Expectations differ greatly across the Sweet 16

Now that 64 has been reduced to 16 in four frenzied days, the ultimate goal is within sight. The Final Four is just 80 minutes away, and a national title looms another 80 after that.

But only one team can get there. The job today is to assess who feels the most (and least) pressure to finish the quest.

Atlanta Regional

Pressure gauge (on a scale of 1 to 10): 10
A ninth straight Sweet 16 berth is in the books, and the Blue Devils still have everything to play for. According to the Duke master plan, the Devils are only one-third of the way through this dance. A Final Four would feel good, but a national title is the only outcome that would feel great. For seniors J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, failure is not an option.

Pressure gauge: 5
It took a tremendous clutch shot from Darrel Mitchell just to get the Tigers this far, but now comes the big chance. Beating Duke would make LSU's season and would qualify as the program's biggest victory since it went to the 1986 Final Four as a fairy-tale No. 11 seed. Anything after an upset of Duke would be considered gravy.

West Virginia
Pressure gauge: 6.5
With five seniors forming the guts of this team, and having come as close to the Final Four as the Mountaineers did last year, the urgency is high in Morgantown. Normally, reaching the Sweet 16 would be enough of a thrill, but that's not the case this year. The going gets tough now for a team that has beaten a No. 11 and a No. 14 seed to get here.

Pressure gauge: 9
Sweet 16s are nice at Texas, but the expectation level has changed in recent years. Right now, the talent level in Austin is on par with the best programs in America. That's why Texas began the season with national title hopes, and that hasn't changed. The Longhorns will have to upgrade their play from the subregional in Dallas to win two games in Atlanta.

Oakland Regional

Pressure gauge: 8
Having dispatched opponents seeded 16th and ninth, and with a No. 13 seed standing between the Tigers and a regional final, expectations continue to rise sharply. Even a potential regional final matchup with Gonzaga or UCLA will be considered winnable because Memphis beat them both during the regular season. Even with all the youth on John Calipari's roster, anything less than the Final Four will be considered falling short.

Pressure gauge: 1
With one NCAA Tournament win in the previous 50 years, they're playing with house money in Peoria. Beating Big 12 tournament champion Kansas in the first round was a season-making victory for a team that barely got in the tournament. Following that with an upset of Big East power Pittsburgh was off the charts. Coach Jim Les said the right things Sunday about not being satisfied with getting this far, but let's be real: The Braves are plenty satisfied.

Pressure gauge: 7
The only way to torpedo the mid-major label forever is to make a Final Four. The Zags have never had a better opportunity than now: two victories away and armed with their best player since John Stockton. Winning the national title remains the dream, but just making it to Indy would be a landmark, program-defining achievement.

Pressure gauge: 6.5
The Bruins once measured success by a single standard: They either won the national title or had a bad season. But after a bumpy decade since the last UCLA championship and a plague of injuries that threatened to scuttle this season, every March win is a thrill these days. A Final Four berth would be a great achievement; a national title -- although not out of the question -- would be a significant surprise.

Washington, D.C., Regional

Pressure gauge: 10
The Huskies have become annual title contenders, but this year is different. With UConn identified a year ago as one of the two teams to beat (along with Duke), the expectation of a third national title has been present on a daily basis ever since. Two less-than-dominant performances in Philadelphia didn't change that. Now, with a virtual walkover bracket in Washington, D.C., the pressure will only intensify.

Pressure gauge: 4
The heat on the Huskies was much higher last year, when they got a No. 1 seed and got to stay out West. That team fell short, losing in the Sweet 16 to Louisville. For this team, beating 2005 national runner-up Illinois to get here is about as much as could be expected -- especially with UConn looming. Washington should come to D.C. almost pressure-free.

George Mason
Pressure gauge: 1
What could go wrong now? A flat tire on the bus ride from Fairfax, Va., to the MCI Center in D.C.? Beating defending champion North Carolina to reach this point was the greatest moment in program history. The Patriots can relax and enjoy their sudden celebrity this week, as the world discovers the joy of Jai Lewis. But the ride might not be over yet, with Wichita State up next. George Mason beat the Shockers on the road in BracketBusters just a few weeks ago. A regional final would be pure fantasy.

Wichita State
Pressure gauge: 2
Coach Mark Turgeon's unburdening to ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Saturday showed the immense joy and relief that went into making it this far. Everything is a bonus from this point forward, but the way the Shockers have played getting here, and with a No. 11 seed up next, there suddenly is a legitimate expectation of a regional final. Who could have imagined that five months ago?

Minneapolis Regional


Pressure gauge: 7.5
With a senior-based team that has performed brilliantly all season, this definitely is the year for the Wildcats. A national title would be amazing for this band of shorties, but it's not out of the question. Falling short of the Final Four would hurt, although the path through Minneapolis will be very difficult. Nova's 1985 national titlists had nowhere near as much pressure on them during their stunning run.

Boston College
Pressure gauge: 5
The Eagles were flat-out fortunate to escape a tough first-round game against Pacific, but there have been plenty of teams through the years that went from near elimination in the opener to the Final Four. That's a realistic goal for veteran, resourceful BC. It's not out of the question to foresee the Eagles winning it all, but the school's first Final Four berth would be considered a big enough triumph.


Pressure gauge: 7
This is a young team, but a potential NBA raid of the roster heightens the urgency to win now. Two impressive victories and a Sweet 16 game against a No. 7 seed have raised expectations of the Gators' first Final Four in six years and, possibly, their first national championship. Billy Donovan's team rarely seemed to feel much pressure this year, but it will be hard to escape it in the Metrodome this week.

Pressure gauge: 4
The Hoyas' history, coupled with the fact that the program patriarch's son is the current coach, has fueled Final Four nostalgia in D.C. But realistically, there is very little burden on this team to do more than it already has done. Georgetown should be able to show up in Minneapolis and just play ball because very few people looked at this team as a national title contender all season.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.