Oh how sweet it is to be playing in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. We have cut down the field of 68 to just 16 teams remaining, with some taking different routes more than others to get there.
Before the action tips off Thursday night. Here’s a brief rundown of 16 facts about the remaining 16 teams in the Tournament.
1. EAST REGION
(3) BAYLOR: This is the second Sweet 16 showing for the Baylor Bears in the last four seasons, after being ousted in the first round of the Tournament each of the last two seasons. They will be looking for another 2-0 weekend in hopes of reaching their first Final Four since 1950.
(4) FLORIDA: The Gators average margin of victory was 20.5 points, which included a 26-point throttling of Virginia in the Round of 32 on Saturday. Their average margin of victory is the largest among any of the Sweet 16 teams remaining. Florida as advanced to the Elite 8 each of the last seven times they made the Round of 16.
(7) SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks are new the kids on the block in this year’s Tournament. The Frank Martin project of rebuilding the USC program is in full swing. After earning a spot in the dance for the first time in 13 years. South Carolina has won multiple games in the Tournament for the first time in 44 years. (First Sweet 16 since ’85 expansion)
(8) WISCONSIN: The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for a fourth consecutive season. They are only two years removed from consecutive Final Four appearances in 2014-15, and the current senior class lead by Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were a part of both. They are battle-tested and look to make one final push together.
2. MIDWEST REGION
(1) KANSAS: It’s the fourth straight time as a 1-seed in the dance that Kansas has survived and made it to the second weekend. However, they failed to make it to the Final Four in any of those previous four instances. Last season, the Jayhawks fell to eventual champion Villanova in the Elite 8.
(3) OREGON: It’s back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances for the Ducks, and five straight seasons not only in the dance, but also winning their first-round match-up. Oregon will be looking to make their second ever Final Four — the first coming in 1939, when they won the first ever NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (def. Ohio State, 46-33).
(4) PURDUE: The Boilermakers dropped 80 points in each of their first two games played of the Tournament, right on par with their season average. They ranked second in the Big Ten by the slimmest of margins to Iowa, and 33rd in the country, in scoring offense. It’s Purdue’s 10th trip to the Round of 16, where they are just 4-5 all-time.
(7) MICHIGAN: It’s the third trip to the Sweet 16 in the last five seasons for the Wolverines; the previous two times, they lost in the Championship Game (’13) and in the Elite 8 (’14). They are an incredible 12-1 all-time in the Round of 16 (only loss in 1988). It’s now victories in 12 of their last 14 games overall.
3. SOUTH REGION
(1) NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels are back in the Round of 16 for a third straight season after a brief hiatus from 2013-14. North Carolina will be looking to get back to the National Championship Game after losing in heartbreak fashion a season ago. They’d be the first team since Butler from 2010-11 to be in the final game in consecutive years.
(2) KENTUCKY: That’s now six Sweet 16 appearances in the last eight years for Big Blue. The Wildcats will now look to make it five Final Fours in the last seven years, and perhaps be a participant in the title game for the second time in four seasons (L in 2014 to Connecticut, 60-54).
(3) UCLA: It’s the third Sweet 16 in the last four seasons for the Bruins. The last time they reached the Elite 8 was in 2008, which also happened to be the third of three straight seasons being among the Final Four. Amazingly, it’s the last time any Pac-12 team made the National Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
(4) BUTLER: The Bulldogs won wire-to-wire in the first weekend of the Tournament, winning by a double-digit average over (13) Winthrop and (12) Middle Tennessee. The 4-seed is their highest in program history, and the Sweet 16 showing is their first since 2011, the latter of their back-to-back national runner-up seasons as a “mid-major.”
4. WEST REGION
(1) GONZAGA: These Bulldogs won both of their games in very different ways. They held just a 4-point lead at halftime against (16) South Dakota State, and went on to win by 20. Conversely, they were up 18 at the break against (8) Northwestern and only won by 6. The latter victory was just their fifth victory by single-digits this season.
(2) ARIZONA: The Wildcats are in the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in the last seven appearances (bounced in the first round last year). However, they are seeking their first Final Four showing since 2001, the year they defeated then defending champion Michigan State in the national semifinal before losing to Duke in the title game.
(4) WEST VIRGINIA: The Mountaineers ranked tops in Division 1 in turnovers forced per game, the only club force more than 20 per contest. In their first two games, their press defense yielded 14 and 13 respectively. Their Sweet 16 opponent, Gonzaga, commits on average a little more than 11 per game.
(11) XAVIER: The X has won five of six games overall since enduring a six-game slide towards the end of the regular season. The may have been the most impressive team in the Tournament thus far, taking down (6) Maryland and (3) Florida State by a combined 36 points in the first weekend. The Musketeers are just 2-5 all-time in the Sweet 16.