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Monday, March 24, 2014
Reseeding the Sweet 16 field

By Myron Medcalf
ESPN.com

The NCAA's selection committee did a solid job of seeding the initial field. Most of the slots made sense. There were few, if any, teams that appeared to be seeded higher or lower than they deserved.

The pairings led to another thrilling first weekend and set up an intriguing Sweet 16. This year's field features three teams from both the Big Ten and Pac-12. Not surprising. But a Sweet 16 with three teams from the SEC -- Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee -- is certainly unexpected. Stanford and Dayton, both double-digit seeds, are still alive. Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Wichita State and Syracuse are not.

That's the nature of the tournament. Anything can happen.

Now it's time to take another look at the last 16 teams. What if they were reseeded according to the competition they've faced and how they've performed in the opening rounds of the Big Dance? Well, let's try it. And remember: Every remaining program has already accomplished plenty. They're all good teams with a shot at the ultimate crown.

1. Arizona (Reseed: top overall seed; previous seed: No. 1)

Arizona toyed with Weber State in the round of 64. That was expected. But Gonzaga was a legitimate opponent as a No. 8 seed that appeared to possess the tools to give Arizona a fight. That didn't happen. The Wildcats topped the Zags by 23 points in a lopsided win that allowed them to showcase their championship potential. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon each finished with 18 points. Nick Johnson, a shooting guard, had four blocks. Arizona is athletic and versatile and ranked No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy. The Wildcats played better than any team in the field this weekend.

2. Florida (Reseed: No. 1; previous seed: top overall seed)

When Kentucky was the favorite to win the national title in 2012, it beat every team it faced by double digits until it reached the Final Four. Louisville defeated North Carolina A&T and Colorado State by 57 points combined in its first two NCAA tournament matchups last season. That's the expectation when you're the top overall seed. Early dominance. Even though the Gators had some rocky moments in their first game, they crushed Albany and Pitt by 28 points combined to reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season. The Gators haven't lost since Dec. 2. The streak continues.

3. Kentucky (Reseed: No. 1; previous seed: No. 8)

The real Kentucky finally stood up. When John Calipari signed one of the most highly anticipated recruiting classes in the history of college basketball, no one questioned the talent pool in Lexington. The only question about the Wildcats centered on whether the players would come together and develop the chemistry necessary to make a serious run. Their regular season was rocky. But they're playing like a team that finally realizes how good it can be. Wins over Kansas State and previously undefeated Wichita State proved that the Wildcats are good enough to compete for the national title. And Julius Randle, who finished with double-doubles in both games, is unstoppable right now.

4. Virginia (Reseed: No. 1; previous seed: No. 1)

The Cavaliers were shaky in their opening-round matchup against Coastal Carolina. They were down by five points at halftime, as the prophets of the Twitterverse hovered near their TVs anticipating the first 16 vs. 1 upset in NCAA tournament history. It didn't happen. Virginia came back to defeat Coastal Carolina by double digits. Then it eliminated Memphis (holding the Tigers to 3-for-13 shooting from the 3-point line) on Sunday in a 78-60 victory. The Cavs committed just 17 total turnovers in those victories. They have a collection of scorers now. They're a great defensive team, too. The Cavs can win it all.

5. Stanford (Reseed: No. 2; previous seed: No. 10)

How do you like the Cardinal now? A few weeks ago, there was a lot of speculation about Johnny Dawkins' job status. Would Stanford's administration bring him back for another season if he missed the Big Dance? Well, the Cardinal reached the Big Dance. Then things just got silly when they knocked out New Mexico, a Final Four sleeper in many brackets, and Kansas. Now Stanford is a Sweet 16 team that's led by a pair of upperclassmen, Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell, who have no interest in going home anytime soon.

6. Baylor (Reseed: No. 2; previous seed: No. 6)

Scott Drew continues to show that he can prepare his team for postseason success. The Bears needed a late rally in the regular season to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. But they have been one of America's best teams since February. They stomped Nebraska (74-60) and whipped Creighton (85-55) to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2010. Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin comprise a strong pair that's locking down the paint for Baylor. Creighton had one of the most impressive offensive units in recent college basketball history this season, but Doug McDermott & Co. registered less than a point per possession (0.92) against a Baylor team that's corralling teams with its defense in ways it couldn't during the regular season.

7. Connecticut (Reseed: No. 2; previous seed: No. 7)

Shabazz Napier. That's all. Well, that's not all. But the senior guard is carrying the Huskies right now. He has reminded us that one dynamic player -- see Kemba Walker -- can lead an underdog to the Final Four. In 42 minutes of action, he finished with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in his team's 89-81 overtime win over Saint Joseph's in the opening round. He had 25 points in UConn's 12-point win over 2-seed Villanova in the round of 32. But he's not doing it alone. The Huskies held Villanova to a 35 percent mark from the field and forced 16 turnovers.

8. Michigan (Reseed: No. 2; previous seed: No. 2)

Last season, Michigan surprised the field with a run to the Final Four, when former Wooden Award winner Trey Burke guided it through a series of postseason battles. The Wolverines are a different team without him, but this version still toyed with their first two opponents, Wofford and Texas. They shot 21-for-45 from the 3-point line in those games. They defended well, too. Wofford scored 0.71 points per possession in the round-of-64 matchup, per Ken Pomeroy, and the Wolverines held Texas to a 37 percent clip from the field. This is a dangerous team.

9. Tennessee (Reseed: No. 3; previous seed: No. 11)

Toward the end of the season, coach Cuonzo Martin's seat at Tennessee appeared to be heating up as the Vols fought to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. But things have changed in Knoxville. The Vols beat Iowa by 13 points in the First Four, topped UMass by 19 points in the round of 64 and crushed Mercer by 20 points in the round of 32. Mercer was the only team in those three games that recorded more than a point per possession against Tennessee. Plus, Josh Richardson is averaging 19.3 points per game. Tennessee will not back down against Michigan.

10. Michigan State (Reseed: No. 3; previous seed: No. 4)

The Spartans are finally healthy and looking like a national championship contender. The most promising component of Michigan State's two wins over Delaware and a Harvard team that upset Cincinnati in the round of 64 was the resurgence of Branden Dawson. The forward collected 36 points, 17 rebounds and 5 assists through two games. Coach Tom Izzo's squad, which has shot better than 50 percent from the field in the tournament, is potent at every position. The key concern about this team -- and it shouldn't be overlooked -- should be the 25 total turnovers it committed against a pair of double-digit seeds.

11. Iowa State (Reseed: No. 3; previous seed: No. 3)

Coach Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones advanced to the Sweet 16 even though they didn't have Georges Niang, who suffered a broken foot in his team's round-of-64 victory over North Carolina Central. That's impressive. Even more impressive? The clutch shots by DeAndre Kane and Naz Long in the win against North Carolina on Sunday. Iowa State has made 21 of 43 3-pointers in the NCAA tournament. When the Cyclones can stretch the floor with the 3-ball, they're difficult to beat. But they've committed 23 turnovers in their two games, and Niang's injury has to be considered in reseeding. That's why they're this low.

12. Wisconsin (Reseed: No. 3; previous seed: No. 2)

Bo Ryan's Badgers beat American by 40 points in the round of 64. But they ran into trouble against Oregon. They were down by 12 points at halftime but found a rhythm in the second half. A late Ben Brust 3-pointer helped them preserve the lead and the win. Despite its impressive play down the stretch, Wisconsin allowed Oregon to score 1.18 points per possession. That's not Final Four-level defense.

13. Dayton (Reseed: No. 4; previous seed: No. 11)

Archie Miller is not just Sean Miller's brother. He's the young coach who just led Dayton to upsets over Ohio State (No. 6) and Syracuse (No. 3) to secure a Sweet 16 spot. His Flyers weren't great in either game. They shot 41 percent against Syracuse and committed 13 turnovers against Ohio State. But they were resilient against a couple of favored programs. That certainly counts for something. The later stages of the tourney are usually decided in the final minutes, and the Flyers proved that they can handle top seeds in the closing seconds of a tough game.

14. UCLA (Reseed: No. 4; previous seed: No. 4)

The Bruins have the size and talent to give Florida fits. Kyle Anderson is a matchup problem for any team in the country. Jordan Adams, Norman Powell, David Wear, Travis Wear, Zach LaVine and Tony Parker form a solid unit around him. The Bruins wanted to make a statement -- albeit against a pair of double-digit seeds -- by holding Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin under 37 percent shooting from the field in their first two NCAA tourney wins. UCLA has found an abundance of confidence since its run to the Pac-12 tourney championship. It's all working for Steve Alford's squad right now. UCLA has the tools to compete with any team in the country, but Florida will be a much tougher test.

15. Louisville (Reseed: No. 4; previous seed: No. 4)

Manhattan had Louisville on the ropes in the round of 64. The Cardinals secured a 71-64 win and advanced to face Saint Louis, which they defeated 66-51. But the Jaspers shot 45 percent against one of the best defensive units in the country. A major concern? Maybe. The Cardinals were dominant against the Billikens, who went 0-for-15 from beyond the arc. The only question about Louisville is whether its defense -- Manhattan (0.94) and Saint Louis (0.73) were held under a point per possession, according to Ken Pomeroy -- will allow it to create the offense necessary to beat more complete and elite teams down the stretch.

16. San Diego State (reseed: No. 4; previous seed: No. 4)

The Aztecs had some scary moments on their way to the Sweet 16. They blew a 14-point lead against New Mexico State, shot 39 percent from the field, were outscored 40-28 in the second half and needed overtime to win 73-69. They were slightly better (43 percent) in a 63-44 win over North Dakota State. But if San Diego State's offense is limited to Xavier Thames (53 points in the two wins), the Aztecs could run into a lot of trouble when they face Arizona this weekend in Anaheim.