NCAA Sweet Sixteen will not fail to excite

By GREGORY MELICK | March 28, 2019

In the Round of 32 in this year’s National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Basketball Tournament, there was only one upset, and that was No. 5 Auburn University steamrolling No. 4 University of Kansas, so it was not even that surprising of a victory. While this means we may not have a Cinderella team coming from outside the Power Five conferences, it also means we will have some highly anticipated matchups in the Sweet Sixteen.

The top three seeds in each region are still alive, and the two teams that needed upsets to get to this point are arguably the two hottest teams in college basketball right now, the University of Oregon Ducks and the Auburn University Tigers.

The Oregon Ducks will now look to square off with the University of Virginia Cavaliers in Louisville, Ky. on Thursday night. This matchup promises to deliver, as Oregon heads into the game riding an impressive 10-game winning streak that began on Feb. 28. 

For Virginia this seems to be the time the Cavaliers always find a way to get upset. Despite being a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in four of their last five tournament appearances, they have only made it to one Elite Eight in that time period. Additionally, they have not made it to a Final Four since 1984. Oregon will give Virginia problems, and could make it back-to-back years losing to a double digit seed as a one seed themselves (never forget UMBC).

As for Auburn, they will face off against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, who have been one of the more impressive teams this tournament. The Tar Heels can do it all: get out and run in transition, play tight defense, pound the boards, and Coby White has emerged as the type of superstar that can make a game-winning play if it comes down to the last possession.

The other side of the coin is that if Auburn is hitting their shots, they can hang around with anybody in the Tournament, because everybody knows they will get shots up. They are second in the country in three-pointers attempted and first in the country in three-pointers made. Senior guard Bryce Brown leads the onslaught. Brown averages nearly nine three-point attempts per game, in addition to shooting over 40 percent from long range.

The next matchup I look forward to is the Zion Williamson revenge tour game against the Virginia Tech Hokies. While Williamson was injured, the Duke University Blue Devils lost to two teams: North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Williamson already got his revenge against North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals, and now he gets a chance to avenge the loss to the Hokies.

Williamson is very good at basketball and will be the No. 1 pick in the National Basketball Association Draft in June. With his combination of speed, athleticism, power and finesse, there is just no game plan Virginia Tech can come up with that will stop him. 

And while everyone focuses on the spectacle that is Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett is no slouch. With Williamson back in the lineup, it takes pressure off of Barrett, which allows him to play his game and run the whole offense. Look for Duke to put the pedal to the metal after their second round scare.

The next game I am most excited about is Texas Tech University against University of Michigan in the West Region. These are two of the best defensive teams in the tournament, but both teams have clutch shot-making ability even in the face of pressure. 

I would be shocked if this game turned into a blowout, because these two teams are probably the two best teams left in the tournament when it comes to digging in on defense and getting stops when they are required. This game may not be the type of shot-fest we have grown used to seeing, which will be a refreshing change up in the midst of all these games.

One last thing to look out for is that if all the higher seeds of this week’s Sweet Sixteen matchups win, the one perfect bracket remaining on all existing websites will still be perfect heading into the Elite Eight Saturday and Sunday. The lone perfect bracket currently has Duke, Gonzaga University, Virginia, and University of Kentucky in the Final Four, so if you have no preference on who wins, at least root for that one person to get a perfect bracket!

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