Tuesday, April 23

March Madness: 5 best teams left in NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 will begin on Thursday and end Friday before the regional finals start for each quadrant.

With the first two rounds out of the way, the top teams left in the Big Dance are becoming clear. While most of the matchups have been chalk (higher seeds defeating the lower seeds), the best schools left are starting to emerge.

But who are the best of the best? Read below for the top five teams remaining in the field.

And kudos to you if they’re still in your bracket.

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The Big East Conference probably could have had more than just three teams in the tournament, but that debate is for another day. The teams who made it from the conference are still in the tournament and have huge matchups in the Sweet 16.

Creighton is one of them, and they are among the best teams left. The Bluejays have proven to be wildly efficient from the field, shooting 48.5%. That efficiency will come in handy when the team takes on Tennessee, which is among the top 50 in points allowed at just 67 per game.

The Volunteers are one of the best teams in the country, and could be interchangeable at No. 5 with the Bluejays. But Creighton can ball with the best of them and Tennessee will have to really shoot well and defend senior guard Baylor Scheierman hard in their matchup.

Next game: Tennessee

Speaking of the Big East, Marquette is still fighting to dance its way all the way to the national championship. Head coach Shaka Smart has his team ready to make waves in the tournament, and they’ve done so thus far.

Marquette put together wins over Western Kentucky and Colorado early on their side of the bracket. And now, they have a matchup against a red-hot NC State team that may have destiny on their side — though it could likely come crashing down against the Golden Eagles.

The Golden Eagles shoot at a 48.2% clip and have a plus-8.7 point differential. Not to mention, playing against opponents like UConn and Creighton helped them prepare for games like these.

Good luck stopping guards Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek.

Next game: NC State

Don’t look now, but Illinois has put on some impressive displays of basketball over the last week. Illinois took care of Morehead State in the first round and dominated Duquesne, which had some momentum on their side after an upset victory over BYU.

The next test comes against Iowa State, one of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference all year. Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr. will be the key factor as he’s averaging 23.3 points per game. He’s helped his team score at least 80 points in each of their last four games.

Illinois is also ninth in scoring in the country with 84.6 points per game. Iowa State, on the other hand, is fourth in fewest points allowed with 61.3. Something will have to give in their matchup.

Next game: Iowa State

Has Purdue finally turned the corner? Could this be the year the Boilermakers make it to the regional final? It very well could be.

Purdue big man Zach Edey put up 23 points and 14 rebounds against Utah State, while Braden Smith and Lance Jones are both averaging around 12 points per game. It will take a team effort to move forward, and Purdue knows it.

“There’s no satisfaction,” Edey said after the win over the Aggies. “I didn’t come back to make the Sweet 16. I came back to make a run, a deep run.”

This week is their chance to make a statement. Look out, Gonzaga.

Next game: Gonzaga

The UConn Huskies could very much be the ones to win back-to-back national championships. They have shown no sign of slowing down their offense as they routed Stetson and Northwestern in the first and second rounds, respectively.

A rematch of the 2023 national championship awaits them on Thursday night against San Diego State, but it will be a very different team playing in the Sweet 16 this year.

The Huskies averaged 81.6 points per game this season in a conference that has three schools still remaining in the tournament. Additionally, they played Marquette three times and won all of their games, getting used to the big-time feel that March Madness provides in the process. UConn has also proven to step up on defense, only allowing 63.9 points per game. 

More of the same is expected of them come game time against the Aztecs.

Next game: San Diego State

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