring 18 points against North Dakota, he was held to 14 against St. Mary's. Teammate Lauri Markkanen is second on the team in scoring with 15.8 points per night and he is connecting on 49.6 percent of his shots from the field.

Prediction: Xavier is playing its best basketball of the season and they are in a perfect position to take on the Pac-12 powerhouse Wildcats. Xavier should be able to hang in there early in the game and stay close, and the Musketeers will gain confidence as the game moves along.

Look for Xavier to show its toughness down the stretch, and secure its third victory of the tournament.

Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes is adept at operating on the interior.
Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes is adept at operating on the interior.Bill Wippert/Associated Press

 

Wisconsin vs. Florida

The eighth-seeded Badgers have come up with the most notable victory of the tournament to this point after knocking out defending champion and top-seeded Villanova in the round of 32.

The Wildcats had a brilliant season, were playing with confidence and were led by Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, but the Badgers were not intimidated.

They trailed at several points in the final 20 minutes, but Greg Gard's team would not go away. In the final moments, Nigel Hayes took over with a brilliant baseline move that gave the Badgers the lead and the victory.

Wisconsin had a second-place finish Big Ten, and while there is no doubt about their fundamentals and toughness, it did not appear that the Badgers had the skill level to beat the elite teams in the tournament.

They have changed that opinion as a result of their 65-62 victory over the Wildcats. The Badgers have four seniors in Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter who have NCAA tournament experience, and this team can handle the big moments.

Florida was not considered an elite team at the start of the tournament, but the fourth-seeded Gators have turned it up defensively. In their round-of-32 win over Virginia, the Gators made the Cavaliers work hard to get their shots off and then rolled to a 65-39 victory.

Devin Robinson and Justin Leon are giving them just enough offense, but the Gators have a hard time scoring from the interior.

Prediction: While Florida will apply great defensive pressure, Wisconsin will not panic just because it has a few empty possessions. The Badgers rarely panic, and they will continue to work the ball around and find open shooters.

Eventually, Hayes takes over down low and that's all Wisconsin will need to survive as a 1.5-point underdog, per OddsShark. The Badgers survive and advance to the Elite Eight.