The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are in the books. Only 16 teams remain after a batch of wild upsets, mayhem and everything we missed out on last year. Some teams and conferences have thrived, while others have suffered some of the biggest upsets in the tournament.
Three No. 1 seeds remain and there are a bunch of questions from there. Let's re-rank the teams remaining before the action starts this weekend.
These rankings are based on NCAA’s rankings on offensive and defensive scoring, as well as my own eyeball test.
The Bulldogs have cruised to two early and easy victories to open up the tourney smashing Norfolk State by a score of 98-55 and pulling away from Oklahoma 87-71. The Zags have a “team of destiny” feel as they maintain their undefeated run through the season. They had three double-digit wins over non-conference opponents that made the field of 68 (Virginia, Iowa, and Kansas). Their path seems even easier now that the No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds have all been eliminated from the West region.
Drew Timme has been one of the best players in the tournament to this point and Corey Kispert is not too far behind him. This team could be even more unstoppable when Jalen Suggs is on.
2. Baylor Bears
Baylor has been winning a bit differently than the other teams in the field, but have regained their early-season form as a dominant team. They have forced a combined 38 turnovers (14 from Wisconsin, 24 from Hartford) and allowed an average of 59 points in two games.
The guard play from Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler and Macio Teague is unmatched compared to the rest of the teams in this tournament. Combine that with sixth-man Matthew Mayor heating up off the bench and this team’s eight-man rotation can match up with anyone in the country.
A meeting with a Collin Gilespie-less Villanova squad awaits, and afterward a potential matchup with cinderella Oral Roberts or a struggling Arkansas squad. The Bears may have the best chance of anyone to make the Final Four.
The third and final No. 1 seed remaining proved their worth in a win over an LSU squad that boasted one of the most electrifying offenses in the country. The fast-paced SEC team was in control early, but a few defensive shifts from Juwan Howard and his staff threw the Tigers off. Michigan started playing the basketball that won them games all season after that.
The best thing about this team is the variety of ways that they can win a game, starting with big man Hunter Dickinson. The offense runs through the 7-foot-1 freshman as teams are either forced to double-team him in the post or watch him dominate the interior. They can also pull shooting from a plethora of different guys like Franz Wagner, Mike Smith, Chaundee Brown and Eli Brooks.
Michigan has the most to prove of the three No. 1 seeds remaining. We know they are without Isaiah Livers and they are still trying to figure out their identity. The deeper they go, the more dangerous they are.
The Crimson Tide offense has surged after a rough first half in the opening round against Iona. The Crimson Tide shot 48.5 percent from deep and scored 96 points in their drubbing of a solid Maryland squad in the Round of 32. That should surprise nobody as Alabama was a top-30 scoring team averaging 79.7 points per game in the regular season. They can shoot any of the remaining 15 teams out of the gym if they are not kept in check.
Next, they play a UCLA team that was 106th in the country in scoring defense which will not be favorable for the Bruins.
5. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
Sister Jean is working her magic again this March as the Ramblers upset Illinois in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16. This team was criminally underseeded and better than the one that went to the Final Four a few years back. Loyola-Chicago finished No. 17 in the AP Poll at the end of the season and somehow wound up as an 8-seed heading in.
They’re the best defensive team remaining in the tournament and they have plenty of offensive weapons to make them a dangerous team out of the shaky Midwest Region.
Colorado scored 96 points in the first round in a blowout of Georgetown. They scored about half of that against Florida State who forced 19 turnovers from the Buffs as they cruised to a 71-53 win in the second round of the tourney. The Seminoles have a lot going for them in that they are long, athletic and can shoot the ball effectively.
They shot poorly in the first game against UNC Greensboro, but head coach Leonard Hamilton put that on the pressure of playing in the tournament. They matchup up well against the Wolverines with size and shooting and have a legitimate shot of pulling off a few upsets and making a run.
7. USC Trojans
Evan and Isaiah Mobley are two of the most talented players in the Pac-12 conference and have been putting on a show through the first two rounds. The duo accounted for 27 points and 21 rebounds in the 34-point blowout win of the higher-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the second round. The Trojans were red hot in that game hitting 11-of-18 from behind the arc. Now they meet with Oregon in the Sweet Sixteen. It should be a high-octane showdown between conference opponents.
8. Oregon Ducks
Oregon is an incredibly talented basketball team and that was displayed in the offensive onslaught they put on Iowa in the second round. The Ducks were 11-2 in their last 13 games in the regular season and came into the tournament as one of the hotter teams in the country. One of those losses in that run did come by the hand of USC by 14 points. This rematch will be one to watch.
9. Houston Cougars
Houston took care of Cleveland State in the first round before pulling a fast one and avoiding an upset at the hands of No. 10 seed Rutgers in the Round of 32. Houston is by far the highest seed remaining in the Midwest region, but now faces a Syracuse team that has been on a tear. The Cougars have more talent and are far better defensively (No. 2 in scoring defense in the country) which is why I give them a slight edge over Syracuse. However, there was a reason they had to go on a 14-2 run to avoid the upset against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights shot 44 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from deep in the game and Syracuse has the firepower to be just as efficient with more volume. Another upset could be brewing in the wild Midwest if Syracuse stays hot.
The Beavers are one of the hottest teams in the country. They have shot well over 40 percent from deep in four of their past five games and have won back-to-back games by double digits. They cooled off in the second round against Oklahoma State by holding them to just 27.7 percent shooting from the field.
A hot team is a dangerous one, but what happens when the shots stop going down? This team was 7-9 in Pac-12 play through their first 16 conference games and their streak could end if they can’t keep it up from deep.
11. Syracuse Orange
You can never count out Jim Boeheim in the NCAA Tournament. Some were stunned the Orange even made the field of 68. Now, they sit as one of the hottest teams remaining after impressive wins over tough San Diego State and West Virginia teams.
They rely desperately on their shooting from deep which is fine if Buddy Boeheim continues to drop almost 30 points per game and hits over 50 percent of his three-point attempts. Syracuse needs him to stay hot, as their defense is suspect at best.
12. Villanova Wildcats
Villanova has proved very little to me at this point in the tournament. Whenever Jay Wright is coaching his team is going to have a chance and James Robinson-Earl has been spectacular in the tournament. The team is without their best player in Collin Gillespie, who suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the year. Villanova has beaten No. 12 Winthrop and No. 13 North Texas so far in the NCAA Tournament. It is going to take a massive effort to get past Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen.
Survive and advance. The motto is the definition of this tournament and the ugly run Arkansas has been on to this point. They played a horrendous game against Colgate and needed a second-half surge to beat the 14-seed in the South Region. They went on to beat Texas Tech by only two points in the next round. They proved they can pull out close games and have the offensive explosion to beat anyone left in the tournament. But outside of Moses Moody and Justin Smith, the team has been shooting the ball terribly from the field. They have the highest ceiling of anyone not named Baylor in the South, but if they don’t shape up, they can be going home on Saturday against Oral Roberts.
14. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
Arkansas is the No. 6 scoring offense in the nation averaging 82 points per game. Oral Roberts is No. 12 and average just a half a point less than the No. 3 Razorbacks. Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor have played every minute so far in this tournament and have been two of the best players altogether. The duo has accounted for 113 of the team’s 156 points. This team is catching on at the right time and if the Razorbacks can’t slow them down, they could play spoiler again versus a struggling Arkansas team.
15. UCLA Bruins
UCLA’s run through the tournament has been just a bit longer than everyone else given that they played in the First Four. After a close win over Michigan State, they beat an overrated BYU team and had a nice draw of Abilene Christain in the Round of 32 following their upset of Texas.
The Pac-12 has been undefeated at this point in the tournament, which was not expected to happen. A large reason for UCLA’s success is their 43 percent shooting from three-point range in their three games. Johnny Juzang has put a string of impressive performances together, averaging 22.3 points a game, and has carried this team to the Sweet Sixteen. A much better Alabama team stands in their way. Even if the Bruins continue to shoot the ball well, the Crimson Tide can match that scoring output.
16. Creighton Blue Jays
Creighton is extremely lucky to be in the Sweet Sixteen and they have by far the worst resume of the teams remaining. Doug McDermott has been in hot water over racist comments at the end of the season. He then offered to resign and was told not to. Creighton was embarrassed by Georgetown in the championship game of the Big East tournament. They were then a bunny shot away from losing to UCSB in the first round. Ohio was the next opponent after their win over Virginia, which created an opportunity to get on track against another lesser opponent. They face their toughest test of the season against Gonzaga, which feels like the expiration date for this team.