#4 Virginia Tech vs. #1 Duke
With 5 teams from the ACC advancing to the Sweet 16, two of its heavyweights were bound to clash at some point. This happens at a neutral site in Washington, DC, and even though Blacksburg is a couple hours closer than Durham, I still expect it to be a pro-Duke crowd. Duke comes in with a healthy Zion who didn’t suit up in their lone matchup this season when Virginia Tech beat the Blue Devils 77-72. The Hokies did this on their homecourt and without their all-time leader in assists, Justin Robinson. With both teams coming in at full strength, this game is set up to be a doozie.
The Hokies didn’t really impress me until about a month ago. They seem to have finally put it all together, and the only team they’ve lost to in March is Florida State. With Justin Robinson they are a damn good team, and Buzz Williams knows how to beat Duke. He’s going to force them to shoot 30+ three balls, and if they make 12 or more I think Duke wins this game. Otherwise, I expect Virginia Tech to upset Coach K’s most talented group since the 2015 team.
#3 Purdue vs. #2 Tennessee
This tournament has been all chalk in the first two rounds, so it’s only right that two of the top teams in the Big Ten and SEC would face off in the Sweet Sixteen. It shows that although mid-majors are competitive with Power 5 teams and can beat them on a given day, the combination of top-notch coaching and players is still the correct formula to advance in the tournament. I always like looking at the current form the team is in when evaluating games. To me, Purdue is playing better basketball than Tennessee at the current moment.
This game is essentially a toss up when you evaluate each squad. I think that the difference will be Carsen Edwards. He is a pure scorer, and any team is capable of winning in March if their go-to guy is hot. Eh em… Steph Curry and Jimmer Fredette… eh em. Edwards has a better supporting cast around him unlike those Davidson and BYU teams, though. Tennessee plays physical, hard-nose defense and they can beat anyone in the country depending on how the refs decide to call the game. I’m all about being as physical as the refs allow, and if the officials let this Tennessee team put their football bodies on Purdue, the Vols will come out on top in this matchup. If Carsen Edwards gets his way and can put up 30+ points, Purdue has a high chance to win this game. Expect it to be a close one either way. If I had to pick a winner in this game it’d be Tennessee.
#3 Texas Tech vs. #2 Michigan
The third game of the night features two teams with elite defenses. Texas Tech comes into the game with only two losses since the start of February. They are one of the hottest teams in college basketball, and not only can they defend, but they can fill up the bucket too. Jarrett Culver is going to be a lottery pick, and I think the Red Raiders have the more talented roster. Coaching is where Michigan has an edge. Giving John Beilein, who is one of the best coaches in college basketball, four days to prepare is a scary thought. He has some solid players on this team, but I just am not overly impressed by their cast of players. I had Michigan losing before this round in most of my brackets, and I expect the Red Raiders to be too much for the Wolverines in this one.
#12 Oregon vs. #1 Virginia
The seeding of these teams does not give this game a lot of hype, but Oregon is probably the best 12 seed ever put into the bracket. They haven’t lost a game in over a month and earned their bid by running the table in the Pac-12 tourney. Without their stud Bol Bol, it is tough to pick out a standout player on the Ducks. Their scoring is distributed amongst their starting lineup which is a testament to how well-rounded of a team they have.
Virginia, the regular season ACC Champions, is out to prove they are a tournament team after fizzling out early the last two years. Tony Bennett is not only a handsome man- he is also one of the best coaches in the country. After all, looks only get you so far. Virginia looks like another typical Wahoo team. Above average players, kinda misfits on the court, all brought together by the pack line defense and one hell of a coach. I think Virginia is ultimately going to advance to the Elite 8, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Oregon gave them a run for their money. I’d say Virginia wins by five with a few Kyle Guy free throws to seal the victory.