Taking a look at the Sweet 16

By Steve Sell
March 24, 2015

They call it “chalk” — a term normally associated with the NCAA Tournament in regards to picking the favorites to advance.

Now that we’re down to the Sweet 16, a little erasing of the chalkboard has to be done.

Most of the talking heads before the tournament pretty much went with “chalk” — and, as the tournament has shown us down through the years, “chalk” generally doesn't hold up.

Sure, there are a couple of regions that have come close to keeping form. The West Region has three of its four favorites in Wisconsin, Arizona and North Carolina, with Xavier the only intruder.

In the South, Duke and Gonzaga have held up as top seeds, but their challengers are Utah and UCLA, respectively. Not too many people probably saw that coming.

The Midwest, or the Kentucky region as I call it, has party-crashers Wichita State and West Virginia, along with the expected Notre Dame.

However, the East is a mess. If you had a bracket of North Carolina State, Louisville, Michigan State and Oklahoma, come see me. You can do my predictions next year.

The first No. 1 to get bounced was Villanova. The No. 2s that fell were Virginia and Kansas. Among the other surprise early exits were Iowa State and Georgetown.

If you’re looking for a Final Four now, though, it could come close to “chalk.” I’d love to see Notre Dame or Wichita State bounce out Kentucky on its arrogant tail, but it simply isn’t going to happen. As much as I was impressed with Wichita State and how it overcame its size disadvantage against Kansas, Kentucky is an entirely different animal. The Wildcats started a front line against Cincinnati that averaged 7-0 and their guards, the Harrison twins, are both 6-6.

In the West, I think we’ll have a 1-2 matchup with Wisconsin and Arizona. I had the Badgers at the start since the Wildcats always seem to come up short.

Duke should take care of Gonzaga in another 1-2 final in the South.

But, oh, that whacky East. I was suspicious when I saw the bracket when it was released with Villanova and Virginia as Nos. 1 and 2 and now it’s totally upside down. One thing I have learned down through the years when picking the NCAA, never go against Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. Say what you will about John Calipari, Bill Self and Coach K, but Izzo has been the Master of March the past 10 years. His teams have that Wichita State-like toughness about them and with the East bracket now shot to smithereens, don’t be surprised if Izzo’s Spartans are in Indianapolis.