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NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen Power Rankings

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Which teams have the best shot of advancing to the Elite Eight?

NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen Power Rankings

As we prepare for the Sweet Sixteen to begin, let's look at how the remaining teams stack up and which ones have the best chance of advancing to the Elite Eight.

1. Kentucky Wildcats

How They Got Here Beat Hampton 79-56; Beat Cincinnati 64-51

This is as obvious as it gets. Kentucky is on another planet right now. They can win fast, slow, they can slug it out, they can really do it all. Even with Bob Huggins' previous success against John Calipari, I don't think Kentucky will fall to the Mountaineers. It might be a closer result than the final score would indicate, but West Virginia shouldn't be an issue.

2. Arizona Wildcats

How They Got Here Beat Texas Southern 93-72; Beat Ohio State 73-58

Aside from Kentucky, Arizona is playing the best basketball in the country right now. The Wildcats got a seriously difficult draw, but Sean Miller's team is finally equipped to handle it all thanks to a fully healthy roster. Brandon Ashley, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski have the frontline to contend with Wisconsin in a hypothetical Elite Eight matchup, and T.J. McConnell and Gabe York provide enough perimeter firepower to keep things balanced. Arizona should cruise past Xavier.

3. Duke Blue Devils

How They Got Here Beat Robert Morris 85-56; Beat San Diego State 68-49

The Blue Devils possess some of the most dangerous offensive weapons, and it starts in the middle with Jahlil Okafor. He commands so much attention from opposing defenses that the rest of the court opens up for shooters like Quinn Cook and Justise Winslow (who is excelling since switching over to the 4). Utah doesn't really have anyone that can match up with Okafor down low, but the key for Duke will be stopping the Utes and not going cold from the perimeter.

4. Wisconsin Badgers

How They Got Here Beat Coastal Carolina 86-72; Beat Oregon 72-66

Wisconsin got a scare from Joseph Young and Oregon, but they withstood the upset bid and now have a pretty smooth path to the Elite Eight. North Carolina would have been a more intriguing matchup if center Kennedy Meeks were healthy, but without him, Frank Kaminsky might finally go off and put up one of those WOW games. The improved play of Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes of late has Bo Ryan and the Badgers in a very good place.

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs

How They Got Here Beat North Dakota State 86-76; Beat Iowa 87-68

Gonzaga has scored the most points of any remaining tournament team (86.5 through two games), and their balance and efficiency is a big reason why they look poised to get back to the Elite Eight for the first time since the "Slipper Still Fits" 1998-1999. Kyle Wiltjer has been outstanding, Kevin Pangos is playing smart at the point guard, Gary Bell Jr. is providing additional scoring and playing terrific perimeter defense, and Domantas Sabonis has been huge off the bench. Everything is rolling for the Zags right now, and they have a favorable matchup against UCLA waiting.

6. Wichita State

How They Got Here Beat Indiana 81-76; Beat Kansas 78-65

The Shockers showed they are a serious threat to hang with Kentucky should they reach the Elite Eight. The fire that Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton and the rest of the Wichita State team plays with is almost frightening. With the exception of Cleanthony Early, this is basically the same team that gave Kentucky everything they could handle last year. They have to slow down Notre Dame first, but I think they have the tenacious guard play and the defensive mindset to hold keep the Irish at bay.

7. Michigan State Spartans

How They Got Here Beat Georgia 70-63; Beat Virginia 60-54

How does Tom Izzo do it? Whatever the answer, the Spartans are back in the Sweet Sixteen and are looking as good as they have all season. Travis Trice, Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine are all playing inspired basketball on both ends of the floor right now. The trio was seemingly everywhere during the upset of Virginia. Oklahoma won't be an easy opponent, but with the way Michigan State is rolling, I like their chances.

8. Oklahoma

How They Got Here Beat Albany 69-60; Beat Dayton 72-66

The If you predicted that the Oklahoma Sooners and West Virginia Mountaineers would be the only Big XII teams left in the field after the first weekend, congratulations! The Sooners haven't really played their best basketball in the tournament yet, but Oklahoma finds itself as the lowest seed remaining in the East Region. They have a hot team to contend with in Michigan State, but Buddy Hield is fantastic on the perimeter and Ryan Spangler is a fantastic rebounder inside. This Sweet Sixteen matchup could go either way.

9. Utah Utes

How They Got Here Beat Stephen F. Austin 57-50; Beat Georgetown 75-64

Utah is still one of the most dangerous teams left in the field, but they have an enormous task ahead of them in the Duke Blue Devils. Jakob Poeltl might not be able to counter Okafor in the post, but Utah might be fine letting Jah get his at the expense of the rest of the roster. Delon Wright also needs to elevate his play for any dreams of an upset to come true.

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

How They Got Here Beat Northeastern 69-65; Beat Butler 67-64

The Irish still have Jerian Grant, who could pull a Shabazz Napier and take over the entire tournament. And while the offense is potent, Wichita State has the kinds of players that can stymie Notre Dame. Without a real interior presence to balance things out, I think the Irish are susceptible to an upset against the Shockers, but Grant will surely have something to say about that.

11. Louisville Cardinals

How They Got Here Beat U.C. Irvine 57-55; Beat Northern Iowa 66-53

The Cardinals have been very up and down in terms of offense all season long. That inconsistency almost got them bounced in the second round, but a favorable matchup against Northern Iowa punched their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen. N.C. State is the more talented team, but they are also just as inconsistent. This should be a sloppy game, especially if Louisville can't find an offensive rhythm.

12. North Carolina Tar Heels

How They Got Here Beat Harvard 67-65; Bear Arkansas 87-78

I would have the Tar Heels ranked much higher than this, but the injury to center Kennedy Meeks is a damaging blow. That's one less body that can face Frank Kaminsky, and I don't know that UNC has the horses to overcome it. Marcus Paige is finally healthy, and the Tar Heels have talent elsewhere, but the loss of a starter down low might be too much for Paige's play to offset.

13. N.C. State

How They Got Here Beat LSU 65-66; Beat Villanova 71-68

The Wolfpack are talented, that's for sure. N.C. State picked the right time to turn it on, but can they keep the play up? Cat Barber is a dynamic guard, and the Wolfpack took down Louisville back in February, but who knows if the same result will hold true a month later. They certainly have the talent to advance, though.

14. Xavier

How They Got Here Beat Mississippi 76-57; Beat Georgia State 75-67

If there's anyone that knows Arizona coach Sean Miller, it's Xavier coach Chris Mack, who served as Miller's assistant before replacing him after Miller's move to Arizona. Xavier certainly has the bigs down low to hang with the Wildcats, but topping and Arizona team that's playing this well is an incredibly tall task.

15. West Virginia

How They Got Here Beat Buffalo 68-62; Beat Maryland 69-59

West Virginia has been able to bully its way through the first two rounds, but I don't think they will be able to do that to Kentucky. Huggins has thrown several wrinkles at Calipari's teams in the past, and he might have some more tricks up his sleeve, but I just think the Wildcats will overwhelm the Mountaineers, no matter how good their press is.

16. UCLA Bruins

How They Got Here Beat SMU 60-59; Beat UAB 92-75

The Bruins went from a team that no one expected to make the tournament to the Sweet Sixteen. It's funny how that happens. After a somewhat controversial win against SMU and a thorough beating of UAB, UCLA is playing with house money at this point. Bryce Alford, Tony Parker and Kevon Looney are all playing at a high level, and they should make things more competitive for Gonzaga than their previous meeting back in December.

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