The selection committee didn't create an abundance of controversy with its pairings and seeding decisions on Selection Sunday. You could argue that UCLA hadn't accrued the proper quality wins necessary to warrant a slot, especially with a team like Colorado State so beloved by the RPI. But the final announcement didn't lead to excessive criticism of perceived "snubs."
Its selections also fueled an exciting opening slate. Thursday established an NCAA tournament record for one-point victories in a single day, with five. Friday failed to offer the same spice and slate of upsets, but it set up a great Saturday-Sunday menu.
Virginia and Villanova fell in the second round, outcomes that opened the entire East region to an uprising by an underdog. Kentucky stayed perfect and dominant. Arizona emerged as the team that could ruin the hopes and dreams of Big Blue Nation.
Now it's time to reseed the Sweet 16. This list is based on the competition that each team has faced and its respective performance through the first weekend.
Every team on this list will end the season on a high note. A Sweet 16 slot isn't easy to attain.
1. Kentucky Wildcats (Reseed: top overall seed; previous seed: top overall seed)
Opening matchups against Hampton and Cincinnati weren't exactly a gauntlet. And the Bearcats challenged Kentucky early before the Wildcats finished them off in the second half. But the numbers still support undefeated Kentucky as the top overall seed while it continues to smash the world. Hampton scored just 0.75 points per possession against Kentucky in the second round, and Cincy registered just 0.82 points per possession. Translation: Even when they appear to struggle or play a tighter-than-expected matchup, the Wildcats are still a stingy defensive team that might not lose another game. The 40-0 potential is real, folks.
2. Duke Blue Devils (Reseed: No. 1; previous seed: No. 1)
The selection committee made the right call with Duke as a top seed. Clearly. No, Robert Morris and San Diego State weren't juggernauts or anything. But the Blue Devils beat both teams by 48 points combined. What else could they have done to prove that they're national title contenders and top seeds? Jahlil Okafor has connected on 21 of 27 field goal attempts through the first two games of the NCAA tournament. He's averaging 23.5 points per game. As a team, the Blue Devils have gone 16-for-35 from the 3-point line. It's all clicking for Mike Krzyzewski's program, which has somehow improved since dismissing former McDonald's All-American Rasheed Sulaimon.
3. Arizona Wildcats (Reseed: No. 1; previous seed: No. 2)
Sean Miller's squad is off to a ferocious start in the Big Dance. First, the Wildcats defeated Texas Southern -- which had earned wins over Michigan State and Kansas State earlier this season -- by 21 points. Then, Miller's program topped Ohio State by 15 points. Per ESPN Stats & Information, the Buckeyes scored just three second-chance points after Arizona rebounded 78 percent of their misses. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 17 PPG and 10 RPG. Arizona's offensive productivity and defensive effectiveness comprise the combination that past programs have used to win national championships. The Wildcats certainly deserve a top seed after their early performance in the NCAA tournament's first chapter.
4. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Reseed: No. 1; previous seed: No. 2)
For the first time since 2009, Gonzaga has advanced to the Sweet 16. Its first two games proved that the Bulldogs were worthy of a lofty seed, despite competing in the West Coast Conference. First, they beat North Dakota State by 10 on Friday. Then, they followed that with a lopsided victory over an Iowa squad that was coming off a 31-point win (a school record for margin of victory in the NCAA tournament) over Atlantic 10 regular-season champion Davidson. The Zags shot 61.5 percent from the field against the Hawkeyes, and they also scored 22 points off 11 Iowa turnovers. Gonzaga held Iowa to 1.01 points per possession. Kyle Wiltjer is averaging 23.5 PPG through two games, and he's 6-for-9 from the 3-point line. Gonzaga's ridiculous offensive attack combined with solid defense has positioned the Zags to pursue a Final Four run.
5. Wisconsin Badgers (Reseed: No. 2; previous seed: No. 1)
The Badgers have the personnel to make another Final Four run. In Wisconsin's wins over Coastal Carolina and Oregon in its first two games of the NCAA tournament, Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes accounted for 109 points and 47 rebounds. The trio will be difficult for any opponent to stop. Plus, the Badgers have committed only 15 turnovers through two games. There were some questionable defensive stretches, though. Coastal Carolina made 56.7 percent of its shots outside the paint, the top mark by a losing team in the NCAA tournament over the past six seasons per ESPN Stats & Information. The Badgers improved against Oregon (1.07 PPP), which essentially applied its oft-used strategy of granting Joseph Young 25 shots (30 points) and hoping it would lead to a win.
6. Michigan State Spartans (Reseed: No. 2; previous seed: No. 7)
How does Tom Izzo do it? Of all the teams he has coached in recent years, this is the one that seemed like a one-and-done for most of the season. But Michigan State has been on a crazy run since early March, and that run has continued in the NCAA tournament because of that typical Spartan grit. They held Georgia to a 33.3 percent mark from the field in a second-round win. On Sunday, Michigan State held Virginia under 30 percent shooting and 2-for-17 from the 3-point line in a surprising win over a Cavaliers squad that could have been a top seed. Travis Trice scored 23 points in the victory. He has nine assists and five turnovers through two NCAA tournament games.
7. NC State Wolfpack (Reseed: No. 2; previous seed: No. 8)
The Wolfpack's streaky ways made them a difficult program to assess entering the NCAA tournament. Would the NC State that lost at Boston College and at Wake Forest show up, or the would the team that defeated North Carolina and Louisville on the road and Duke at home be the squad that took the floor in mid-March? Maybe the latter, it seems. Beejay Anya's baby hook was the game winner in NC State's opening-game win over LSU. And then, an NC State program that had mostly played average defense all season held Villanova to a 25.9 percent mark inside the paint (per ESPN Stats & Info) in a 71-68 victory over the No. 1 seed Wildcats. Now, the Wolfpack weren't great. They went 8-for-35 from the 3-point line in both games. But they did enough to knock off a top seed. And they can do even more as Cat Barber, who is averaging 15.0 PPG thus far in the tournament, leads a program that has competed near its ceiling thus far.
8. Wichita State Shockers (Reseed: No. 2; previous seed: No. 7)
Wichita State returns to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 2012-13 Final Four run elevated the team's national profile. First, the Shockers outgunned Indiana (1.10 PPP) with an 81-point effort (1.17 PPP). Then, the Shockers held Kansas to 65 points in the second round. Let's talk about Fred Van Vleet, the veteran point guard who loves big moments. Against the Hoosiers, he finished with 27 points (9-for-18, 9-for-10 from the free throw line), four assists, two steals and one turnover. Against the Jayhawks, he finished with 17 points (4-for-12, 7-for-9 from the charity stripe), six rebounds, six assists, four steals, one block and five turnovers. Such a gamer, and now Shockers are back in the Sweet 16 in part because of his effort.
9. West Virginia Mountaineers (Reseed: No. 3; previous seed: No. 5)
The Mountaineers are one of two teams representing a Big 12 Conference that sent 70 percent of its membership to the NCAA tournament. West Virginia won't back down when it faces Kentucky later this week. Its brand of defense is the type that fuels upsets. Bob Huggins' squad forced 23 turnovers and scored 26 points off those turnovers in Sunday's win over Maryland. Per ESPN Stats & Information, the Terrapins scored just four points against West Virginia's press in the second half. West Virginia forced turnovers on 26 percent of Buffalo's possessions in the opener. Its offense has been OK, nothing special. Juwan Staten's 2-for-8 clip on Sunday didn't help with that. But West Virginia created the same ballhandling challenges for its first two opponents that the bulk of its previous foes had encountered.
10. Louisville Cardinals (Reseed: No. 3; previous seed: No. 4)
The Cardinals faced a serious threat from Big West tournament champion UC Irvine in the first round. Terry Rozier's late steal and Quentin Snider's clutch free throws saved Louisville against UC Irvine, which shot 46 percent from the field. But the Cardinals locked up Northern Iowa (39.1 percent from the field) on Sunday, the same night they shot 52 percent overall in the first half. Rick Pitino's squad does a great job of forcing bad shots. The Panthers penetrated, but the Cardinals steered them into bad angles. Ben Jacobson's team finished with a 6-for-19 mark from the arc and 12-for-27 inside it. Seth Tuttle, a Wooden Award candidate, took seven shots, below his 8.7 FGA average on the season. Louisville harassed him every time he touched the ball or tried to get open for a good look. The game wasn't always pretty, but Louisville's stirring defense frustrated its first two opponents and ultimately helped the program reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season, a Louisville record.
11. Xavier Musketeers (Reseed: No. 3 seed; previous seed: No. 6)
The Musketeers should probably send flowers to the selection committee and Baylor. Ole Miss stormed back from a double-digit deficit to beat an offensively potent BYU squad in the play-in game, and then Xavier beat the Rebels by 19 points on Thursday. Baylor looked like a Final Four sleeper until Georgia State sent the Bears back to Waco to set up a matchup with Xavier in the third round. The Musketeers' 67.6 percent shooting mark from the field was the third-best field goal percentage in the past 15 NCAA tournaments, according to ESPN Stats & Information. No, Xavier didn't encounter a tough slate on its way to the Sweet 16, but it played well in both games.
12. Utah Utes (Reseed: No. 3; previous seed: No. 5)
The Utes are in the Sweet 16 in part because of a strong defensive effort. Stephen F. Austin is a top-35 offense (per adjusted efficiency on KenPom.com), but the Lumberjacks scored only 50 against Utah in a Thursday loss. Utah contested 67 percent of Georgetown's shots in the second round and registered a 68.4 effective field goal percentage, which applies more weight to 3-pointers, per ESPN Stats and Information. Jakob Poeltl finished with 30 points and six blocks combined in those two games. Utah is a dangerous team with the stars and defensive integrity to advance beyond the Sweet 16.
13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Reseed: No. 4; previous seed: No. 3)
Notre Dame's opening stanza in the NCAA tournament mirrored its entire season: Questionable defensive stretches, but its offensive exploits ultimately led to key wins. It wasn't easy. A four-point win over Northeastern and a three-point overtime victory against a legit Butler team weren't exactly overwhelming justification of a top-three seed for Notre Dame, although its overall résumé and ACC tournament title were enough to warrant that slot. Still, the Fighting Irish had enough offensive firepower to secure both wins. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Notre Dame was perfect in transition (15 points, 4-for-4, 6-for-6 from the charity stripe) against the Bulldogs.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (Reseed: No. 4; previous seed: No. 4)
After a Jan. 10 win over Louisville, North Carolina failed to achieve another quality win until it defeated Louisville and Virginia in the ACC tournament. The selection committee blessed the Tar Heels with a favorable route to the Sweet 16, too. The Tar Heels squeezed by Harvard with a two-point victory on Thursday. Their 55.1 shooting percent clip in that game was minimized by 17 turnovers. They committed 16 turnovers in Saturday's, nine-point win over Arkansas. The positives? North Carolina outscored Arkansas 26-7 in transition, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
15. Oklahoma Sooners (Reseed: No. 4; previous seed: No. 3)
The Sooners connected on 29 percent of their 3-point attempts and Buddy Hield finished with a 6-for-16 night in Oklahoma's tournament-opening win over Albany. Then, Oklahoma knocked off Dayton, which began the tournament with a play-in game against Boise State, after a late 23-7 rally. But the Sooners committed 15 turnovers in that matchup. Lon Kruger's squad fought to get to this stage in the NCAA tournament. But the Sooners could encounter trouble in the next chapter of the Big Dance if Buddy Hield (10-for-29, 4-for-17 from the 3-point line), their most credible scoring threat, continues to struggle.
16. UCLA Bruins (Reseed: No. 4; previous seed: No. 11)
Steve Alford should go to Vegas and play Texas Hold 'Em or something. He has been lucky in recent years. The same UCLA team that entered Selection Sunday with questionable credentials is now in the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year. Yes, early matchups (and controversy) against SMU and Iowa State-conqueror UAB were major factors. The game-winning goaltending call on Bryce Alford's late 3-point attempt against SMU will be debated for years. But UCLA advanced, and that's what matters. UAB had lost to Rice, North Texas, Florida Atlantic and Florida International in the weeks that preceded the NCAA tournament. The Bruins beat UAB 92-75 in the third round via their 52-22 edge in the paint. They shot 60 percent from the field and Tony Parker finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.