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NCAA Tournament 2019: Early Predictions for Sweet 16 Teams Post-Selection Sunday

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 18, 2019

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 15: Kyle Guy #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers reacts after a play against the Florida State Seminoles during their game in the semifinals of the 2019 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 15, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The NCAA men's basketball tournament rarely goes to chalk. 

In fact, most of the recent tournaments have had a few surprise teams move into the Sweet 16. 

The 2019 edition of March Madness will experience more of that, as a few lower seeds join a quartet of No. 1 seeds in the second weekend of the competition. 

Although we think a few surprises are in store during the first weekend, most of the heavy favorites will stay alive until at least the Sweet 16. 

                        

2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket

                            

Sweet 16 Predictions

East Region

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No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 4 Virginia Tech, No. 6 Maryland

The easiest decision you'll make when filling out your brackets is sending Duke into the Sweet 16. 

If the Blue Devils fall to either NC Central or North Dakota State in the first round, or to UCF or VCU in the second round, it will be seen as one of the biggest upsets in March Madness history. 

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Not only is Duke the team to beat in the East Region, it is also widely viewed as the favorite to win the championship. 

Duke's Sweet 16 opponent will be a familiar face, with fourth-seeded Virginia Tech surviving its pod of games in San Jose, California. 

Although the Hokies will face a tough test from No. 13 Saint Louis in the first round, they should set up a showdown against Duke with guard Justin Robinson back in the lineup.

Before missing 12 games with a foot injury, the 21-year-old averaged 13.7 points per game as part of one of the most underrated guard duos in the nation alongside Nickeil Alexander-Walker. 

Corey Perrine/Associated Press

By taking down Mississippi State in the second round, the Hokies advance to their first Sweet 16 under head coach Buzz Williams. 

Down at the bottom half of the East bracket, Michigan State should breeze into the second weekend, using its experience to get past Bradley and the Louisville-Minnesota winner. 

Jacksonville is where the upsets will take place in the East, as Yale takes advantage of LSU's uneasy situation involving suspended head coach Will Wade to pull off the upset of the No. 3 seed. 

Maryland won't have an easy first-round contest against either Belmont or Temple, but it'll advance past the Bruins or Owls, and Yale in the second round, behind double-double machine Bruno Fernando.

The 20-year-old is one of the most underrated big men in the country, and as he boosts his NBA draft stock, Maryland moves one step away from an anticipated Elite Eight clash with old ACC rival Duke. 

                      

West Region

No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Michigan, No. 4 Florida State, No. 6 Buffalo 

Gonzaga and Michigan are as steady as they come, with plenty of depth and experience capable of driving them into the Sweet 16. 

Mark Few's Bulldogs could struggle with Syracuse's zone in the second round, but they have enough length to pick out the holes in Jim Boeheim's system to avoid an upset. 

Florida State is one of the few teams that can challenge Gonzaga's length, with Christ Koumadje and Mfiondu Kabengele residing in the paint. 

Since they made the Elite Eight a year ago and are coming off an appearance in the ACC tournament final, the Seminoles will pose a tough test for the No. 1 seed in the West. 

Phil Sears/Associated Press

Michigan can't take Montana lightly since the Grizzlies are looking for revenge after losing to the same opponent in the first round a year ago. 

The Wolverines also can't go into a second-round clash with Nevada thinking too highly of themselves since they'll be playing a Sweet 16 team from 2018.

Even though the road to Anaheim could be tough, Michigan should bank on its experience, depth and coaching to set up a clash with Buffalo. 

Nate Oats' Bulls are no longer an unknown commodity, as they upset Arizona a year ago and dominated the MAC this season. 

The combination of CJ Massinburg and Nick Perkins will be too much for Texas Tech to handle in the second round. 

Before beating the Red Raiders, the Bulls knock off former coach Bobby Hurley and Arizona State in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Friday. 

                           

South 

No. 1 Virginia, No. 7 Cincinnati, No. 11 Saint Mary's, No. 12 Oregon

For the second consecutive season, the South Region will be blown apart by upsets. 

In 2018, UMBC, Buffalo and Loyola-Chicago all advanced to the second round in the South, while the Sweet 16 teams were seeded first, seventh, ninth and 11th. 

Cincinnati, Saint Mary's and Oregon will extend that trend by continuing their postseason runs after winning their respective conference tournaments. 

The Bearcats will ride their defense and a rare home-court advantage as a No. 7 seed in Columbus, Ohio, to slide into the Sweet 16. 

Oregon's length will limit Ethan Happ's production in the first round, and the Ducks will take advantage of Kansas State without Dean Wade at 100 percent in the second round. 

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 16:  Louis King #2 of the Oregon Ducks brings the ball up the court against Matisse Thybulle #4 of the Washington Huskies during the championship game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 16, 2019 in Las
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Saint Mary's also has a few vulnerable teams in its pod, as Villanova was up and down during Big East play and Purdue is coming off two losses to Minnesota in its last three games. 

The funny part about this prediction is the one program who doesn't fall to upsets in the South is Virginia, who moves on to Louisville, Kentucky, as the favorite to clinch a spot in the Final Four. 

                         

Midwest

No. 1 North Carolina, No. 3 Houston, No. 5 Auburn, No. 7 Wofford

For the first time since 2016, all four No. 1 seeds will advance to the Sweet 16. 

A deep North Carolina side should shrug off Iona in the first round before defeating upset-minded Utah State in the second round in Columbus. 

After flying under the radar all season, Houston earns a chance to flex its muscle on the national stage by winning a pair of games in Tulsa. 

Corey Davis Jr. and Armoni Brooks are the players to watch on the Cougars roster, as they both average over 13 points per game

Michael Wyke/Associated Press

After jumping back on to the national radar by winning the SEC tournament, Auburn surges past New Mexico State and an inexperienced Kansas team to set up an intriguing Sweet 16 showdown with the Tar Heels. 

The biggest upset of the second round will occur in Jacksonville, as seventh-seeded Wofford backs up the hype it has received all season by knocking out Kentucky in the second round.

The Fletcher Magee-led Terriers should get past Myles Powell and Seton Hall in one of the most entertaining first-round games before throwing everything at Kentucky and proving just how strong a team they are. 

Wofford's success will be a surprise to some since it will get past Kentucky, but this is a team coming into the Big Dance with a world of confidence, as it has won 20 straight games. 

                          

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com

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