Let's say the NCAA selection committee reconvened late Sunday night and reseeded the remaining 16 squads. And let's say the committee ranked the teams according to how they're playing right now. How would the committee sort the field?
I mean, its members would have to essentially start from scratch, given the developments that have fractured brackets worldwide. Gonzaga, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Georgetown are gone. The Big Ten, which constitutes one-quarter of the Sweet 16 field, is just as powerful as it appeared to be throughout the regular season.
The Mountain West? Where did it go? Meanwhile, the Pac-12 sent two teams to the second weekend, and La Salle -- not VCU, Saint Louis or Butler -- is the only Atlantic 10 squad that's still standing.
Then, there's the Florida Gulf Coast situation. Don't believe the guy at the water cooler today who swears he predicted this. Somehow, the Eagles are still alive, and the only thing standing between them and an Elite Eight berth is a matchup against Florida. You can't make this stuff up.
Now that the wackiness has ceased for a time, let's rank the 16 survivors. And again, these rankings are based on how they're playing now -- and they start from scratch, so original regions are irrelevant.
1. Louisville (top overall seed; was No. 1 in the Midwest): Nothing to change with this Louisville squad. Still the top overall seed. The Cardinals came, they saw and they conquered in the first two rounds. Rick Pitino's program added to its strong finish (the Cards won the Big East tournament title and haven't lost since Feb. 9). The Cardinals sent North Carolina A&T and Mountain West standout Colorado State home via lopsided wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. They've recorded 31 steals in the Big Dance thus far.
2. Michigan (1-seed; was No. 4 in the South): After Michigan's quick departure from the Big Ten tournament, there were some concerns about the Wolverines' postseason potential. Those concerns were magnified on Selection Sunday, when they were paired with dangerous mid-major South Dakota State and placed on a collision course with VCU. But Michigan had few problems with either. The Wolverines held Nate Wolters to 10 points (3-for-14) in a double-digit win, and they scored 78 points and committed just 12 turnovers in a 25-point victory over VCU's "Havoc" attack.
3. Florida (1-seed; was No. 3 in the South): The Gators don't win close games -- they're 0-6 in single-digit matchups. That's a bizarre stat for a program for which every win this season has been by 10 or more points. When that Florida squad emerges, few can top it. There were signs of that team in the wins over Northwestern State (Florida held the nation's top-scoring offense to 47 points) and Minnesota. They were both lopsided victories, although there were a few scares for the Gators in the second half of their win over the Gophers. But they shot 80 percent from the field in the first half. The jury's still out, however, on what we can expect when this team plays a tight game.
4. Ohio State (1-seed; was No. 2 in the West): The Buckeyes keep rolling and haven't lost since Feb. 17. Sure, they were in trouble late against an Iowa State squad that played the second half without standout Chris Babb, and there was some controversy with a late offensive foul call against the Cyclones. But the Buckeyes deserve credit for weathering the adversity they faced in that game. Iowa State was on fire from the 3-point line (48 percent), but Aaron Craft, a proven leader, guided his squad to another win in a critical game. This tournament is not about blowouts. They never last. It's about identifying teams with the character to survive and advance, regardless of the scenario. And the Buckeyes have been victorious in every situation for more than a month.
5. Michigan State (2-seed; was No. 3 in the Midwest): Life's essential rules include this perennial truth: Never, ever doubt Tom Izzo in March. The Spartans went 2-3 in their final Big Ten regular-season games, and they were on the ropes against Iowa before suffering a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. In their gritty wins over Valparaiso and Memphis, however, the Spartans played the physical style that has fueled Izzo's success. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are scrapping inside. Gary Harris looks like a lottery pick. Duke could be in trouble when the two teams meet this week.
6. Indiana (2-seed; was No. 1 in the East): The Hoosiers have all of the pieces to secure their first national championship since the 1980s, but they're not making it look too easy. Temple's Khalif Wyatt almost single-handedly slew Goliath with a 31-point performance Sunday, but the Hoosiers escaped after a few late Owls mishaps and a clutch 3-pointer by Victor Oladipo. Yep, the Hoosiers nearly lost that game, but they also demonstrated their depth and skill and versatility in that victory. They have so many weapons.
7. Miami (2-seed; was No. 2 in the East): Jim Larranaga's squad just keeps rolling. The Hurricanes won the ACC regular-season title, then secured the ACC tournament title. Now, they're in the Sweet 16 in Larranaga's second season with the program. There was certainly controversy toward the end of their Sunday victory over Illinois, but the Hurricanes won that game because they stopped Illinois at the 3-point line (7-for-27). They beat Pacific by nearly 30 points in their opening game. They're deep, they're long, they're athletic and they're experienced. Miami might end up in Atlanta.
8. Duke (2-seed; was No. 2 in the Midwest): This Duke team is beginning to look like the national championship contender we expected to see before Ryan Kelly's injury. The Blue Devils are 5-1 since Kelly returned from a foot injury earlier this month, but they haven't been flawless in the tourney. They gave Albany too much hope Friday. They shot just 39 percent from the field in Sunday's win over Creighton, but they did hold the Bluejays to a 2-for-19 clip from the 3-point line. Again, the Blue Devils clearly have the ingredients to make a run.
9. Oregon (3-seed; was No. 12 in the Midwest): The committee gave the Ducks a 12-seed. It seemed far too low for a squad that finished second in the Pac-12 and won the conference tournament, albeit against a short-handed UCLA squad. So the Ducks clearly entered the Big Dance with a chip on their shoulder. Right now, however, Dana Altman's program appears to be a serious threat for Louisville in the Sweet 16 after wins over Oklahoma State (Marcus Smart went 5-for-13) and Saint Louis (3-for-21 from the 3-point line). A win over a Big 12 title contender and the Atlantic 10's best squad? Not bad for a 12-seed.
10. Arizona (3-seed; was No. 6 in the West): The Wildcats had a good weekend. They beat Belmont by 15 points and Harvard by 23 points. In both games, they shot better than 55 percent, and Mark Lyons was the leader Sean Miller will need him to be in Los Angeles. But, by no fault of their own, the Wildcats had one of the easiest paths to the Sweet 16. Ohio State is on a different level than the Crimson and the Bruins. So I still say a Wildcats squad that has gone 4-3 since Feb. 27 has something to prove at Staples Center. The Cats have been up and down all season. This is their chance to show the college basketball world that they're not just a team that caught a few lucky breaks with its region and opponents on its way to the Sweet 16.
11. Kansas (3-seed; was No. 1 in the South): Yep, the Jayhawks were fabulous in the second half of Sunday's victory over North Carolina. Their depth, talent and poise anchored another trip to the Sweet 16 for Bill Self's crew. But let's not pretend that second-half blitz represented Kansas' entire weekend. We spent the majority of the first two rounds asking ourselves, "What's wrong with Kansas?" The Jayhawks had trouble against Western Kentucky on Friday, and they were down nine points in the first half against the Tar Heels. We know that the Jayhawks are a very talented team. In the past 72 hours, however, they've demonstrated the same flaws that led to a loss to TCU earlier this year.
12. Syracuse (3-seed; was No. 4 in the East): In their first tournament game, the Orange destroyed a Montana team that had lost its best player (Mathias Ward) to a foot injury a few weeks earlier. But that 81-34 margin was still somewhat impressive. Less impressive? A 12-minute scoring drought in their victory over Cal in the third round. The Orange advanced, but they'll get whipped by Indiana in the Sweet 16 if they encounter similar struggles this week. Jim Boeheim's team is talented enough to reach Atlanta but streaky enough to get crushed by the Hoosiers.
13. Florida Gulf Coast (4-seed; was No. 15 in the South): Wow. What else can you say about this Florida Gulf Coast squad? Really. First, the Eagles outplay 2-seed Georgetown and neutralize future lottery pick Otto Porter. Then, they defeat San Diego State, one of the Mountain West's best teams, by double digits Sunday. Dunk City is real. Not to ruin the excitement, but this is the same team that lost to Lipscomb twice and finished second in the Atlantic Sun's regular-season standings. But FGCU did defeat Miami earlier this season, and it pushed Duke for a half. We'll learn a lot more about the Eagles when they face Florida this week.
14. Wichita State (4-seed; was No. 9 in the West): The Shockers lived up to their name when they upset Gonzaga and Pitt to reach the Sweet 16. This placement is not a knock against what they've accomplished. It's no small matter to knock off a No. 1, even though Gonzaga was the weakest of the top seeds. The Shockers are playing well, and they're one of the few true mid-majors with a chance to make a run to the Final Four. Against the Zags, they were really, really hot (14-for-28 from the 3-point line), especially in the second half. Let's see what happens when they face a team that actually guards the perimeter.
15. La Salle (4-seed; was No. 13 in the West): The Atlantic 10 flew under the radar all year -- this first weekend of the NCAA tournament proved as much. La Salle, surprisingly, is the league's lone survivor. The Explorers' current three-game winning streak (they defeated Boise State, Kansas State and Ole Miss to reach the Sweet 16) followed a two-game losing streak that jeopardized their NCAA tournament hopes. They've already overachieved. But their first half against the Wildcats provided evidence that they'll be a serious player at Staples Center in Los Angeles this week.
16. Marquette (4-seed; was No. 3 in the East): How does he do it? How does Buzz Williams continue to lead the Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16? This is a Marquette squad that somehow secured a slice of the Big East title despite its struggles outside Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles won multiple overtime games and thrillers in the regular season. Seems like no matter what Marquette does, it ultimately ends up with the victory. The Golden Eagles needed a crazy stretch in the final minute to beat Davidson in their first NCAA tourney matchup and another bizarre sequence down the stretch to defeat Butler. Things certainly could have gone either way for this team, though.