I have two words for you — Middle Tennessee. While, like you, I sat staring in disbelief at the TV and realizing serious damage had just been done to my bracket, I was more excited than upset. Middle Tennessee, SFA, Northern Iowa, Little Rock — these are the teams who everyone bets against, and yet, year after year, they show up. These inspiring Cinderellas unfortunately did not make it past the round of 32, leaving us with many of the usual suspects left in play. With the talent of these 16 teams, it is difficult to predict who will come out on top in this round.
To recap, we used Tresata OPTIMUS, a next-generation predictive analytics platform, to examine 14 years of March Madness data and predict Cinderellas based on that insight. Of the 10 upsets that happened in the first round, we predicted half of them. All of the teams predicted won by at least 8 points (at most 19 points). The games we didn’t predict, with the exception of the S.F. Austin game (which we’ll attribute to the “Madness” factor), were very close games (all with a score differential of 4 or less). Many of these went into overtime and even double overtime.
At this point, there are less possibilities for upsets (although the outcomes can certainly still be upsetting to some). Excluding a couple 10 or 11 seeds still in the mix, most of the teams remaining are ranked pretty high. However, for those of you completing Second Chance Brackets, we’ve compiled our predictions for the Sweet 16 below to help you out.
Kansas (1) vs. Maryland (5)
There’s no doubt Maryland can compete, especially with potential superstar Melo Trimble and veteran coach Mark Turgeon. The Terrapins came into this season expecting to win the Big 10 and have a shot at the coveted 1 and 2 seeds. However, challenging opponents and Trimble’s inconsistency lower the level of confidence that can be placed in Maryland. We predict this inconsistency will be their downfall against the favored top-seed Kansas.
Our prediction: Kansas
Miami (3) vs. Villanova (2)
We suspect this will be a very close matchup. Miami and Villanova have both had inconsistent seasons, but when they are on- they are on. Coming home to Philadelphia for this round, Villanova will certainly have home court advantage and the faceoff between Tonye Jekiri and Daniel Ochefu will be interesting to witness. Villanova
Our prediction: Villanova
Oregon (1) vs. Duke (4)
We love to hate Duke, but have a sickening feeling they will stick around like a bad cold (ahem…I did mention that I am a Chapel Hill alum). However, the athleticism and tight defense of the Ducks will not be easy to overcome. Coach K’s impressive track record (leading the Blue Devils to the Final Four 12 times since 1980), their deep bench, and tendency to show up for the big games gives them the edge over the Ducks.
Our prediction: Duke
Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
I don’t know about you, but I am still recovering from Texas A&M’s comeback over Northern Iowa last Sunday. The Panthers were up double digits with a mere 45 seconds remaining. This was largely because Aggie superstar Danuel House had scored 0 points until the last 5.30 seconds of the game. The Oklahoma Sooners were also tested in their second-round game against VCU, but Buddy Hield managed to score 19 (of his 36) points in the last 8 minutes to carry them through. Hield has made it clear that he is in it to win it, even if it’s a tight race to the finish line.
Our prediction: Boomer Sooners
North Carolina (1) vs. Indiana (5)
This won’t be an easy victory for the Tarheels. Indiana is coming off a big win against tournament veterans, the Kentucky Wildcats (almost as sweet as watching Duke lose). The Hoosiers managed to achieve this even though they only shot 28.6% from behind the arc. Given UNC has an obvious frontcourt advantage, Indiana will have to win from three in order to stand a chance.
Our prediction: UNC
Notre Dame (6) vs. Wisconsin (7)
Wisconsin proved me wrong in the first round with a win over Pitt (only 4 points!) and then stunned Xavier fans with a 3-point buzzer beater in the round of 32. Notre Dame is capable of beating teams like North Carolina, Duke, and Iowa, but they have more losses on their record than wins against high profile teams. While momentum is flowing both ways, Wisconsin is coming off a huge win against a number 2 seed, while Notre Dame just squeaked by 14 seed Stephen F. Austin.
Our prediction: Wisconsin
Virginia (1) vs. Iowa State (4)
This is the classic elite offense (Iowa) versus formidable defense (UVA) tug of war. Controlling the tempo early on and transitions will be crucial here, as controlled defenders try to slow the roll of the high-intensity Cyclone offense tries to continue their streak of putting up a ton of points.
Our prediction: Iowa State
Gonzaga (11) vs. Syracuse (10)
As a widely predicted upset, many were pleased to see Gonzaga come through the Round of 32. Gonzaga as a team still has a long way to go as far as realizing their potential, but have all the right tools (so let’s hope they use them wisely against ‘Cuse). These two met at the Dance before in 2010, but we anticipate a different outcome- and a shot at revenge for the Bulldogs, who seem to be the better of the two in the tournament thus far.
Our prediction: Gonzaga