Four double-digit seeds are still dancing in the NCAA Tournament: #10 Miami, #11 Iowa State, #11 Michigan, and #15 Saint Peter’s.
Miami and Iowa State are set to meet in the Sweet 16, while Michigan will face Villanova, leaving Saint Peter’s to battle with Purdue. The paths to the Final Four are mostly known for all four squads.
In a tournament built around the excitement of upsets and sweeping support for underdogs, here is what each team’s chances at reaching the most famous stage of the tournament look like.
Final Four Bound?
The Miami Hurricanes were always going to cause problems for lower seeds in the tournament; they had not lost a game by more than four points in their final 10 before bracket play and had gone 7-3 during that same stretch. They play extremely aggressive defense on the perimeter and have both length and versatility that can help them function in a multitude of offensive sets.
Miami will have to beat Iowa State and then the winner of #1 Kansas and #4 Providence to make the Final Four, but they match up fairly well against all three; Kansas would likely give them the most trouble because of their extreme athleticism. The Hurricanes’ starters play most of the minutes in every game and while they will be rested from the four days off, could be running on fumes in their Elite Eight bout, should they qualify.
#11 Iowa State
The Iowa State Cyclones will face Miami in the Sweet 16 as their up-and-down season continues a familiar trend. ISU has tons of experience against ranked teams and has already beaten a six and three seed in the tournament, though they are extremely prone to offensive slumps— check out their 41-point game against Texas Tech and 36-point outing against Oklahoma State, both of which occurred within their last five games.
The Cyclones’ best chance to make any noise is through its defensive prowess, and while they played Kansas close both times they met in the regular season (losing by a combined 12 points), would be hard-pressed to get past a Miami team that thrives in isolation and has a heap of momentum behind it.
The tournament’s most-popular first-round upset pick doubled down on outperforming expectations, defeating #6 Colorado State and then #3 Tennessee in the opening weekend of March Madness. Their path does not get any easier, however, with a duel against #2 Villanova rapidly approaching.
Nova coach Jay Wright has earned a reputation as one of the most feared leaders in March, whereas Wolverines’ coach Juwan Howard is still fairly unproven in big moments. Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks have shone for UM through two games, and while they could certainly muddy it up against the Wildcats, it is a fair assessment for the lower-seeded school to be a five-point favorite; if Michigan pulls off the surprise victory, they will meet the winner of a defensive battle between #1 Arizona and #5 Houston.
#15 Saint Peter’s
The feel-good story of this year’s tournament is the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, who beat #2 Kentucky in the first round before taking down the previously-31-2 Murray State Racers. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions are now on a nine-game win streak and on course for a battle with #3 Purdue. The Boilermakers have one of the nation’s most electric players in Jaden Ivey as well as 7-foot-4 matchup nightmare Zach Edey, so a win will be tough to come by for the heavy underdogs.
Doug Edert has provided consistent scoring off the bench in both of the Peacock’s tournament victories, but they are going to need a performance similar to Daryl Banks III’s 27-point eruption against Kentucky if they hope to get past this Purdue team. If they can, they will meet the winner of #4 UCLA and #8 North Carolina for a chance at the Final Four, although both of those teams once again present huge matchup issues for the highest seed remaining.
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