What was once 68 is now only 16 after six days of nearly non-stop hooping action.
The Men’s Sweet 16 is set, and after a week of setbacks, it’s time to reset and rearrange the teams still battling to take down the nets in New Orleans. Nine different seed lines and eight different conferences are represented as we head into the tournament’s second weekend, leaving three of the four No. 1 seeds (but not defending champion Baylor). Who is the team to beat? And who is lucky enough to still be dancing? Here’s our updated top 16 power rankings.
1. Gonzaga (No. 1 seed, West region)
It took the Zags more work than expected to make it through the first weekend for the seventh straight tournament, but after surviving a couple of disrupted bids from Georgia State and Memphis, they are once again in the Sweet 16. Gonzaga’s struggle with Memphis was again indicative of the team’s vulnerability against elite athletic and physical lineups, which could cause problems for the Bulldogs in later rounds, especially in a potential Elite Eight rematch with Duke.
2. Arizona (No. 1 seed, South region)
The Wildcats got everything they could from TCU on the round of 32, but moved up to second overall in the field thanks to huge late moments from Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko. We know this group can be more explosive than anyone on the offensive when at its best, and a few days for Kerr Kriisa to rest his ankle will be a good thing for Tommy Lloyd’s team. Sweet 16 opponent Houston could be a problem though, given the way the Cougars defend.
3. Villanova (No. 2 seed, South region)
Villanova is a very difficult team to beat when it plays well in the frontcourt, and it got that in the first two games in the Big Dance. Center Eric Dixon scored in double figures in both games, while veteran Jermaine Samuels went for 15 and 17 points in the Wildcats’ two wins in Pittsburgh. Nothing about this team will surprise you, but it hands the ball at a high level, makes shots and has a clear identity. In addition, the Wildcats have a championship coach in Jay Wright. That’s a tough combination to bet against.
4. Kansas (No. 1 seed, Midwest region)
Kansas got quite the push from an understaffed Creighton team, but survived the disrupted bid to advance to the first Sweet 16 since 2018. A positive in that second round win over the Bluejays was a great day from point guard Remy Martin, that of the bench to tally 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists compared to just one turnover. The Jayhawks are a different team offensively when they have a point guard who can make shots to go along with Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun. And with four straight games in double digits, Bill Self can finally get the most out of Martin at the right time.
5. Duke (No. 2 seed, West region)
Coach K and the Blue Devils flirted with second-round disaster against Michigan State, then caught up late before rallying to take out the Spartans and book a trip to the second weekend. Duke did little to allay fears over his defensive concerns against Sparty, with over 1.2 points per possession. Still, there might not be a more talented team in the country than this Duke team, and it defeated West No. 1 seed Gonzaga in Las Vegas way back in November.
6. Texas Tech (No. 3 seed, West region)
The nation’s top-ranked defense reached the program’s third Sweet 16 in the last four tournaments by squeezing past Notre Dame in a hard-fought second-round match. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but it doesn’t have to be this time of year either. You know what you’re going to get from the Red Raiders: defense, strength, and enough shotmakers to hang out in any game. We’ll see if they have the firepower to make it to a Final Four, but any team that beats Tech will have to earn it against a team that plays as hard as any other in the sport.
7. UCLA (No. 4 seed, East region)
On the second weekend, for the second season in a row, UCLA got quite a bit of first-round scare from Akron before driving past Saint Mary’s to punch its ticket to Philadelphia for the Sweet 16. Given the experience of Bruins’ March, combined with top two seeds Baylor and Kentucky going down in the first weekend, UCLA has to be seen as the favorite to escape the East and return to the Final Four.
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8. Purdue (No. 3 seed, East region)
Many saw the Boilermakers as vulnerable to an early exit due to their season-long battle on the defensive side, but Purdue is one of only two Big Ten teams still standing in the second weekend. One of the most explosive players in the sport, Jaden Ivey looked to be stuck in the Boilers’ win over Texas on Sunday night more than ever, scoring three late strikes and scoring 18 points on just seven shots in an 81-71 win. . Plus, after losses to Baylor and Kentucky, the Boilermakers are the highest remaining seed in the East.
9. Houston (No. 5 seed, South region)
The Cougars took more wins over the top-50 KenPom enemies (two) in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament than the entire season. It was an impressive display in Pittsburgh for Kelvin Sampson’s club, who will return to the Sweet 16 despite all the injuries it has sustained this season. The bottom line: Houston plays so hard and so connected it’s hard to play against, even without the star power it had when Marcus Sasser was in the lineup earlier this year.
10. Arkansas (No. 4 seed, West region)
The Hogs faced off against some outstanding mid-major teams this weekend, surviving major tests out of Vermont and upstate New Mexico. The Razorbacks are now on their way to a second Sweet 16 in a row, having not gone since 1996 under Nolan Richardson. The defensive end has marked the turnaround in Arkansas over the past two months; it is the country’s third-best defense since Jan. 8, according to T-Rank. It will take a trader’s effort in that regard to get past Gonzaga in San Francisco this week.
11. Providence (No. 4 seed, Midwest region)
So much has been made this season about Providence’s remarkable close game series, but the Friars mostly made it through the first two rounds in Buffalo. After holding out most of the way in South Dakota State No. 13, Providence blew Richmond out to punch the program’s first ticket to the Sweet 16 in 25 years. Ed Cooley’s club won’t overwhelm you in terms of talent, but it is balanced and incredibly disciplined on both sides. Six players scored an average of eight or more points per game in the first weekend of the tournament.
12. North Carolina (No. 8 seed, East region)
The Tar Heels advanced into the second weekend with a dominant win over Marquette followed by avoiding an epic collapse to take down defending champion Baylor. Despite all the Tar Heels’ shortcomings, they’ve clearly found something with the five-man lineup they’ve deployed heavily. RJ Davis gives UNC high-level play in the point guard spot, Brady Manek has scored a combined 54 points in his last two games and Armando Bacot is a force to be reckoned with inside. Consistency was an issue, but in the East, the door is wide open for the Heels to win the region and advance to the Final Four.
13. Miami (No. 10 seed, Midwest region)
What drives the Hurricanes is their great surveillance game. Auburn simply couldn’t keep up with the Canes’ defense trio of Charlie Moore, Isaiah Wong and Kameron McGusty, and once they were downhill, the Miami guards made big game after big game to take the Tigers down. Miami is not a very good defensive team and was outmatched by 5.5 boards per game in ACC play. But if you play well in the backcourt in a single-elimination tournament, you’ll be in for a tough out.
14. Michigan (No. 11 seed, South region)
You can argue whether the Wolverines even deserved to participate in this tournament, but Juwan Howard’s team has left their mark on the Big Dance ever since they came in. After being punched in the mouth early by the state of Colorado, the Wolverines played great basketball in the final 60 minutes of action in the opening two rounds, knocking out a red-hot Tennessee team. Hunter Dickinson averaged 24 points in the first weekend and has risen on the biggest podium in the sport. This team can beat anyone if it plays at its best.
15. Iowa State (No. 11 seed, Midwest region)
The cyclones essentially going down the road, beating Wisconsin in Milwaukee to reach the Sweet 16 is yet another notable achievement in a superlative Year 1 in Ames for TJ Otzelberger. This Iowa State team is clearly very limited — it’s outside the top 150 in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, winning both games last weekend despite hitting 60 in neither. But the Cyclones really defend and have tough guards who can make big moves at big moments, and that’s often enough in March.
16. Saint Peter’s (No. 15 seed, East region)
The Peacocks are the story of the tournament, as the little Jesuit school from Jersey City shocked the world by beating Kentucky and then Murray State to become the first-ever MAAC team to make the Men’s Sweet 16. Can Saint Peter’s upset Purdu one more time? They may be below par, but the Peacocks did a great job on the glass against Oscar Tshiebwe and Kentucky and certainly won’t shy away from the massive Purdue bodies up front.
More March Madness coverage:
† Sweet 16 for men is really diverse – and unpredictable
† Big Ten again disappoints in first weekend gentlemen
• The ACC showed up to dance