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Sweet 16 2017: Bracket, TV Schedule, Odds and Final Four Predictions

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 20, 2017

Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig (24) drives to the basket against Virginia Tech forward Zach LeDay (32) during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Bill Wippert/Associated Press

A rather boring first round in the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament gave way to a chaotic weekend. Defending national champion and No. 1 overall seed Villanova lost to Wisconsin, and two No. 2 seeds (Duke and Louisville) were also sent packing.

If the Sweet 16 follows the second round's path, then we are in for two wild days of games on Thursday and Friday, leaving everyone's bracket in tatters (if they aren't in that state already).

Here's a look at the latest bracket, the television schedule, the latest odds and some Final Four predictions.

  

Bracket

An updated bracket can be found on the NCAA's official website.

Television Schedule

MatchupRegionalOddsDateTime (ET)Television
No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 MichiganMidwestMichigan (-1)Thursday, March 237:09 p.m.CBS
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 West Virginia WestGonzaga (-3)Thursday, March 237:39 p.m.TBS
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 PurdueMidwestKansas (-4)Thursday, March 239:39 p.m.CBS
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 11 XavierWestArizona (-7)Thursday, March 2310:09 p.m.TBS
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Butler South North Carolina (-7.5)Friday, March 247:09 p.m.CBS
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 7 South CarolinaEastBaylor (-3.5)Friday, March 247:29 p.m.TBS
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 UCLASouth UCLA (-1)Friday, March 249:30 p.m. CBS
No. 4 Florida vs. No. 8 WisconsinEastFlorida (-1.5)Friday, March 2410:09 p.m.TBS

Schedule via NCAA.com. Odds per OddsShark.

Final Four Predictions

East

The Sweet 16 game between No. 4 seed Florida and No. 8 seed Wisconsin should be low-scoring. They respectively rank third and eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, and the Badgers also play at one of the slowest tempos in the nation (334th out of 351 Division I teams).

The difference should be Wisconsin's size advantage down low. That helped the Badgers in their 65-62 win over defending national champion and No. 1 overall seed Villanova on Sunday.

If senior forward Nigel Hayes (6'8" and 240 pounds) and sophomore forward Ethan Happ (6'10" and 232 pounds) stay out of foul trouble, their weight advantage over Florida's starting front line (only sophomore forward Kevarrius Hayes weighs over 210, and no one weighs over 220) should be a problem. The Badgers will win a low-scoring slugfest.

South Carolina will face Baylor in the other East Regional game.

It's a battle between two teams with clear star players. In the Gamecocks' case, that's senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who is averaging 26.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in this tournament. For Baylor, it's sophomore big man Johnathan Motley, who registered 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this season.

Stopping Thornwell is a tall order for any team, but Motley and his teammates are third in Division I in rebounding differential. Like Wisconsin, Baylor's size will present some difficulty for its Sweet Sixteen opponent, and it will move on.

If Wisconsin and Baylor meet in the Elite Eight, then keep an eye out for the sharp shooting of senior Badgers guard Bronson Koenig, who has made 11-of-23 three-pointers in two NCAA tournament games.

Koenig is getting hot at the right time. The guess here is he stays that way and helps the Badgers reach the Final Four.

Pick: Wisconsin

South

North Carolina is the only ACC team (out of the nine that made the NCAA tournament field) to reach the Sweet 16 this season. The Tar Heels barely made it to the second weekend, as they overcame a five-point deficit with under three minutes remaining to beat Arkansas 72-65.

It's difficult to look at the ACC's poor performance in this tournament and not consider making a judgment on North Carolina, especially considering how close it was to losing to a No. 8 seed. Is the entire conference overrated and weaker than everyone thought? Is UNC headed home like its ACC rivals?

That being said, the Tar Heels' size down low should be a problem for every remaining tournament team. UNC out-rebounds its opponents by 13.1 boards per game, which is first in Division I. To put that number in perspective, Wichita State is second at 9.2.

Meanwhile, Butler only has a rebounding differential of one, and only two of its players grab five or more boards per game. UNC will use its dominance on the glass to overpower Butler and head to the Elite Eight.

UCLA and Kentucky will play in the other Sweet 16 showdown in what should be the most anticipated game of the NCAA tournament given the programs' history, plus the fact each team has star freshmen.

The Wildcats have found their stride in recent weeks, winning their last 13 games. But UCLA has gone 12-2 in its last 14 games and just scored 79 points against Cincinnati, one of the best defensive teams in the nation.

This is a near-impossible game to pick, with multiple scenarios in play. UCLA's offense (first in scoring in Division I) could overwhelm the Wildcats. UK freshman guard Malik Monk could take over and go for 30-plus points.

It's a coin flip. The team with the better defense, Kentucky, moves on.

That sets up North Carolina and Kentucky in a rematch of their epic early-season game in which Monk scored 47 points in a 103-100 victory in Las Vegas.

Don't expect Monk to score nearly as many this time around, but this should still be a great game. North Carolina's experience on the big stage will be beneficial, and the Tar Heels will head to Phoenix.

Pick: UNC

  

West

No. 1 seed Gonzaga and No. 4 seed West Virginia will face off in what could be the best game of the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs are a three-point favorite over the Mountaineers, per OddsShark, and this is a battle between the first- (Gonzaga) and sixth-ranked (West Virginia) teams in the nation, per KenPom.

The West Virginia press posed a big problem for Bucknell and Notre Dame during the opening weekend, causing numerous turnovers and ensuing easy buckets. West Virginia point guard Jevon Carter, who led the Big 12 in steals, and forward Nathan Adrian, who may have led the Big 12 in floor dives and burns, co-lead that defensive attack.

Gonzaga will pose a stiffer test than either of West Virginia's first two opponents, however, as junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss is one of the best floor generals in the nation. He averaged 16.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season. Williams-Goss' issue, however, is that he needs to regain his shooting form, as he's only made 10-of-32 field goals in the first two tournament games.

But the Bulldogs have five players who average at least 10 points per game, and they shoot 51.2 percent as a team. West Virginia can only cover so much ground, even if one or two players are struggling. It will hang tight, but the Zags will advance to the Elite Eight.

Arizona is a heavy favorite over Xavier, which is interesting considering the Musketeers impressed in big wins against Maryland and Florida State.

That being said, the Wildcats are 32-4, with losses coming against four teams that are still in the tournament (Butler, Gonzaga, UCLA and Oregon). They should beat Xavier.

That will lead to a Gonzaga-Arizona rematch of the Bulldogs' 69-62 win over the Wildcats earlier this year. The big difference is that sophomore guard Allonzo Trier, who missed that game, would be playing in an Elite Eight matchup. He is the Wildcats' leading scorer, with 17.1 points per contest. Expect him to be the difference in this game en route to Arizona's first Final Four appearance since 2001.

Pick: Arizona

Midwest

Kansas went on a 36-17 run to close its second-round matchup with Michigan State on Sunday, thanks largely to freshman star Josh Jackson, who showed why he will be one of the top picks in this year's NBA draft with a 23-point effort (14 in the second half).

His smooth moves and shooting touch were no match for MSU, who hung tough for about 30 minutes but couldn't handle the big KU three of Jackson, senior guard Frank Mason III and junior guard Devonte' Graham, who combined for 61 of KU's 90 points.

That trio will be an issue for Purdue, but the Boilermakers have a big man in sophomore center and double-double machine Caleb Swanigan, who is going to have success against KU. Swanigan has averaged 18 points, 13 rebounds and 5.5 assists in two tournament games, and he also hit 3-of-6 three-pointers against Iowa State in an 80-76 victory over the Cyclones on Saturday.

However, KU has a senior forward in 6'10", 250-pound Landen Lucas who can at least contain Swanigan and prevent him from taking the game over entirely. Swanigan will play well, but KU's big three will lead the way to a win.

Michigan is a team of destiny after it survived a horrifying plane incident before the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines are playing at peak form with incredible confidence and momentum. If someone struggles (as senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. did shooting when he went 3-of-13 against Louisville), a teammate will pick him up (as sophomore forward Moritz Wagner did by scoring 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting).

Oregon had a tremendous year, but without sophomore forward Chris Boucher, who is out for the year with a torn ACL, it's hard seeing the Ducks stopping this Michigan buzz saw.

And the same goes for KU. Sometimes, a team is hot at the perfect time and rolls through the tournament as a low seed, even though it's not the best team on paper. It could well happen to Wisconsin, as discussed above, and it might be happening with Michigan.

KU is the better team on the surface, but it's difficult to bet against Michigan given how it is playing.

Pick: Michigan

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