These are the last remaining teams in the NCAA tournament, ranked.
This Sweet 16 was billed as one of the greatest ever after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament featured few upsets and no true Cinderella. The action on the court lived up to the hype. After a thrilling two days of basketball, there are eight teams left standing in March Madness.
These are the Elite Eight teams, ranked by their chances of winning it all in Minneapolis on the second Monday of April.
The Boilermakers are in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2000 thanks to a heart-stopping Sweet 16 win that saw Matt Painter’s team blow an 18-point lead against Tennessee only to finish off the Vols in overtime. Purdue won this game despite shooting under 50 percent on free throws (16-of-33) while allowing Tennessee to have one of its best offensive games of the year at 1.24 points per possession. So how did the Boilermakers still win? It starts with an incredible shooting performance from senior guard Ryan Cline, who canned seven three-pointers on his way to 27 points.
The Boilermakers are one of the worst defensive teams left in the field based on KenPom’s metrics, so they’re going to need to stay hot with their perimeter shooting to have a chance against Virginia. The good news is that most of this team is just on fire right now, led by star guard Carsen Edwards, who has dropped 25 or more points in four straight tournament games for the first time since some dude named Steph Curry did it for Davidson.
7. Michigan State
The Spartans just played one of their most impressive games of the season with a wire-to-wire victory over LSU in the Sweet 16. Michigan State controlled the game throughout, riding some hot shooting from behind the three-point line (13-of-32 on the night) and a pair of breakout performances by freshmen forwards. Aaron Henry finished with 20 points a week after finding himself at the center of a national debate for being screamed at by head coach Tom Izzo. Fellow freshman Gabe Brown came off the bench and scored 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range.
Every time LSU went on a run, the Spartans answered right back. Their reward for such a great Sweet 16 performance? A date with Duke in the Elite Eight.
6. Texas Tech
Texas Tech’s brutal brand of basketball is thriving in March Madness
The Red Raiders have won their three tournament games by an astounding 54 points, and are coming off their most impressive win of the season by dismantling Michigan in the Sweet 16. This is the No. 1 defense in America, per KenPom, a switch-heavy unit that denies you the middle of the floor and has a gifted shot blocker in Tariq Owens patrolling the backline. Offensively, Texas Tech is the Jarrett Culver show, the burgeoning sophomore wing who has played his way into a top-10 NBA draft pick with heady and dependable two-way play. Culver’s supporting cast won’t blow you away, but it’s a veteran group that doesn’t make mental errors and is playing with a lot of confidence right now:
The matchup with Gonzaga pits the No. 1 offense in the country vs. the No. 1 defense in the country. What’s that old saying about which side of the ball wins championships? Consider this Elite Eight matchup the ultimate test of that time-tested axiom.
The Tigers beat North Carolina at its own game to shock the Tar Heels in the Sweet 16 and break into the Elite Eight for the first time in 33 years. Auburn didn’t try to slow the pace against a famously up-tempo UNC team. Instead, the Tigers ran North Carolina off the floor, thriving in transition while hitting an incredible 17-of-37 attempts from three-point range.
Auburn’s win comes at a heavy price: star forward Chuma Okeke suffered a devastating knee injury midway through the performance of his life. How Auburn responds physically and emotionally after such an ugly injury will be key when facing Kentucky. The Tigers went 0-2 against UK this season, but this feels like a different team now. Bruce Pearl has his squad riding an 11-game winning streak and playing its best ball of the season. After drumming North Carolina, the Tigers are a real threat to reach the Final Four.
Kentucky got all it could handle from Houston, but advanced after an intense final two minutes that saw the Wildcats make clutch plays on both ends of the court. John Calipari’s team wouldn’t be advancing without the play of star forward P.J. Washington, who made his return from injury as a game-time decision after missing the previous two NCAA tournament games with a sprained foot. Washington went for 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and made a game-saving block. On the other end, freshman Tyler Herro hit a three-pointer to give the ‘Cats the go-ahead bucket.
Herro finished with a game-high 19 points and made the biggest basket of the night. Washington’s health remains the main storyline with Kentucky. If he can play like this again on Sunday, Kentucky could be dancing its way into the Final Four.
Another game, another opponent missing a point-blank look at the rim at the buzzer to allow Duke to advance in the NCAA tournament. A week after UCF had the Blue Devils on the ropes before losing in the closing seconds, Virginia Tech missed an alley-oop layup that would have sent the game to overtime.
Duke might be the luckiest team in March Madness, but they’re still a viable threat to win it all. Zion Williamson was incredible again, this time finishing with 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting. The biggest story might have been the hot shooting of teammate Tre Jones, who hit five three-pointers after never making more than two in one game all season. R.J. Barrett was also phenomenal, adding 18 points and 11 assists in the win. Duke will continue to be a favorite throughout this tournament because Williamson is by far the best player in the country, but the Blue Devils have looked vulnerable enough to inspire doubt. Coach K’s team will have to be at the top of its game to defeat Michigan State and reach the Final Four.
It hasn’t exactly been pretty, but credit the ‘Hoos for surviving to the doorstep of the Final Four one year after a March Madness disaster. This Virginia team was supposed to be different because it could actually score (still ranked No. 3 in offensive efficiency), but it has been the defense that has carried them through three tournament wins. No team has scored better than 0.91 points per possession against the Cavaliers in this three-game stretch.
The offense has gone a bit cold. Virginia has made only 23-of-80 (or 28.7 percent) of their three-point attempts in the tournament. At some point, UVA is going to need to hit outside shots. Kyle Guy — who is 3-for-26 from deep during this three games stretch — would be a prime candidate to break out with teammate Ty Jerome likely drawing defensive duties on Boilermakers star Carsen Edwards.
At what point does America stop doubting Gonzaga? The ‘Zags are bound for the Elite Eight for the third time in five years and look to have the most complete team in the country. Mark Few’s team has a certified superstar in Brandon Clarke, who just became the first player in tournament history with 15 or more points and five or more blocks in back-to-back NCAA tournament games. Clarke has been a stud all season, but his incredible athleticism and relentless two-way domination should cement his status as the lottery pick by the time this tournament is over.
Clarke is far from one-man show. Rui Hachimura bounced back from a rough game against Baylor to lead the ‘Zags in scoring against Florida State in the Sweet 16. The perimeter players continue to hit threes, whether its Zach Norvell (who canned four against FSU), Corey Kispert, or Josh Perkins. The ‘Zags also have a legitimate x-factor in Killian Tillie, the junior forward who was billed as the team’s best player in the preseason before missing most of this year with injury. Tillie is back in the lineup and gives Gonzaga a high-IQ presence in the front court who can shoot threes, rebound, and defend.
Right now, Gonzaga looks like the best team in the country, but they still have their work cut out for them. Texas Tech’s defense is ferocious, and Duke likely awaits in the Final Four. That’s just to getto the title game. If the ‘Zags win it all this year, it will be hard to ever question them again.