March Madness 2016: Sweet 16 Bracket and Final Four PredictionsMarch 21, 2016
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:
Don't let the guard title fool you, either; Selden can flat-out fly:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.