Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Villanova are the top favorites on NCAA basketball futures to win it all; read on to find out if they made our handicapper's list of Sweet 16 picks.
No time to waste with this installment of our free college basketball picks, and since this is all about the Sweet 16 let's start in the East Region where the No. 1 overall seed and defending champions from Villanova reside.
Jay Wright's Wildcats should easily slide into the second weekend with a couple of wins this weekend. I've got them going up against No. 9 Virginia Tech in the Round of 32, the Hokies one of my upset picks over No. 8 Wisconsin, but that's as far as Tech will get as 'Nova dumps Buzz Williams' boys Saturday. Villanova's eventual opponent to advance to the Elite Eight will be Florida; the Gators are not a popular pick after losing three of their final four, including a quick loss to Vanderbilt in overtime of the SEC Tournament.
This region of the March Madness bracket actually finds Duke favored to advance to the Final Four in a couple of weeks, and I do have the Blue Devils reaching the Sweet 16 after downing both Troy and South Carolina. The last team to make the Sweet 16 and ultimately meet Duke in the Elite Eight will be SMU. The Mustangs enter the Big Dance hotter than any team with 16 straight wins and a 26-1 mark since the end of November.
Butler Joins Blue Bloods In South Regional
Claiming top honors on the current NCAA basketball futures odds to win it all, North Carolina advances from Greenville, S.C., to the South Regional in Memphis. The Tar Heels should make quick work of Texas Southern in the opener followed by a victory over No. 9 seed Seton Hall in Sunday's Round of 32.
Waiting for Roy Williams' bunch in Memphis next week will be No. 4 Butler after the Bulldogs roll past No. 13 Winthrop and No. 12 Middle Tennessee this weekend. In the bottom half of the South Region bracket, I see no surprises with No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 UCLA making it a chalk sweep into Memphis.
Top 4 Seeds Should Advance In West
Gonzaga should also chalk last four in the West Region. The Bulldogs will slide by South Dakota State and win a close one against No. 8 Northwestern in Salt Lake City before moving on to San Jose, where the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be waiting after battling their way past Princeton and West Virginia.
No. 2 Arizona finds its way to San Jose as well after an easy triumph vs. North Dakota before grinding it out against Saint Mary's. Seeded third in the region, Florida State is the one that could spoil my 1-2-3-4 prediction. Favored by 12 at Bookmaker in their opener against Florida Gulf Coast, I have the Seminoles meeting an upset-minded No. 11 Xavier in the Round of 32 and won't be surprised if the Musketeers continue on to the Sweet 16.
Will Magic Continue For Wolverines?
Kansas becomes the fourth No. 1 seed to make my Sweet 16 after getting past the winner of the UNC Central-Cal Davis winner in the opening round, then ending Michigan State's season. My heart says the Jayhawks will face No. 4 Purdue next week in Kansas City during the Elite Eight, but my wallet is more impressed with No. 5 Iowa State.
The bottom half of the Midwest includes No. 3 Oregon, the Ducks 15-point chalk on the NCAA basketball odds vs. Iona to advance to the Round of 32, where they finish off No. 6 Creighton's campaign. No. 2 Louisville is the safer pick to complete the Midwest's Sweet 16, but I'm not playing it safe and will instead go with No. 7 Michigan to keep its incredible run through last week's Big Ten Tournament going this weekend in Indianapolis.