Sweet Sixteen Expert Picks – March 23, 2023
SWEET SIXTEEN EXPERT PICKS – MARCH 23, 2023 – March Madness was, once again, unpredictable, electric, exciting, and fascinating. You could use 100 other adjectives to describe the past weekend, but Fairleigh Dickinson stunning Purdue and Princeton surviving to the Sweet 16 will always be remembered.
With the first two rounds in the rearview mirror (and Tobin Anderson a national treasure), it is time to examine the Sweet 16 matchups.
Thursday, March 23, 2023
#7 Michigan State vs #3 Kansas State, 3:30 PM PST
The Spartans made easy work of USC and then got a massive upset of No. 2 Marquette, sending Shaka Smart’s team home early. Now, they get a tough game against Kansas State.
The Wildcats beat Montana State and Kentucky in nearly similar scores: 77-65 and then 75-69. Wildcats senior, Markquis Nowell, is playing like one of the best players in the tournament, combining for 44 points on 14-26 from the field and 23 assists through two games.
On the other sideline, Tom Izzo has the coaching advantage, and the Spartans are the last team standing in the Big Ten for a reason. Tyson Walker has 35 points through two games, Joey Hauser has 31 through the first two games, and the seniors are playing terrific basketball at the right time.
The toughness and physicality of Michigan State might be difficult for Kansas State in this game, and believe it or not, Tom Izzo leads the Spartans to another Elite Eight appearance in a nail biter.
Prediction: Michigan State, -2
#8 Arkansas vs #4 Connecticut, 4:15 PM PST
Who had the Razorbacks knocking off the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks to go to the Sweet 16? Not many, but this shows once again how good of a job Eric Musselman has done.
Davonte Davis and Ricky Council IV went for a combined 46 points and 14 rebounds against the Jayhawks and 34 and 16 against Illinois, and this two-man pairing has been fantastic.
However, UConn is not an easy out, and this team looks every bit like the group that began the season with 14 straight wins, including a 15-point victory over Alabama.
The Huskies beat Iona by 24 and sent Rick Pitino to St. John’s, and they then topped St. Mary’s by 15. It has been too easy for UConn, and despite a tough game by Arkansas, the Huskies’ Final Four hopes continue with a statement win over the Razorbacks.
Prediction: UConn, -3.5
#9 Florida Atlantic vs #4 Tennessee, 6 PM PST
This is not the game many expected. The Owls beat Memphis in a close game and then ended Fairleigh Dickinson’s Cinderella story. Alijah Martin became public enemy No. 1 with a near-electric dunk to finish off the game against the Knights, although his head coach apologized after the fact. Nonetheless, this Owls team has just three losses, and this game will be their last of the year.
The Volunteers topped Louisiana and then beat trendy Final Four pick Duke to go to the Sweet 16, and Rocky Top is loving life after seeing the Vols play in the second weekend. Olivier Nkamhoua exploded against Duek with 27 points and 5 rebounds, and Tennessee won every statistical category except for field goal percentage.
The Vols early exits are long gone, and they punch their ticket to the Elite Eight with a strong win over Florida Atlantic.
Prediction: Tennessee, ML
#3 Gonzaga vs #2 UCLA, 6:45 PM PST
This is the one you want to tune in for! This is a 2021 Final Four rematch in the game where Jalen Suggs hit an unreal buzzer-beater, jumped on the table, and sent the Bulldogs to the national title game, ending UCLA’s improbable Final Four run as an 11-seed.
This time, the Bruins are short-handed without Jaylen Clark, and they had a tough time against Northwestern, winning 68-63. Jaime Jaquez Jr. is doing what he can, and Amari Bailey has stepped up for Mick Cronin’s team with 31 points in the tourney so far.
Gonzaga beat Grand Canyon and then engineered a 51-point second half to top TCU, 84-81. Drew Timme is making a run for player of the tournament with 49 points and 14 rebounds so far, and he was everywhere against TCU. Rasir Bolton stepped up against TCU with 17 points, and Julian Strawther dropped 28 points and 10 boards against Grand Canyon in the first round.
UCLA is a much different team with Clark in the lineup, and if he was there, they probably win this game. But, Drew Timme is playing out of his mind, and Gonzaga wins on another thrilling finish.