Fifty-two teams down. Sixteen teams remaining.
The first weekend of the NCAA tournament was historic. In case you didn't hear, a 16-seed beat a 1-seed for the first time in the history of the men's tournament. Two 1-seeds were bounced before the second weekend. There are zero top-four seeds left in the South. Two double-digit seeds are standing in the Sweet 16.
Was that a lot? Well, we have two more weeks to go. The good news is we already know what's going to happen over the next four days.
If the first weekend was any indication, maybe six of these predictions will be correct by Sunday night. But if the first weekend was any indication, we're in for another wild four days.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will continue his march toward top-10 pick
Few players had as good a weekend as Gilgeous-Alexander, who totaled 46 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists in two wins for Kentucky. Already getting lottery love ahead of this year's NBA draft, Gilgeous-Alexander could continue to slide up draft boards with another big weekend. His size will cause problems for Kansas State's guards, and a game against Nevada would be tailor-fitted for his attack-minded style.
No one taller than 6-foot-9 will play double-digit minutes when Kentucky faces Nevada
We're picking Kentucky and Nevada to advance out of the Sweet 16 -- sorry, Sister Jean -- and that game will be chock-full of versatile wings and frontcourt players. Kentucky's best lineups recently have included PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel at the two big men spots, with Jarred Vanderbilt still sidelined. Coach John Calipari has also been using Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green together, pushing Kevin Knox to the 4 at times. On the other side, Nevada essentially goes 6-foot-7 across its entire lineup, with 6-foot-3 guard Hallice Cooke the lone exception.
Dean Wade isn't much of a factor for Kansas State
Unfortunately for Kansas State, it would be surprising to see Wade operating at anywhere close to full strength this week. He hasn't played since the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, missing the past three games with a stress fracture in his foot. Recovery time on an injury such as that tends to be around six weeks, and we're at only two weeks. Bruce Weber said Wednesday that he can get a "couple minutes here, a couple minutes there."
Michigan won't solve its scoring issues against Texas A&M ...
John Beilein's offense has totally disappeared in the NCAA tournament, scoring less than one point per possession against both Montana and Houston last weekend. Facing Texas A&M isn't exactly the cure for the Wolverines. The Aggies have emerged as a top-10 defense late in the season, holding four of their past five opponents below one point per possession. They're big, they're physical, they block shots, and they contest shots. Michigan won't be able to get much going off the bounce against A&M.
... but Moritz Wagner will
With that said, Michigan's best bet to beat Texas A&M might be from the perimeter, which suits the Wolverines just fine. While this is one of Beilein's worst shooting teams since he arrived in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines generally play with five players who can shoot from the perimeter. Looking at some of Texas A&M's games against perimeter-oriented opponents, the Aggies can be beaten from 3. Florida made 17 3-pointers against A&M, while Kansas shot 12-for-26 from behind the arc. Of course, Michigan got plenty of open shots against Montana and Houston -- they just didn't fall. In this one, Wagner will snap out of his mini-slump.
Gonzaga's win streak will end at 17 games
Mark Few's Bulldogs haven't lost since they fell at home to Saint Mary's on Jan. 18. That was 16 games ago. You can probably see where we're going with this. Gonzaga should roll past Florida State, but the fun ends against Michigan. The Bulldogs don't guard the arc all that well, and they might not have the guards to match up with the Wolverines. Gonzaga will have the edge inside against Michigan, as the Bulldogs can trot out an assortment of skilled forwards, but the Wolverines will force Gonzaga to make shots from the perimeter -- or have someone like Houston's Rob Gray take over the game. We'll see if the Bulldogs can find someone like that.
Villanova will have no issues with West Virginia's press
It's fairly well-established at this point. If West Virginia isn't forcing turnovers, it isn't winning games. Murray State and Marshall both turned it over on nearly a quarter of their possessions, and both teams were beaten handily. Villanova isn't that type of team. The Wildcats rank in the top 15 nationally in lowest turnover percentage and have turned it over on 20 percent of their possessions just twice in the past two months. Jay Wright's team has multiple ball handlers: Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Collin Gillespie. Although they haven't faced anything like it this season, the Wildcats are unlikely to be fazed by Jevon Carter and Press Virginia.
Purdue's Isaac Haas will remain sidelined
Haas didn't exactly look comfortable in clips of the pregame shootaround on Sunday, and coach Matt Painter never seemed confident that Haas would suit up with a fractured elbow. The NCAA didn't clear his elbow brace, so unless he's playing with a smaller brace, he won't be cleared. Then Purdue would have to decide to play him with a fractured elbow. His size could create issues for a smaller Texas Tech squad, but Purdue playing smaller could help it match up a bit better.
Jalen Brunson vs. Keenan Evans will be the best head-to-head matchup of the tournament
We think Villanova and Texas Tech are bound for the Elite Eight, in which two of the 10 best players in the country will go head-to-head in the backcourt. Brunson received more publicity this season and could be the favorite for the Wooden Award at this point, but Evans has been elite in his own right. Brunson does have the best offensive rating of anyone in the country given his usage, but Evans sits at No. 16 in those rankings. Perhaps the biggest sign of Evans' importance to the Red Raiders? They went 0-4 when he was hampered or out with injury. Both players are tough, clutch, efficient and smart. It should be a terrific battle.
The Game of Zones won't reach 120 combined points
Duke didn't start playing zone defense full-time until February, but the Blue Devils did face Syracuse toward the end of the regular season. In that game, the two teams combined for 104 points and shot 8-for-43 from 3-point range. Expect more of the same on Friday, especially considering Syracuse's three games in the NCAA tournament have featured exactly 60 possessions apiece. Syracuse is more experienced in the zone, but Mike Krzyzewski's version has many of the same principles as Jim Boeheim's version. And Duke is better offensively. The luck of the Orange could run out.
The highest-seeded matchup of the tournament will be Duke vs. Kansas
At worst, it will be tied -- if Duke plays Villanova. But with the left side of the bracket featuring five teams seeded seventh or lower and a hampered 2-seed in the East region, this could be the only 1 vs. 2 we get in the Elite Eight. And it should live up to it. Kansas makes its living offensively off 3-pointers, which Duke will let opponents shoot against the zone. Since the Blue Devils switched to the zone, no opponent has shot better than 37 percent from behind the arc. Kansas makes better than 40 percent of its 3-point attempts, with four guys shooting 37.8 percent or better. Can the Jayhawks pass effectively enough to beat the zone? Can they keep Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter off the offensive glass at the other end?
The Final Four will be Kentucky, Michigan, Villanova and Duke
Going into the NCAA tournament, we went with Virginia, Michigan, Villanova and Duke. Yeah, that's not going to happen. But Villanova and Duke have looked better than advertised through one weekend. Michigan's offense has gone MIA, but its defense has been good enough to help the Wolverines get through the shooting slump. Kentucky has gone from a 5-seed in a tough region to the highest seed left in the South. The Wildcats are rolling right now and will have too much for any of their remaining opponents.
There would be no first-timers in this group. This would be Jay Wright's third Final Four in 10 years, John Calipari's sixth in 11 years, Mike Krzyzewski's third in nine years and John Beilein's second in six years.