Skip to content

Re-ranking the Sweet 16: Now who are the favorites?

Mar 19, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

spt-120318-kentucky Getty Images

There are 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament. Every single one of them has had a winning streak of four games this season. To cut down the nets on April 2, all they need to do is put together one last four game winning streak. Who is the most likely to do so?

Sweet 16 Power Rankings

1. Kentucky: The Wildcats are the unquestionable favorite to win the national title. They are the most talented team in the country. There are lottery picks up and down their lineup. And when they are playing with as much intensity and shooting as well as they did on Saturday against Iowa State, they are going to be unbeatable.

The Problem: The Wildcats aren’t always playing that way. Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have been as inconsistent as you would expect freshmen to be. Terrence Jones is always on the brink of a meltdown. Kentucky should win the national title. They probably should have won in 2010 as well.

2. Michigan State: I’ll avoid the typical “they are coached by Tom Izzo” statements here. The Spartans are the most complete team in the country. They defend, they rebound, they have post scoring, they have perimeter scoring and they have Draymond Green. They do everything well.

The Problem: The Spartans are without Branden Dawson, who tore his ACL on the last day of the regular season. Yes, Michigan State is 5-0 without him, but his void is unmistakable. His ability to defend and rebound at the small forward spot is what made Michigan State so difficult to matchup with.

3. Kansas: Tyshawn Taylor has been as good as any point guard in the country in 2012. Thomas Robinson has been as good as any player in the country all season long. With Jeff Withey defending the rim and Elijah Johnson and Kevin Young turning into meaningful role players, the Jayhawks are as balanced and talented as they have been all season.

The Problem: Inconsistency. The Jayhawks got bailed out by Elijah Johnson’s defining moment as a member of the Kansas program on Sunday night. Taylor is always a threat to turn into a turnover machine. Robinson plays as hard as anyone in the country, but he isn’t as skilled as other big men. Off nights do happen when defenses key on him.

4. Ohio State: Aaron Craft is the most disruptive defensive force this side of Anthony Davis, and his offense is really starting to come around. Deshaun Thomas has been terrific offensively of late, and Jared Sullinger is still Jared Sullinger. Injuries haven’t hit this team yet, which means they are still the same group they were in November.

The Problem: William Buford has not yet broken out of his funk offensively, and while Sullinger is still the best low-post scorer in the country, he’s not been himself recently. It’s a problem for OSU if Craft and Thomas are their two most reliable offensive options.

5. Syracuse: With injuries to other title contenders, the right side of the bracket has suddenly become wide open. Syracuse still is very talented offensively, as guys like Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph are all capable of playing a starring role. James Southerland has become a reliable jumpshooter in the clutch.

The Problem: Rakeem Christmas looked decent against Kansas State, but he can’t replace Fab Melo defensively and he certainly doesn’t solve their rebounding issues. Southerland is not a good defender. If UNC-Asheville can pick apart the 2-3 zone, than somewhere along the line a better team is going to.

6. North Carolina: With or without Kendall Marshall, UNC is still a very talented basketball team. Their front line is as good as anyone in the country. Harrison Barnes is an dangerous scorer on the wing. Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston have been solid on the wings this year.

The Problem: Stilman White was capable in his minutes backing up Marshall, but now he’s being thrust into a starring role. Will he be able to distribute the ball to UNC’s scorers?

7. Marquette: The Golden Eagles are lethal in transition, and they are as good as anyone in the country at using pressure to increase the tempo of the game to their liking. With Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom on the roster, they have two seniors that are not going to let accept losing. Davante Gardner provides an another look now that he’s healthy.

The Problem: Using Gardner makes Marquette slower and less capable of using the athletes they have on their perimeter, but they’ll need him against teams with bigger bodies inside. The Golden Eagles also have issues with slow starts.

8. Baylor: Baylor is as talented as any team in the country. They have length and athleticism at every position except the two-guard spot, which is occupied by sniper Brady Heslip, who hit nine threes against Colorado in the round of 32. Pierre Jackson is a bulldog at the point.

The Problem: Consistent effort. Consistent defense. It’s that simple. Perry Jones III still seems reluctant to be the kind of player he is capable of being.

9. Louisville: I love their defense and what Peyton Siva has turned into over the last month, but can it last? Will they have enough shooting? Most importantly, will they stay healthy?

10. Indiana: Since switching Victor Oladipo to a more predominant role as a ball handler, the Hoosiers have gotten better defensively and more athletic, but this is still a group that can struggle to get stops. They can score, however, with players like Cody Zeller and Christian Watford.

11. Cincinnati: The Bearcats are aggressive defensively and surround big man Yancy Gates with a myriad of shooters. But on nights the shots are off, the Bearcats can be in trouble.

12. Wisconsin: I love Jordan Taylor, but this is not junior year Jordan Taylor. And it’s not junior year Jordan Taylor’s supporting cast.

13. Florida: Florida has enough talent and scoring ability to beat anyone in the country on the right night. Do you have faith that they’ll be able to put it all together for four straight games? I don’t.

14. Xavier: Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons can be as good as any back court in the country, particularly Holloway, who is a killer in big situations. Kenny Frease can be a beast on the block. But all three can also be horrible on any given night.

15. NC State: The Wolfpack have won over a lot of people in the last two games with their stellar front court play. But they will have to go through Kansas and UNC before getting to the Final Four. That’s tough.

16. Ohio: I love DJ Cooper. He’s sensational. Ohio’s a great story. But their road ends sooner rather than later.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Iowa State lands Iowa Western CC point guard Donovan Jackson

    Aug 30, 2015, 9:52 PM EDT

    Steve Prohm AP

    With Monte’ Morris being a junior and Nick Noskowiak leaving the program, Iowa State needed a point guard in the 2016 class.

  2. Michigan State caps Italy trip with one-point loss to Georgian national team (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 8:41 PM EDT

    Lourawls Nairn Jr. AP

    These games against seasoned competition will help Michigan State in the tough Big Ten this season.

  3. Syracuse guard Michael Gbinije helps Nigeria clinch Olympic berth

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:27 PM EDT

    Michael Gbinije AP

    Gbinije averaged 7.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per game at Afrobasket.

  4. Avoiding summer fatigue key for Illinois junior Malcolm Hill

    Aug 30, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT

    Malcolm Hill AP

    Hill led the team in minutes played last season, and it’s been tough to keep him out of the gym this summer despite attempts to get him to spend some time resting.

  5. Stanford getting great production from Reid Travis on overseas trip

    Aug 30, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Reid Travis is looking like a potential go-to scorer for the Cardinal this season after some strong outings in Europe.

  6. Colorado State finds difficulty scheduling good non-conference games

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    Larry Eustachy AP

    Colorado State is having a rough go of getting great programs to play in their building.

  7. POSTERIZED: Northwestern’s Scottie Lindsey dunks on a defender on team’s foreign trip (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Purdue Northwestern Basketball AP

    Scottie Lindsey put one on a defender during Northwestern’s trip to Spain.

  8. Assistant coach Dwayne ‘Tiny’ Morton leaves Seton Hall staff

    Aug 30, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Seton Hall Athletics Seton Hall Athletics

    According to the New York Post, Morton will go back to teaching full-time.

  9. Michigan State falls short against Italian national team (VIDEO)

    Aug 29, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT

    Tom Izzo, Alvin Ellis III AP

    Michigan State scheduled games against three national teams preparing for next month’s Eurobasket championships (Russia, Italy and Georgia).

  10. European shooting guard not joining Western Kentucky program

    Aug 29, 2015, 6:50 PM EDT

    Ray Harper AP

    According to head coach Ray Harper, Kristaps Gluditis was regarded as one of the top shooters in Europe.

  11. French power forward Killian Tillie commits to Gonzaga

    Aug 29, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptc5mwmxmje1ngi4y2iwzjgyn2qxyjgxntuxnzu1ndm0 AP

    Tillie is a skilled forward who will have the chance to contribute immediately in 2016-17 due to the eventual losses of Kyle Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski (both are seniors this season).

  12. North Carolina’s Theo Pinson calls his shot before draining a deep shot in the Dean Dome (VIDEO)

    Aug 29, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Virginia Tech v North Carolina Getty Images

    Theo Pinson makes a bold statement and backs it up by burying a tough shot.

  13. Washington loses veteran guard who will not return to the team

    Aug 29, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Washington is losing another player as the team only returns two scholarship players from last season.

  14. Michigan’s Spike Albrecht begins shooting jumpers after offseason hip surgery (VIDEO)

    Aug 29, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Michigan received some positive news as a key member of the 2014-15 season returned to the floor.

  15. Summer mixtape of five-star 2016 guard Seventh Woods (VIDEO)

    Aug 29, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Seventh Woods still has plenty of highlight plays up his sleeve.

  16. Michigan State falls to Russian National Team 93-75

    Aug 28, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The Spartans are now 1-1 on the trip.

  17. Joey van Zegeren’s three alley-oop dunks in the third quarter highlight Northwestern’s win

    Aug 28, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    It’s Joey van Zegeren’s first year with the Northwestern program.