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The Sweet Sixteen Is Set. It Could Be The Most Competitive Ever.

Better buckle up. It’s going to be quite a ride.

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UCF v Duke
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 24: Tacko Fall #24 of the UCF Knights defends against Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils in the second round game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 24, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The suddenness of how fast the tournament field shrinks is always a bit startling. Sunday found us, along with a lot of people we suspect, looking for a lot more games.

Where did they all go?

Well, home of course. Next weekend the field will be cut in half and then half again until only four are left.

Here are the teams left and the matchups:


  • #1 Duke vs #4 Virginia Tech
  • #3 LSU vs. #2 Michigan State


  • #1 Gonzaga vs. #4 Florida State
  • #3 Texas Tech vs. #2 Michigan


  • #1 Virginia vs. # 12 Oregon
  • #3 Purdue vs. #2 Tennessee


#1 UNC vs. #5 Auburn

#3 Houston vs. #2 Kentucky

The ACC has done well with five teams left (Duke, UNC, Virginia, FSU and Virginia Tech). The Big Ten has three left (Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue).

The SEC has four (LSU, Tennessee, Auburn and Kentucky)

The Big 12, the Big West, PAC-12 and American have one each (Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Oregon and Houston, respectively).

At this stage, the ACC has clear bragging rights: not only can it claim three #1 seeds, but 31.25 percent of the field (as always around here, math is suspect and we welcome corrections for this miserable shortcoming).

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Big 12 with just one entry.

Also a bit surprising is the lack of a clear Cinderella. Usually there’s at least one. This year the closest we have to that is #12 Oregon.


For all the jokes about the PAC-12 this year, and most of them were earned, the Ducks looked ducking good against UC-Irvine.

Auburn? Auburn was brilliant against Kansas. Duke’s Zion Williamson famously blew out his shoe against UNC in Durham; in the Auburn-UNC game they may introduce pit crews to college basketball. That game is going to be extremely fast.

Still, the talk of Sunday was Duke’s very narrow win over UCF. We’ve posted a fair amount about it already so we’ll limit our comments here to suggesting this link and mentioning Johnny Dawkins’ post-game comments to his team. He talked about what they accomplished and how proud he was of them but what you also heard was open weeping.

It kind of brought us back to the central truth of this event.

Once you get past the cheating, the criminal cases, the paper classes and Will Wade’s allegedly “strong-ass offer,” all anyone who gets into this tournament wants to do is to keep playing.

There’s a lot of corruption in the sport as we all know far too well. But there is also a purity to it that rises above it all. So we can watch LSU knock Maryland out with a last-second layup and barely think about the mess at LSU. We can see Bruce Pearl’s team play brilliantly and not think about his checkered past.

All anyone wants is next.

And of course it’s just a game and a flawed game at that. That just makes it more remarkable that this tournament retains an innocence and purity that we all look forward to and that makes young men, and sometimes their coaches, break down and weep when it’s over for them.

It’s just amazing to see it all unfold.

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