Nothin’ but Net with Nick

Predicting the Sweet 16


Graphic by Karl Enghofer, The Spectator

Story by Nick Erickson, Managing Editor

According to, more people call in sick during the first two days of March Madness than any other two days of the year. And this year, the prescription for all of these ill employees was perhaps the finest opening weekend of the NCAA tournament in the last decade.

Four overtime games and a buzzer-beater happened. On the very first day. The next day, we saw a No. 14 seed advance, a thrilling Wisconsin-Oregon game Saturday and another pair of big upsets on Sunday.

But now, we arrive on the Sweet 16, where the big dogs come to bark and chase the Cinderellas out of the tournament. At the end of the day, I believe we will see all of the seeds higher than a No. 4 be eliminated.

So here’s what’s gonna happen in these outstanding matchups Thursday and Friday:

Wisconsin vs. Baylor: If you were entertained Saturday by the Wisconsin/Oregon matchup, you’re in for another treat. The Bears play a very similar style of basketball as the Ducks, headlined by a very athletic frontcourt led by Isaiah Austin. The key for Bucky will be whether or not they can contain Brady Heslip from the 3-point line. I expect to see a lot of Josh Gasser on him, and if the Badgers can force the Bears into foul trouble, I see ‘Sconnie winning another close one. Score: 72-67 Wisco.

Arizona vs. San Diego State: The Wildcats of Arizona looked extremely impressive against Gonzaga Sunday night, getting down the court in transition with ease and getting alley-oops time and time again from Nick Johnson to Aaron Gordon. However, Steve Fisher’s Aztecs can shut down almost any offense, and the game is played in Anaheim. I look for San Diego State to feed off the crowd and stun the Wildcats in a close one. Score: 63-61 SDSU.

Louisville vs. Kentucky: The battle for the Bluegrass State…played in Memphis. This classic college basketball rivalry gets an entirely new chapter this weekend. Kentucky is so much better than the No. 8 seed it holds, and that finally showed when they knocked off unbeaten Wichita State Sunday. However, the reigning champs are mad with the debacle of a seed they received, and I expect the Cardinals to have the biggest statement game of the tournament by blowing out their in-state rivals. Score: Louisville 82, Kentucky 63.

Tennessee vs. Michigan: The Wolverines have been the most impressive team in the tournament so far. By a long shot. If Nik Stauskas, who is the best remaining player in the tournament with the early exits of Doug McDermott and Jabari Parker, dished out eight assists in a huge win against Texas Saturday. If he does that to go along with his points, the Wolverines will be unstoppable. Also, Glenn Robinson has finally played up to his potential, and I expect Michigan to waltz past Tennessee with ease. Score: Michigan 76, Tennessee 52.

Florida vs. UCLA: I believe the Pac-12 has shown itself to be wildly underrated after its performance as a conference in the opening weekend. However, UCLA here will run out of luck when they run into the best team in the country, Florida. Scottie Wilbekin was sensational against Pittsburgh Saturday, and I expect more of the same this weekend. Score: Florida 65, UCLA 49.

Dayton vs. Stanford: I’m not going to spend any time analyzing this one, because the winner will simply become Florida Gator bait. However, look for his to be low scoring, as both the Flyers and Cardinal held its opening round opponents to less than 60 points in both games. Score: Stanford 51, Dayton 49.

Virginia vs. Michigan State: By far the most intriguing game in this round of 16. Every ESPN analyst has Michigan State in the Final Four, and all year, Virginia has been overlooked. It’s time for the Cavaliers to prove their worth once and for all. The Cavs looked absolutely phenomenal in picking apart Memphis Sunday night. Joe Harris was sensational, and I believe he is the most underrated player in the country. When Michigan State struggles to score, they often find themselves on the losing end, and Virginia is as good defensively as any team in the country. I really think the Hoos stick to all the so-called experts and win a defensive battle. Score: Virginia 62, Sparty 54.

Iowa State vs. Connecticut: The loss of Georges Niang is a huge blow for the Cyclones. But they beat a great North Carolina squad Sunday without him, and DeAndre Kane played like an All-American. Also, Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim did his job, and freshman guard Monte Morris hit some huge 3s. Look for Wisconsin native Matt Thomas to play a big role in this one for ISU, also. I’ve got the Cyclones prevailing once because I think their physical guards will frustrate UConn’s Shabazz Napier and win a close one. Score: Iowa State 76, UConn 72.