The NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen will begin on Thursday with four games. After Thursday night, four teams will be in the Elite Eight with a chance to go to Minneapolis for the 2019 Final Four and the other four remaining teams will see their season come to an end. Here is a preview of Thursday’s games.
#4 Florida State vs. #1 Gonzaga
Florida State is looking to upset Gonzaga for the second straight season and advance to another Elite Eight. Gonzaga is looking to get a chance to get to their second Final Four in three years. I can see this game going either way. Both teams looked good in the first two rounds easily advancing, and both have been solid teams all season.
I give the edge to Florida State because the Seminoles play in the ACC, arguably the best conference in America, while the Bulldogs plays in the WCC who only had one other NCAA tournament team in St Mary’s. The Seminoles are used to playing top teams, and Terance Mann along with Mfiondu Kabengele will put them over the edge in this game. They made a deep run in the NCAA tournament last year and look like they can go even farther this season.
Prediction: Florida State-72, Gonzaga-67
#3 Texas Tech vs. #2 Michigan
In the nightcap of the West region, Michigan and Texas Tech, two of the best defensive teams in the country, will look to advance to the Elite Eight. Both teams were in the Elite Eight last season and have again had tremendous seasons up to this point.
Both cruised to the Sweet Sixteen, and for Michigan, it got big performances by Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews in wins over Montana and Florida. For Texas Tech, it was able to get through Northern Kentucky and Buffalo behind the play of Jarrett Culver and Matt Mooney.
According to NCAA.com, both teams have top three defenses in the country with Michigan being at 2 and Texas Tech ahead at 1. Jarrett Culver is the best player on Texas Tech, leading the team in points, assists, and rebounds, and will be a key player in this game. Charles Matthews, one of Michigan’s best defenders, will likely be matched up with Culver and I believe that matchup very well might decide who wins this game. Both teams struggle at times offensively, but John Beilein will have the Michigan offense prepared to face the daunting Texas Tech defense and Michigan will score just enough points to win.
Prediction: Michigan-65, Texas Tech-61
#2 Tennessee vs. #2 Purdue
Tennessee and Purdue will also face off Thursday night with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. Tennessee was ranked in the preseason top 10 and has played like it all season. They were even ranked number 1 in the country for some time. Purdue lost a lot of talent from 2018 and wasn’t expected to have a great year and stumbled out of the gate going 6-5 in their first 11, but they got their act together. They only lost three games for the rest of the season and ended up winning a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
Carsen Edwards will be the key in this game. Edwards scored 42 against Villanova in a blowout win, but only 11 in the Boilermakers loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament. If Tennessee can contain Edwards, I think they will have a great shot at winning. Tennessee, led by Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, will do enough to contain Edwards and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2010.
Prediction: Tennessee-73, Purdue-65
#1 Virginia vs. #12 Oregon
Virginia and Oregon will face off in the late game in the South Region. Led by Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter, and Kyle Guy, Virginia has been almost unbeatable all season only losing three games, two of those games being to Duke. Oregon, led by Payton Pritchard, has had an up and down season.
They started ranked in the Top 25 in the preseason but fell out once freshman star Bol Bol was declared out for the season. They looked to be out of the tournament picture after losing to UCLA but then proceeded to win eight straight including the Pac 12 tournament.
After getting over the hump of beating a 16 seed, Virginia dominated Oklahoma in the Round of 32. Oregon was able to beat Wisconsin and UC Irvine pretty handily winning by 15+ in both games. The Ducks have had a great run, but I picked Virginia to win the title for a reason, and it is finally the Cavaliers year, plus Virginia will cruise.
Prediction: Virginia-68, Oregon-50