Sweet 16 Rankings

Published on Feb. 1 at 10:15 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards
East Region

1-Syracuse – Jim Boeheim’s squad has talent galore and has beaten some top-notch teams at the Carrier Dome. However, the meat of the Orange’s schedule is still in front of it and a strong finish will be required to earn a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.

2-North Carolina – UNC has been somewhat of a disappointment considering all of the accolades heaped upon it during the preseason. With that said, the Tar Heels still have the talent to win it all and the blowout loss at FSU might end up being a blessing in disguise.

3-Florida – Billy Donovan’s team is extremely dangerous and has the best guards in America. But the Gators are thin on the interior and on a night when the 3’s aren’t falling, they could be vulnerable. At the same time, they can beat anybody when the treys are going down.

4-Michigan – Although John Beilein’s squad has had a few hiccups recently, it has the potential to go deep in March. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a big-time scorer, Jordan Morgan can bang with the best big men in the country and Zach Novak is the ultimate glue-guy. When freshman point guard Trey Burke plays well, the Wolverines are extremely difficult to beat.

South Region

1-Kentucky – UK fields a future NBA roster but we all know that doesn’t necessarily translate into winning a national title. The Wildcats have their weaknesses and they aren’t the deepest team. Will the chemistry and coaching be right come tourney time?

2-Baylor – Scott Drew has several elite players, but shot selection and defensive intensity are sometimes a question mark. The Bears can beat inferior teams based on talent alone, but they need to improve if a trip to New Orleans is in the cards.

3-Duke – Like Kansas, this isn’t the type of Duke squad we’re used to from a talent standpoint. But the Blue Devils have the best coach, big bodies and several lights-out shooters from 3-point range. That recipe can go a long way in the NCAA Tournament.

4-Georgetown – After not playing up to expectations the last few years, the Hoyas have exceeded what was expected of them so far this year. They should be favored in six of their last nine games of the regular season.

Midwest Region

1-Ohio St. – Thad Matta’s squad has all the ingredients to win the national championship. The Buckeyes have several difficult road games looming at Wisconsin, at Minnesota, at Michigan, at Northwestern and at Michigan St.

2-Kansas – KU has one of the best players in America in Thomas Robinson, who leads the Big 12 in rebounding and is third in scoring. The Jayhawks have to play at Missouri and at Baylor on Feb. 4 and 8, respectively.

3-Marquette – Since losing four of six over a 2 ½ week stretch, Buzz Williams’s team has won six in a row. The Golden Eagles have a pair of big-time scorers in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder.

4-Vanderbilt – The Commodores had a few head-scratching losses when Festus Ezeli was injured, but they are now at full strength and playing extremely well. This is a veteran squad with one of the best shooters (John Jenkins) in the country and they’re hungry after gut-wrenching first-round losses in the tourney the last few years.

West Region

1-Missouri – Frank Haith walked into a gold mine with the talent he inherited from Mike Anderson and Haith has to be a leading candidate for Coach of the Year honors. The Tigers probably have the best overall team speed of any school in the nation.

2-Michigan St. – As usual, this Tom Izzo-led team is improving at the right time and is getting it done defensively. The Spartans have a big revenge game looming against arch-rival Michigan at Breslin Center on Feb. 5.

3-UNLV – The Runnin’ Rebels proved their legitimacy when they dominated North Carolina in late November. Since then, they’ve done nothing to diminish their stock. This seed could even get better if they run the table.

4-Saint Mary’s – Randy Bennett’s team hasn’t played the nation’s toughest schedule, but it has dominated WCC play with three blowout wins over Gonzaga and BYU (twice). The Gaels have road games coming up at Gonzaga and Murray St.

Also in the mix: Gonzaga, Murray St., Wisconsin and FSU

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