Sweet 16 2018: Bracket, TV Schedule, Odds and Final Four Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 19, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17:  Phil Booth #5 of the Villanova Wildcats dunks the ball against John Petty #23 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the second half in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 17, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Despite a wide range of upsets occurring over the first two rounds of the 2018 NCAA men's basketball tournament, plenty of big-name programs remain alive entering the Sweet 16.

A pair of No. 1 and No. 2 seeds made it through the madness of the first and second rounds, while a No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 seed advanced to the second weekend of the competition.

Although it's possible one of the unlikely Sweet 16 participants makes more noise, the expectation is for blue bloods to take over and fight it out for spots in the Final Four.

Below is an early look at which teams should move on to the Final Four in San Antonio from the four regional sites.

       

Sweet 16 TV Schedule

Thursday, March 22

No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (7:07 p.m., CBS)

No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M (7:27 p.m., TBS)

No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State (9:37 p.m., CBS)

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State (9:59 p.m., TBS)

     

Friday, March 23

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson (7:07 p.m., CBS)

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia (7:27 p.m., TBS)

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 Syracuse (9:37 p.m., CBS)

No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (9:59 p.m., TBS)

      

Odds to Win National Championship (via OddsShark)

Villanova (+500; Bet $100 to win $500)

Duke (+540)

Kansas (+900)

Michigan (+1000)

Kentucky (+1000)

Gonzaga (+1100)

Purdue (+2000)

Texas Tech (+3000)

West Virginia (+3300)

Texas A&M (+10000)

Clemson (+12500)

Florida State (+15000)

Loyola-Chicago (+17500)

Nevada (+19000)

Kansas State (+23000)

Syracuse (+40000)

      

Final Four Predictions

Kentucky

If you're evaluating the South region on pure talent, No. 5 Kentucky runs away with the games in Atlanta and advances to the Final Four.

While the most likely outcome from Thursday and Saturday's contests in the South is Kentucky moving on to San Antonio, it's going to face a significant test to make it to the Alamodome.

Internally, the Wildcats, who faced plenty of struggles throughout the regular season, have to bank off head coach John Calipari's postseason experience, as none of the key players in this year's squad carried NCAA tournament minutes on their resumes before the first round.

Freshmen Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are playing on another level at the moment, with one single-digit point performance between the two since February 20.

BOISE, ID - MARCH 17:  Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats drives to the basket during the second half against the Buffalo Bulls in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 17, 2018 in Bois
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Gilgeous-Alexander was the star of the first two rounds for the Wildcats, as he scored 46 points against No. 12 Davidson and No. 13 Buffalo, with 27 coming in the 95-75 triumph over the upset-minded Bulls in the second round.

Kentucky should overpower Kansas State's guards, as the Wildcats from the Big 12 enter the Sweet 16 off a putrid shooting performance against No. 16 UMBC.

The more intriguing contest comes in the Elite 8, as Kentucky squares off against No. 7 Nevada and its experience led by Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline.

The battle in the backcourt could determine the final result, but the X-factor for Kentucky will be its length, as all of its main contributors are listed above 6'5". The height and range of the Wildcats will cause trouble on the perimeter and prevent Nevada from working into a rhythm.

       

Gonzaga

Amid all the carnage over the last four days, the No. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs flew under the radar a bit with victories over No. 13 UNC Greensboro and No. 5 Ohio State.

Gonzaga is the lone No. 4 seed left in the competition, and it holds a home-court advantage in the West, as its fans don't have to travel far to the Staples Center.

The Bulldogs are on a quest to return to the National Championship, and there's a good chance they achieve the feat with their experienced roster and the draw presented to them.

Zach Norvell Jr., who averages 12.7 points per game, emerged as the star of the first weekend for Gonzaga, as he scored 15 points in the first round and led the team with 28 points against Ohio State in the round of 32.

BOISE, ID - MARCH 17:  Zach Norvell Jr. #23 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs shoots the ball against Jae'Sean Tate #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 17,
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In addition to Norvell's contributions in the scoring column, Rui Hachimura went off for 25 points in his bench role versus the Buckeyes.

Opponents are going to focus on stopping Killian Tillie, who only scored nine points in his last two games combined, which means Norvell, Hachimura and a few others are going to be open for shots.

With Gonzaga's depth providing key baskets and Tillie ready to break out at some point in the second weekend, it should have enough to push past No. 9 Florida State and No. 3 Michigan.

        

Duke

You might as well rename the Midwest the ACC region, as No. 2 Duke, No. 5 Clemson and No. 11 Syracuse join No. 1 Kansas in Omaha. 

Duke was one of the most impressive teams in the first and second rounds, as it won both of its contests by more than 20 points. 

While Marvin Bagley III receives most of the spotlight, the Blue Devils are being driven by quite a few underclassmen.

In the 87-62 win over No. 7 Rhode Island, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval reached double digits in the points column, while senior Grayson Allen provided 10 points of his own.

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17:  Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils passes the ball to Marvin Bagley III #35 against Stanford Robinson #13 of the Rhode Island Rams during the second half in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Although Syracuse's zone defense forced No. 3 Michigan State into all sorts of problems, Duke shouldn't face too many difficulties against Jim Boeheim's system, as it already contains a win over the Orange from ACC play.

In the February 24 home triumph over Syracuse, Bagley and Carter eclipsed the 10-point mark, while the Duke defense forced 17 turnovers.

Once the Blue Devils get past Syracuse, they should matchup well with No. 1 Kansas, even if the Jayhawks possess a pair of impressive senior guards in Devonte' Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

If Duke finds success in the lane early on, it could eliminate any momentum Kansas' guards are capable of creating.

Duke's size and depth down low should be too much for Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa to handle.

However, since Kansas has stars on the perimeter, Duke will be forced to advance to the Final Four by winning a shootout.

       

Villanova

When the brackets first came out on Selection Sunday, No. 1 Villanova appeared to have the easiest path to San Antonio of the four top seeds.

Jay Wright's Wildcats made winning look easy so far in the Big Dance, as it knocked off No. 16 Radford and No. 9 Alabama by a combined 49 points.

No. 5 West Virginia provides an interesting test for the Wildcats due to the pressing system Bob Huggins employs in Morgantown.

However, Villanova is one of the few teams in the nation that shouldn't be affected by the way the Mountaineers defend.

Jalen Brunson is one of the most poised players in the country, and with four days to prepare alongside Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Phil Booth, the Wildcats should have all the answers to solve anything West Virginia throws at them.

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15:  Mikal Bridges #25 of the Villanova Wildcats drives to the basket against Donald Hicks #5 of the Radford Highlanders during the second half of the game in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PPG PAINT
Rob Carr/Getty Images

No. 2 Purdue has more size than Villanova, but the Boilermakers don't have the wealth of playmakers the Wildcats possess. 

Brunson excelled all year in the superstar role, while Bridges hasn't cooled off since his streak of 17 straight double-digit point outings that began on January 23.

The Wildcats should overwhelm the Boilermakers from three-point range, and once the Big Ten team commits extra numbers to the perimeter, Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall will take care of business in the paint.

         

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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