March Madness 2019: Sweet 16 Bracket and Final Four Predictions

Jake RillCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2019

Duke's Zion Williamson, right, embraces RJ Barrett, left, during the second half of the NCAA college basketball championship game against Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Nell Redmond/Associated Press

After four full days of NCAA tournament action, the tournament field has been trimmed to 16 teams. Now, there will be a three-day break before the Sweet 16 round unfolds on Thursday and Friday.

Compared to some years, there haven't been too many upsets thus far in March Madness. Only one double-digit seed (No. 12 Oregon) is in the Sweet 16. All four No. 1 seeds, all four No. 2 seeds and all four No. 3 seeds are also in the Sweet 16.

Here's a look at the bracket and a prediction for which four schools will emerge from this year's Sweet 16 to reach the Final Four in Minneapolis.



Final Four Predictions

East Region Winner: Duke

Duke may be the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, but the Blue Devils had a close call with their second-round matchup against No. 9 seed UCF on Sunday.

Trailing late, Duke rallied to win as RJ Barrett scored the go-ahead basket with 11 seconds remaining and UCF missed two shots on its final possession. Zion Williamson scored 32 points, but he missed a free throw with 14 seconds remaining and the Blue Devils down by one point. However, Barrett got the rebound and put it back up for his go-ahead score.

"To be in that situation, it's like we know it's win or go home," Barrett said, according to the Charlotte Observer's Steve Wiseman. "So we're trying to give everything out there because, if we lose, that's it for us for the season. So just a surreal feeling, and it's great to win."

Although Duke was nearly knocked out, playing a close game like that could be beneficial as it continues on. The Blue Devils will play No. 4 seed Virginia Tech—an ACC rival which they lost to on Feb. 26—in the Sweet 16 on Friday night.

Duke will find a way to win again and continue its march toward the Final Four.


South Region Winner: Virginia

Richard Shiro/Associated Press

Virginia avoided losing to a No. 16 seed in the first round for the second year in a row, and now the Cavaliers are in the Sweet 16.

After overcoming an early deficit to beat No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb in the first round, Virginia beat No. 9 seed Oklahoma 63-51 in the second round on Sunday. Now, the Cavaliers will play the lowest-seeded team remaining in the tournament—No. 12 Oregon.

The Ducks are the only double-digit seed in the Sweet 16, and they've won 10 games in a row, including the Pac-12 tournament championship game and two NCAA tournament wins over No. 5 seed Wisconsin and No. 13 seed UC Irvine.

However, Oregon's run will come to an end against Virginia, which will then go on to beat either No. 2 seed Tennessee or No. 3 seed Purdue to make the Final Four for the first time since 1984.

"Everyone is talking about a Final Four, but I've never been to a Sweet 16," Cavaliers junior guard Ty Jerome said, according to 247sports.com. "Just the opportunity to play with this group again for a whole 'nother week and practicing with this group and traveling with this group, that's what means the most, I think. Just to keep playing with this group of guys."


West Region Winner: Michigan

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Just like the East Region, the Sweet 16 matchups in the West feature the four top seeds in the region—No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Florida State.

The Wolverines have been impressive through the first two rounds of the tournament, and that should continue. They beat No. 15 seed Montana by 19 points in the first round, then notched a 64-49 second-round victory over No. 10 seed Florida on Saturday.

"We wanted to shut off their water," Michigan senior guard Charles Matthews said of beating the Gators, according to 247sports.com. "They were getting open looks and our coaching staff did a great job of recognizing that and we just followed the game plan."

Michigan hasn't lost to a team other than Michigan State since Feb. 12—although it lost to the Spartans three times during that stretch.

However, Michigan State can't prevent Michigan from reaching the Final Four, which the Wolverines will do by beating Texas Tech, then either Gonzaga or Florida State in the following round.


Midwest Region Winner: Kentucky

Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Kentucky knows how to win in March. For example, in the second round, the Wildcats beat No. 7 seed Wofford by shutting down Fletcher Magee, the Division I record holder for most career 3-pointers, forcing him to miss all 12 of his attempts from behind the arc.

"It was the effort and energy, and my hope is they got a little worn down because these guys did not stop," Kentucky coach John Calipari said, according to the Associated Press. "They just chased, and they knew they couldn't let up in this game or they were going to score baskets."

Calipari has Kentucky in the Sweet 16 for the eighth time in his 10 seasons at the helm. And it won't be surprising to see the Wildcats in the Final Four for the fifth time in the Calipari era.

In order to do that, Kentucky will need to beat No. 3 seed Houston, then the winner of the matchup between No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 5 seed Auburn.

The Wildcats should do that to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2015.