Ranking title shots for Sweet 16
Which teams are the best bets to cut down the nets in North Texas?
I can speak only for myself, but from my chair, that was one highly entertaining first weekend of NCAA tournament basketball. Three of the four No. 1 seeds have survived, but regardless of seed, which teams really have the best chance of winning it all?
My answer to that question is based on three primary sources of information:
1. What we saw from these teams all season long (as captured by my eyes, the BPI calculated by my colleagues here at ESPN, the KenPom rankings and my own per-possession tracking).
2. The tournament forecasting done by my colleague Nate Silver.
3. What I've seen take place since the start of the NCAA tournament.
Here are my rankings of every team's chances to win the national championship.
Billy Donovan may have the best team remaining, and on top of that he faces a relatively smooth path to the Final Four. Make no mistake, UCLA is capable of defeating Florida on Thursday night in Memphis. (Just ask Arizona how good Steve Alford's team really is.) But if the Gators make it past UCLA, they will face either Stanford or Dayton, giving Donovan's team a more forgiving route than the ones confronting Arizona (which will have to contend with San Diego State and then either Wisconsin or Baylor) and Virginia (facing Michigan State just for the chance to play either Iowa State or Connecticut).
The Gators have been excellent on defense all season, and that has continued in the tournament: Albany and Pittsburgh combined to score just 0.86 points per possession against this D. Meanwhile, on offense, Scottie Wilbekin has more than justified his selection as the SEC Player of the Year, as he has made 69 percent of his 2s in two tournament games. No team is a lock, but right now, Florida looks awfully tough to beat.
That was a good Gonzaga team that Arizona just brushed aside, and the scary part for the rest of the field is that the Wildcats are starting to look quite formidable on offense. In wins over Weber State and the Bulldogs, Sean Miller's bunch connected on 55 percent of its 2s. And in the game against the Zags, Aaron Gordon scored 18 points (8-of-10 shooting) in just 23 minutes.
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