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March Madness: Sweet 16 picks, Eastern bracket

March Madness is undoubtedly one of the year’s most exciting events, and the games start on Tuesday, March 15. In college basketball, we find the pure spirit of competition, whereas fans get to see the money squabbles between players and owners with the impending NFL lockout. Collegiate athletes play to win and are not compensated for their services.

In college football, computers and polls help to determine the national BCS champion. The NCAA Tournament allows teams to determine who is the true national champion on the court. On with the Sweet 16 Picks.

In the East, No. 1 seed Ohio State (32-2) is being picked by many experts to reach the Final Four in Houston, Texas. No. 9 Villanova (21-11) from the Big East is the only real threat to the Buckeyes from reaching the Sweet 16, but Ohio State should emerge victorious if the two teams meet. Fourth seed Kentucky (25-8), which finished second to Florida in the SEC regular season standings, should also reach the Sweet 16. Guard Brandon Knight leads the Wildcats with 17.5 points and 4.2 assists per game.

No. 2 North Carolina (26-7) should be another shoe-in in the East. The final slot in the region should be determined by a showdown between No. 6 Xavier (24-7) and No. 3 Syracuse (26-7). The Xavier Musketeers bulldozed through the Atlantic 10 with a 15-1 conference record, led by guard Tu Holloway (20.2 points and 5.5 assists per game). They just have not faced enough quality teams all year, and losing to the lowly Dayton Flyers last week undermines their credibility. The Orangemen of Syracuse takes up the final Sweet 16 slot in the East. They have played ten Top 25 teams since January and are ready to take on the nation’s elite teams.

The games will be held in Newark, New Jersey.

In the West, No. 1 Duke (30-4), who many are picking to reach the Final Four, should be a shoe-in for a slot. No. 4 Texas (27-7) should end up fighting it out with No. 5 Arizona (27-7) for the chance to play in the Sweet 16. The Longhorns have more firepower in the frontcourt – led by forwards Jordan Hamilton (18.6 points and 7.6 rebounds) and Tristan Thompson (13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds) – and should advance in the tournament over the Wildcats.

The last two slots in the West will have No. 3 Connecticut (26-9) and No. 2 San Diego State (32-2). No. 6 Cincinnati (25-8) is a dangerous potential matchup for the Huskies but the latter should be slightly favored. The Aztecs have not played many great teams this year. However, San Diego State routed BYU twice since January – the Aztecs are positioned to be this year’s Cinderella team that many basketball fans will root for.

The games will be held in Anaheim, California.

In the Southwest, No. 1 Kansas (32-2) is an overwhelming favorite to reach the Final Four. Fans should see a great matchup between No. 5 Vanderbilt (23-10) and No. 4 Louisville (25-9) for a slot in the Sweet 16. If they meet in the Round of 32, the game would be a toss-up. The Cardinals have played much better teams all year long and the team has a deeper talent pool, But Vanderbilt has two offensive machines led by guard John Jenkins (19.5 points) and forward Jeffery Taylor (15.1 points and 5.4 rebounds). We pick the Commodores.

No. 3 Purdue (25-7) and No. 2 Notre Dame (26-6) have played solid all year. Both teams will advance to the Sweet 16.

The games will be held in San Antonio, Texas.

In the Southeast, No. 1 Pittsburgh (27-5) will have a spot and face No. 12 Utah State (30-3). The final two slots in the region are pretty straight forward. No. 3 BYU (30-4) will advance, led by the nation’s top scorer: Jimmer Fredette (28.5 points). The Cougars will face a tough No. 2 Florida (26-7) team in the Sweet 16. It’s safe to say that most fans around the country will be rooting for BYU and Jimmer.

The games will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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