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March Madness: Sweet 16 picks

March Madness has brought about just that: madness. The year’s most exciting tournament has seen some upsets – each year brings about unforeseen Cinderella stories that defy analysts’ armchair predictions. The field is narrowing down, let’s take a look at how the Sweet 16 picture might look.

In the East, No. 1 seed Ohio State (32-2) is being picked by many experts to reach the Final Four in Houston, Texas. Expect them triumph over an enthusiastic No. 4 George Mason (26-6) team, which upset No. 9 Villanova (21-11) in the first round. Just as there are Cinderella stories, most matchups result in heartache. The Buckeyes are too good and will deliver the latter to George Mason to advance.

Fourth seed Kentucky (25-8), which finished second to Florida in the SEC regular season standings, reached the Sweet 16 by beating No. 6 West Virginia (20-11) by a score of 71-63. That was an impressive win by the Wildcats on Saturday against a tough team. Guard Brandon Knight leads the Wildcats by averaging 17.5 points and 4.2 assists per game during the regular season.

No. 2 North Carolina (26-7) should be another shoe-in in the East. They face No. 7 Washington (23-10), which beat No. 10 Georgia (21-11) in the first round. The Tar Heels are too talented. They advance. The final slot in the region will determined by a showdown between) No. 11 Marquette (20-14) and No. 3 Syracuse (26-7). Marquette defeated a strong Xavier Musketeers in the first round, the same Xavier team that bulldozed through the Atlantic 10 with a 15-1 conference record. Marquette is a dangerous team, but the Orangemen should prevail and advance to the Sweet 16. Syracuse has 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. The Blue Devils should beat No. 8 Michigan (20-13) and advance. No. 4 Texas (27-7) plays No. 5 Arizona (27-7) in a pick ‘em game. The Longhorns have lots of firepower in the frontcourt while Arizona has versatility. Texas should beat Arizona is a close, hotly-contested game. The Longhorns are 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 to the Sweet 16.

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 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. SDSU beat No. 7 Temple 71-64 on Saturday and advance to the Sweet 16. Watch out for the Aztecs, they bring plenty of momentum into the next round.

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. The Jayhawks should prevail over No. 9 Illinois (19-13) and reach the Sweet 16. No. 12 Richmond (27-7) is definitely the Cinderella team of this year’s tournament. Richmond reached the Sweet 16 by beating Vanderbilt and Morehead State in the first two rounds.

No. 3 Purdue (25-7) should beat No. 11 VCU and advance to the Sweet 16. No. 2 Notre Dame (26-6) should advance to the Sweet 16 at the expense of No. 10 Florida State (21-10).

The games will be held in San Antonio, Texas.

In the Southeast, No. 8 Butler (23-9) has done it again, beating No. 1 Pittsburgh in a huge upset on Saturday. Butler punches its ticket to the Sweet 16. No. 4 Wisconsin (23-8) should get past No. 5 Kansas State (22-10) and advance to the next round.

The final two slots in the region are taken by No. 3 BYU (30-4) and No. 2 Florida (26-7). What a matchup this is. BYU is led by the nation’s top scorer: Jimmer Fredette (28.5 points).

The games will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana.