What Every Team In The Sweet 16 Has To Do To Advance

USA Today
USA Today

Now that the Sweet 16 is set, it is time to dig into each of these teams and realize what they need to do in order to continue their runs into March. 


Zion. Zion Williamson has been incredible over the last couple of games. Not only did he average 27 PPG and 11 REBS in the ACC tournament, but he has been incredible in the NCAA tournament as well. When Zion can't do it, RJ Barrett can. If RJ cleans up his shot selection a bit, he can take his game to the next level. Trae Jones has also looked solid hitting mid-range jump shots while playing tenacious defense. The one thing that I'm still looking for from Duke is the real emergence of Cam Reddish. We've seen his potential but his inconsistent play is still haunting the Blue Devils. If Cam gets going, the Blue Devils will play at an even higher level than they are now and there is no ceiling for this group.


The Virginia Cavaliers opened up the first round of tournament play by giving everyone a scare against 16 seed Gardner-Webb. Tony Bennett's team pulled it off, reassuring everyone that this years Virginia team is unlike any other. On any given night, any one of these guys on the floor can have a great game. Not only do they have a top 5 pick in the NBA Draft in Deandre Hunter, but they also have great shooting and excellent guard play. All of their guards look like Malcolm Brogdon defending, which should scare opposing guards. When you key on the guys who play the 1-4, Mamadi Diakite will also hurt you. Do not expect Kyle Guy to go 2-15 from the field and 0-10 from 3 again. This Virginia team is very solid and poised to make a deep run.


There is one sole question of Kentucky's ability to make a deep run into the Tournament: what is the health of PJ Washington? PJ Washington developed his game in a monstrous way this year, becoming Kentucky's leading and main scorer of the basketball. If Washington is unavailable to play, Kentucky will have a tough road ahead. Although, the Wildcats do sport great guard play and great depth. Freshmen Ashton Haggans and Tyler Herro will need to step up in the loss of PJ Washington. Haggans is a phenomenal defender who was not expected to play at this high of a level and Tyler Herro can score on virtually almost anybody. They still have to transfer Reid Travis who is a double-double machine along with big man Nick Richards. Did I mention NBA prospect Keldon Johnson? As long as Herro does not slump as he did against Wofford going 2-11 from the field, I like the Wildcats chances of moving forward against a great Houston Cougars team.

Randy Sartin - USA Today
Randy Sartin - USA Today


The Tennessee Volunteers have been a great team all year. Earning a number 2 seed in their region and are led by AP SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams who is averaging 18.8 PPG. Williams has an incredible back to the basket game and is surrounded by pure athletes, one especially in forward Admiral Schofield. Schofield and Williams worked out hard this past offseason to change their bodies and it has shown. Their endurance is greater, they're more physical and just all around more athletic. If the shots are falling and the Volunteers are running in transition, they are one of the toughest teams to beat in the field.

North Carolina:

Every single year, the Tar Heels make a great run because of Roy Williams. Roy Williams always gets his teams prepared for the big moment, and now is the time. Nassir Little was supposed to be the guy for North Carolina but instead, it is overlooked prospect Coby White. At the beginning of the season White was not talked about as much but he is now playing himself into the NBA Draft. He attacks the rim quickly from coast to coast and shows elite decision-making skills. Luke Maye has been in this situation plenty of times in his North Carolina career, so look for him to be a big focal point in the Tar Heels offense. In order to continue their run into the tournament, UNC must out rebound their opponents and be very good on the defensive side of the ball. Look for Coby White to be aggressive and be the guy for UNC. 


The Oregon Ducks are this year's surprise team in the Sweet 16. Not very surprising, considering their road was not that tough and they came into the tournament winning out in the Pac-12 Tournament. First and foremost, the Ducks need Center Bol Bol. Bol pushed the Ducks past the next level into the elites, but he has missed the majority of the games this year due to a foot injury. The Ducks play great defensively, holding opponents to 34.6 percent shooting during their nine-game win streak. Payton Pritchard, named Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, must keep up his consistent play. They also have Louis King on the floor, who is a top-50 NBA prospect. Oregon has a legitimate chance of knocking off Virginia because both teams play a similar style, led by defense and efficient scoring.


The Zags were an uncertainty coming into the NCAA Tournament. After getting trashed by St. Mary's in the NCAA Tournament, they have shown why they have been crowned a top team in the country throughout the year. Brandon Clarke is having a solid season, averaging 17 PPG and scoring 36 in the Zags win over Baylor in the round of 32. Not only that, but they are led by top 5 NBA Prospect, Rui Hachimura who is a difference maker in his own right. Last year, Gonzaga played the same game against Florida State in which they lost 75-60. This year will be different. Not only is Gonzaga deeper and more athletic than they were in 2018, but Killian Tillie will be back in the rotation after missing last years game. The Zags are a legitimate threat in the tournament and this will be a huge test for them.


Every March, the Wolverines find a way to make a deep run into the Postseason. This year is a little different from the past. The same guys are there, except they are led by freshman Forward Ignas Brazdeikis. Iggy needs to be an efficient scorer for the Wolverines if they want to go deeper into the tournament. Earlier this year, the Wolverines were upset by Wisconsin because Iggy had one of the worst shooting performances of his career (0-5, 0 points). Senior Charles Matthews also has to be very involved. Matthews has the ability to be a proficient NBA scorer if he can become more consistent. He has the athletic ability to be great and has shown flashes over his Michigan career that could translate to the next level. Zavier Thompson and Jordan Poole are still on the same team that went to the National Championship last year so the experience is there. This is a good Michigan team who can make another run if things fall into place.

Rick Osentoski - USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski - USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State:

The Spartans gave everyone a scare first round, playing a very competitive game against 15 seed Bradley, but it is March, right? The Spartans are an experienced team, led by all-around point guard Cassius Winston. Winston has taken steps in his game this year that has changed the way the Spartans move. By developing a jump shot, he is now a guy who can score 25 while managing a triple-double. Senior Matt McQuaid is a proficient 3 point shooter, along with Center Nick Ward. This Spartan team can really buckle down and play great defense. However, they have looked very vulnerable at times because they do not have that go to guy when in need of a basket. Look for the Spartans to play a high level of basketball through the pick and roll and great defense.

Florida State:

The Florida State Seminoles love to recruit long, lengthy players who can do it all. They all have the Johnathon Issac prototype. The biggest downfall of this team is they do not have that next level NBA prospect. Although, they have a rotation of 11 guys who can do everything needed. They face a rematch against Gonzaga, in which they won 75-60 last year in the tournament. FSU needs to play great defense in order to keep on winning. Their scoring is efficient because of the length of their players. The key to this team is getting easy baskets at the rim, especially because this is a team that only shoots 33.6 percent from 3. Look for the Seminoles to capitalize on their size and length advantage to lead them on a deeper run into March.


The Auburn War Eagles are very good, despite their late-game inconsistency. Even before the Tournament, there was a couple of games where Auburn fell apart late in games. One game, in particular, was against Murray State at the beginning of the year, where the War Eagles led by 14 with 8 minutes left but only ended up winning the game by 5 points. In order to continue into the tournament, Bruce Pearl must get his squad locked in and practicing late game scenarios. Led by Junior guard Jared Harper who is a great all-around point guard, they also have great depth and great guard play. Look for Bryce Brown and Chuma Okeke to play a big role in their matchup against the Tar Heels. This is a great team who, if hitting all cylinders, can win a lot of games.

Virginia Tech:

 The Hokies are led by legendary coach Buzz Williams who makes sure his squad plays great defense every single night. This is a team who was ranked in the top 10 for some of the year. In order for the Hokies to move on, Nickeil Alexander-Walker must play like an NBA prospect. This is a defensive-minded team who thrives off of turnovers and efficient scoring. Look for a big game from Forward Kerry Blackshear Jr.

Louisiana State:

LSU comes into the tournament facing adversity. With an interim Head Coach and the death of teammate Wayde Sims, this is an inspired squad. Led by NBA prospect Naz Reid, this is a team who has all of the intangibles to make a deep run into the tournament. Tremont Waters is playing excellent basketball as of late, hitting a game-winning layup against the Maryland Terps. LSU must use their size and athleticism to outbound and outscore their opponents. The only tricky thing about this LSU team is their ability to let other teams come back into games. The Tigers had sizable leads in both of their tournament games, only to allow the opposing team to sneak their way back into the game. As long as they score early and play defense late, LSU is a team that nobody should want to play. 


The Boilermakers are not a team that is going to pop on paper. They are not a team that has the same talent as Duke or Gonzaga, but they are led by Carson Edwards who is scoring the basketball like crazy. Edwards is having a Kemba Walker-like March, pouring in 42 points against Villanova last round. This is a team full of role players who do their jobs well and all it takes is for one guy to be better than good in March in order to keep on going in the tournament. Look for Edwards to continue his dominance scoring the basketball, even against a Tennessee team with excellent guard play. 

John Weast -  Getty Images
John Weast - Getty Images

Texas Tech:

The Red Raiders are a great team which is no surprise. They are led by Jarret Culver, who is a top 7 NBA prospect. Culver has expanded his game from last year and it really has shown. In order for the Red Raiders to move on in this tournament, they need Culver to play next level. He must hit his jump shots and be aggressive driving to the rim in order for Texas Tech to win games. The Red Raiders play great defense, holding opponents to 59.2 PPG which ranks them 3rd in the country. As long as Jarret Culver plays at an elevated level, his teammates his jump shots, and play great defense, watch out for this team to make a deep run.


The Houston Cougars are not a surprise team. This is a team who was ranked inside the top 25 for most of the year and plays great team defense. Corey Davis Jr, who is averaging 17.6 PPG, must keep up his consistent play in order for the Cougars to continue. They have had two blow out wins in the tournament, their matchup against Kentucky will not be like that. Look for the Cougars to keep up the great defense that ranked 7th in the country in opponents PPG against Wildcats. As long as, they can shut down Tyler Herro and possibly PJ Washington, the Cougars have great chances to continue their run in the tournament.