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The Eastern Echo Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Print Archive
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Opinion: Predicting the Sweet Sixteen

Eastern Echo Sports Columnist Caleb Burlingame goes through each Sweet Sixteen matchup and picks three upsets to move on to the Elite Eight,

If you’ve been following this year's NCAA March Madness Tournament, then you know that there has been no shortage of upsets. Teams like Illinois, Kansas, and Ohio State have all fallen to low seeded opponents, and now the Sweet Sixteen looks very bizarre. My bracket, along with many others, is absolutely toast, so I wanted to start over fresh at the Sweet Sixteen. These are my picks to move on to the Elite Eight.

(1) GONZAGA VS. (5) CREIGHTON, 3/28

To be completely honest, I am very surprised that Creighton has made it this far. Creighton has been spotty all year, and I thought Ohio would upset them and become the Cinderella of this tournament, but Creighton dashed those hopes. Creighton is a long and fast team, but they’re going up against the greatest team in the tournament. 

Gonzaga hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, and still haven’t revealed a chink in their armor. Creighton will likely stick around and make this a good game, but I think the odds are heavily in the Zags favor. I’m picking Gonzaga to move on to the Elite Eight by a score of 74-60.

(6) USC VS. (7) OREGON, 3/28

Now this should be a fantastic matchup. Projected NBA lottery pick Evan Mobley leads the USC Trojans, and they will be matched up against the red hot Oregon Ducks. Both teams are coming off of impressive wins, with USC beating the three seed Kansas, and Oregon beating the two seed Iowa. I think USC has a slight edge in this game due to Mobley, but both teams are firing on all cylinders and I wouldn’t be surprised if either team won.

Also, I think that Kansas is a better team than Iowa, and Oregon got a bye in the first round due to a COVID-19 outbreak within VCU. Therefore, I’m giving USC the nod and saying they move on to the Elite Eight by a score of 69-63.

(1) MICHIGAN VS. (4) FLORIDA STATE, 3/28

As a Michigan fan, this game terrifies me. After losing Isaiah Livers to injury, Michigan has become a team that is very prone to an upset. Guys like Chaundee Brown, Eli Brooks, and Franz Wagner are going to have to step up every single game if Michigan is going to keep this run going. Both teams play phenomenal defense, and FSU has a tendency to be able to go on huge runs. 

Honestly, this game is probably a 50/50 shot. If Michigan’s guys step up and play lockdown defense like they did against LSU, they should come out on top. I have a bad gut feeling though, and maybe I’m just going for a reverse jinx, but I’m taking Florida State to move on to the Elite Eight by a score of 64-59.

(2) ALABAMA VS. (11) UCLA, 3/28

I’m calling it right now, UCLA’s run ends right here. The eleven seeded Bruins have had a nice Cinderella run, but have played subpar competition. They played BYU, who underperformed, and then they played Abilene Christian, who was just lucky to even be in the Round of 32. Alabama just obliterated Iona and almost hung 100 points on the defensive monster that is Maryland.

I have Alabama moving on to the Elite Eight by a score of 79-55.

(1) BAYLOR VS. (5) VILLANOVA, 3/27

This should be another fun matchup. Villanova has been heavily underperforming during the second half of this season, and Baylor has shown they’re a contender. Nova always seems to bring their A-game during the NCAA tourney, and I could see them giving Baylor some serious trouble. However, the odds of them winning this game are about 30-70 against them.

If Nova wants to win, they’ll have to slow the game down and not let Baylor score in transition. They’ll also have to limit turnovers and make sure Baylor can’t blow them out of the water from the get go. I think this will be a good game to watch, but I’m taking Baylor to move on to the Elite Eight by a score of 74-65.

(3) ARKANSAS VS. (15) ORAL ROBERTSIf you want to talk about a Cinderella team, look no further than Oral Roberts (OR). OR has beaten Ohio State AND Florida, and have shown they are no joke. Arkansas is coming off of wins against close wins against Texas Tech and Colgate, and are very prone to an upset in this game. The one thing working against OR is that their momentum might have taken a hit since they have taken five days off.

Call it madness, but I have a weird feeling about Oral Roberts. I also just don’t think Arkansas very much, so I’m picking Oral Roberts to move on to the Elite Eight by a score of 72-67.

(8) LOYOLA CHICAGO VS. (12) OREGON STATE

Is anyone else not surprised to see Loyola back in the Sweet Sixteen? I mean, they have a literal angel calling down prayers for their squad in Sister Jean! All jokes aside, this is a fun matchup because both teams are low seeded and have nothing to lose. Both teams also knocked off their respective giants, with Loyola beating the one seed Illinois and Oregon State beating the four seed Oklahoma State.

Both teams are great and will have a good chance to win, but I’m not betting against Sister Jean. That’s bad juju. Also, Loyola beat Illinois, which really impressed me. So I’m taking Loyola Chicago to move on to the Elite Eight by a score of 71-68.

(11) SYRACUSE VS. (2) HOUSTON

Before this NCAA Tournament started, I had a good feeling about Syracuse, which is why I’m not surprised they’ve made it here. They’ve had impressive wins over San Diego State and West Virginia, while most recently Houston struggled to beat the ten seed Rutgers. I’d like to say that the Rutgers game was just a hiccup for Houston, but it gave me a bad feeling about their chances for the rest of this run.

Houston will probably win this game, but this side of the bracket has had huge upsets, and I’m gonna roll with it. I’m picking Syracuse to move on to the Elite Eight by a score of 68-67.

That’ll lock in my Elite Eight: Gonzaga, USC, Florida State, Alabama, Baylor, Oral Roberts, Loyola, and Syracuse. Next week I’ll break down the Final Four and who I have taking the Natty. See you then!