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Analysis: More Madness Likely In NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16

Analysis: More Madness Likely In NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16

Your bracket is shot. We know it. Ours is, too.

INDIANAPOLIS: Your bracket is shot. We know it. Ours is, too.

A year after the NCAA Tournament was canceled, the madness returned with an opening weekend full of upsets.

No. 1 seed Illinois, gone. So is Ohio State. High seeds Texas and Virginia also are out, replaced by upstarts and mid-major noisemakers.

And we have Sister Jean, the 101-year-old nun who serves as team chaplain for Chicago Loyola. So good to have her back.

It was a wild opening ride to be sure and the tournament is all but guaranteed to have a few more unexpected twists and turns.

Here’s what to look for:

THE REGULARS

Gonzaga The Zags are the only team to reach the Sweet 16 in six consecutive seasons. They’re also four wins from completing perfection, trying to become the first undefeated champion since Indiana 45 years ago.

Baylor The big, bad ball-hawking Bears appear to have found the form they had before a second COVID-19 pause, so watch out.

Michigan The Wolverines have looked like a No. 1 seed, even without Isaiah Livers.

Alabama The Tide’s mauling of Maryland in the second round shows just how potent this team can be.

Houston The Cougars sport some of that same swagger as the Phi Slama Jama teams back in the ’80s.

THE UPSTARTS

Chicago Loyola Sister Jean and the lovable Ramblers are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since that 2018 Final Four run. Seeing her on the sideline warms the heart. The Ramblers have some heart of their own.

Oral Roberts The Golden Eagles aren’t Dunk City, but they are the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 since Florida Gulf Coast became the first eight years ago.

Oregon State The Beavers were picked to finish 12th in a conference with 12 teams. After two wins as a No. 12 seed, you’d be wise not to pick against these underdogs.

UCLA Hard to call the all-time leader in national championships an upstart, but the Bruins barely got into the bracket. With three wins and a trip to the Sweet 16, they quickly proved they belong.

Arkansas The Muss Bus has the Razorbacks chugging into their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1996. Quite a job by coach Eric Musselman in two short years.

STAR PLAYERS

Corey Kispert, Gonzaga All-American playing like one to put the Zags four games from the first perfect season since 1976.

Evan Mobley, USC The freshman has the length of a big man, the skills of a guard and the ability to dominate both ends of the floor.

Jared Butler, Baylor The junior All-American stands out, even on a team oozing with talent.

Jahvon Quinerly, Alabama There’s almost nothing he can’t do and nothing opponents can do when he gets it going.

Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton Forgot some of the shooting woes he had at times during the regular season. This is the junior sharpshooter’s time to shine, and he’s leaning into it.

RISING STARS

Max Abmas, Oral Roberts High-volume scoring from this biomedical chemistry major has the Golden Eagles soaring into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974.

Cameron Krutwig, Chicago Loyola Remember that beefy, agile-footed, deft-passing big man during the 2018 Final Four run? Well, he’s back and he’s rockin’ a wispy mustache. The Krustache plays the harmonica, too.

Quentin Grimes, Houston Leaving Kansas worked out out well for the high-scoring guard. It wasn’t a bad deal for coach Kelvin Sampson and his Cougars, either.

Chris Duarte, Oregon Playing on the West Coast has limited his national visibility, but believe us, he was one of college basketball’s best guards long before this Ducks’ run.

Ethan Thompson, Oregon State He scores, dishes and rebounds. He’s a big reason the underdog Beavers have gotten this far.

MUST-WATCH GAMES

Michigan vs. Florida State, East Region, Sunday Has the makings of being the best game in the entire bracket. Definitely in must-watch territory.

Gonzaga vs. Creighton, West Region, Sunday The Zags’ bid for perfection goes through the Bluejays and sweet-shooting Zegarowski.

Alabama vs. UCLA, East Region, Sunday Alabama likes to play fast. UCLA likes to slow things down. Something’s got to give.

Oregon State vs. Loyola Chicago, Midwest Region, Saturday The underdog branch of the bracket features two scrappy teams and one lovable 101-year-old nun.

Villanova vs. Baylor, South Region, Saturday Two powerhouse programs expected to put on a show.

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More AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket

first published:March 24, 2021, 03:12 IST