X

March Madness 2016: Sweet 16 Bracket and Final Four Predictions

Joe Pantorno@@JoePantornoFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2016

Kansas' Frank Mason III (0), Landen Lucas (33), Devonte' Graham (4), Wayne Selden Jr. (1) and Perry Ellis (34) gather during the second half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. Kansas won 73-61. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The first weekend of the 2016 NCAA tournament is in the books, and after four days of blowouts, upsets, overtimes and buzzer-beaters, the Sweet 16 is set.

This is how the bracket is shaping up after the first two rounds:

Final Four Predictions

South Region Winner: Kansas

By no means does Kansas have an easy path to the Final Four in front of it.

The Jayhawks are taking on a Maryland team in the Sweet 16 that is deep in talent with the likes of Melo Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon, Diamond Stone and the newly emerged Jake Layman, who dropped 27 points on South Dakota State in the first round.

If Kansas is able to get by the Terps, it will have the winner of No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Miami, two teams that have proved in the first two rounds of the tournament they can be very dangerous.

Kansas, though, has a deep, dangerous roster of its own and has looked pretty dominant at times through the first round. The Jayhawks made easy work of Austin Peay with a 26-point win in the first round and held a 22-point halftime lead against a UConn team that was building a "team of destiny" air around it after its dramatic win in the AAC tournament.

It's been able to build such insurmountable leads thanks to the three-pointer, which is sometimes dangerous to live by in the tournament. But Kansas has proved it can do so consistently, as it's shot 41.5 percent from three-point range during its 16-game winning streak.

The Jayhawks are also being led by the super duo of Wayne Selden Jr. and Perry Ellis. The senior Ellis has scored 21 points in each of the first two games of the tournament, while Selden has become an "X-factor" per CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein:

Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein

Wayne Selden in two NCAA Tournament games: 18.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 13-25 from the field. Playing at an elite level. X-Factor for Kansas. #kubball

Don't let the guard title fool you, either; Selden can flat-out fly:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Get up, Jayhawks! Wayne Selden, Jr. rises and slams home the lob for No. 1 Kansas 👀 https://t.co/lIOocpRk1j

Add the facilitating capabilities of Frank Mason III, and Kansas just has the look of a team that is going to be unstoppable heading into the Final Four.

West Region Winner: Oklahoma

Oklahoma's biggest threat to get bounced out of the tournament early was the high-octane defense of Virginia Commonwealth in the second round. Now that the Sooners are through, they should be able to handle anything else thrown at them.

That's, of course, as long as they have Buddy Hield continuing to shred opposing defenses.

After being shut down by West Virginia in the Big 12 semifinals, Hield entered the NCAA tournament with a vengeance and took it out on CS Bakersfield with 27 points and VCU with 36 points.

It doesn't even matter how good the defense is; Hield is going to find his shots and, more likely than not, sink them, via NCAA March Madness:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Step-back dagger, courtesy of Buddy Hield. #MarchMadness https://t.co/zMIpcbHO7q

If he is keyed on, the Sooners still have capable scorers like Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard, so there are options if he does struggle.

But on the biggest of stages, I wouldn't count on it.

East Region Winner: North Carolina

North Carolina already got one huge roadblock out of the way when No. 14 Stephen F. Austin defeated No. 3 West Virginia in the first round.

Due to the Lumberjacks' similar style of play, they were able to get through West Virginia's pressing defense and created a nightmare matchup for the Mountaineers.

The Tar Heels might not have been so successful against "Press Virginia," as they rely on their ability to get inside.

North Carolina now will be able to play its game and focus down low on its best player, forward Brice Johnson, who has scored 39 points on 70 percent shooting in the first two games of the tournament.

He's also a force to be reckoned with down low, via NCAA March Madness:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Brice Johnson with the monster block! #MarchMadness https://t.co/BRO4rMaTEV

Johnson will have a freshman in Indiana's Thomas Bryant on him in the Sweet 16.

Midwest Region Winner: Virginia

Like North Carolina, Virginia saw its biggest challenger knocked out in the first round. In this case, it was Michigan State, a team many picked to make the Final Four—if not win the championship.

With the Spartans out of the way, Virginia will have to deal with teams like Iowa State, Gonzaga or Syracuse in the Midwest. None of those teams strike enough fear in me to go against the Cavaliers here, especially with the defense they have.

And ESPN's Dick Vitale agreed:

Dick Vitale @DickieV

This could be the year for Virginia / yes beat a good Butler team / now with MSU not in the way Cavs can make big noise . #MarchMayhem

Over its first two games of the tournament, Virginia is giving up 57.0 points per game compared to its 79.0 points scored while allowing its opponents to shoot just 38 percent from the field.

It also helps that it has a player like Malcolm Brogdon who can open up the offense and carry the Cavaliers when necessary. He was needed in the second round, where he scored 22 points during Virginia's 77-69 win over Butler.

Virginia is a team, though, that doesn't have to rely on Brogdon alone, as the roster is filled with young men capable of making the big play, via NCAA March Madness:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Virginia is dominating from one end of the floor to the other. #MarchMadness https://t.co/RutLQ8ptJj

This kind of team paired with an easier-looking path out of the region makes Virginia the favorite to make the Final Four.

Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.