The madness is truly here! The conference tournaments over the last week were just a tune-up for the NCAA Tournament. On Sunday night the brackets were released and now we have until noon on Thursday to try and create the perfect bracket, which will likely be ruined by the time happy hour rolls around on Thursday.
With Ohio State’s awful play in January and February keeping them on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Chris Holtmann, this is a great year to root for chaos. If you have Purdue and giant ogre Zach Edey winning it all, then you are a square and probably terrible at parties.
How do you know if you are cool? If you have at least one double-digit seed making it to the Sweet Sixteen then you are not only smoother than Matthew McConaughey, you are also smart. The last time there wasn’t at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen was in 2007. There have been four teams seeded 10 or higher to reach the Sweet Sixteen in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments.
Today’s question: What double-digit seed makes it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Oral Roberts
Ohio State fans already know how dangerous the Golden Eagles are after Oral Roberts beat the Buckeyes as a 15-seed in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on their way to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Somehow Max Abmas is still playing college basketball, and he is even more dangerous than he was in 2021. Abmas is averaging 22.2 points per game and has hit 117 three-pointers this year.
The senior can also find his teammates when the attention is on him, as evidenced by the 11 assists he dished out in the Summit League Championship Game. Oral Roberts has seven players that are averaging at least 6.4 points per game. Paul Mills’ team is one of the top offensive teams in the country, scoring 82.4 points per game. Even though Oral Roberts plays fast, they also play smart, turning the basketball over less than 10 times per game.
The Golden Eagles have some size as well. Connor Vanover is actually taller than Zach Edey, measuring 7-foot-5. The senior big man doesn’t have a lot of meat on his bones, looking like he can be blown over by a gust of wind. The Arkansas transfer can stretch opposing defenses with his ability to hit from the perimeter, adding another wrinkle to a high-powered offense.
The East Region shapes up nicely for Oral Roberts to advance to at least the Sweet Sixteen, and possibly even the Elite Eight. A young Duke team is beatable, and Tennessee is still adjusting to life without Zakai Ziegler. Plus, trusting Rick Barnes in the NCAA Tournament is never a sound move. The Golden Eagles might then see Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen if the Boilermakers don’t slip up before next week.
It just feels nice to enjoy this Oral Roberts team without having to hate them for upsetting Ohio State!
Matt’s answer: Utah State
With all due respect to my esteemed colleague, Brett must be out of his g*ddamn mind if he thinks that I’m going to pick Mouth Bob for anything... ever. While I think that if I didn’t still have PTSD from the 2021 tournament, they might be the best selection, I’m going in a different direction, and that direction is further west to the Beehive State.
I’m picking the No. 10 Utah State Aggies. The team fell in the Mountain West Championship Game over the weekend and will now take on No. 7 Missouri in the first round. According to college basketball analytics guru Ken Pomeroy, the Aggies are the No. 18 (with the No. 13 adjusted offensive rating) while the Tigers are No. 51. Further, my favorite predictions model, the NCAA Game Simulator spits out an average score of 80.0 to 77.1 in favor of Utah State.
From there, the Aggies would square off with the winner of No. 2 Arizona and No. 15 Princeton for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen. Now, I know that picking an 11 or 12 seed would have given me a shot to avoid a No. 1 or 2 seed, but where’s the fun in that?
With all do respect to the patented Princeton Offense, I’m picking the party animals over the Ivy Leaguers. So, let’s look at the Second Round matchup; KenPom has the Wildcats as the No. 10 team in the country, certainly within shouting distance for Utah State, so I’m feeling good about that.
Then, over the course of 2,215 simulations, the NCAA Game Simulator has an average score of Utah State 77.6 and Arizona 77.2. Of course, I’m not putting all of my eggs in the analytics basket. What makes the Aggies an interesting team in the tournament is that they have five players that not only average in double-figures, but do so between 10.4 and 16.3 points per game. This indicates that if an opposing defense is able to limit one — or even two — of the Aggies’ scorers, there are other guys capable of picking up the slack.
Further more, three of those double-digit scorers are big guys, even if only two of them are traditional post players. Taylor Funk is a 6-foot-8 averaging 13.3 ppg and Daniel Akin stands 6-foot-9 and puts up 12 points per. Pretty strong inside presence for a mid-major program. They are bouyed by 6-foot-8 guard Sean Bairstow who goes for 10.4 each time out. That’s a lot of length for opposing teams to contend with on both sides of the floor.
And what’s cool is that non of those three guys are the team’s leading scorer. That honor belongs to 6-foot-1 guard Steven Ashworth who leads the team with 16.5 points and 4.5 assists per game. When you mix in 6-foot-4 guard Max Shulga (12.1 points and 4.1 assists per), you’ve got a pretty well-rounded team with multiple scorers and facilitators. The Aggies also have five players averaging at least 4.0 rebounds per game as well. So, it will be very difficult for any opposing team to shut down the team via one particular player.
In fact, I am so confident in Utah State, I am not only picking them to go to the Sweet Sixteen, but the Elite Eight as well!