After an exciting first weekend, the 2016 NCAA Tournament heads to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds this weekend.
In the West regional, the action shifts to Anaheim, California. Regional semi-final games will be played at the Honda Center on Thursday, March 24, followed by the final on Saturday, March 26. The West regional consists of the Oregon Ducks, Oklahoma Sooners, Texas A&M Aggies, and Duke Blue Devils.
The region is loaded with squads that are looking to emulate the success the Duke Blue Devils had last season in reaching – and winning – the NCAA National Championship game. Oklahoma last reached the championship game in 1988; since then, a 2002 appearance in the Final Four marked their pinnacle.
While Oregon has won the tournament before, the Ducks last did so in 1939. Since then, the furthest the squad has come was losing in the 2007 Elite Eight to eventual national champion Florida. Texas A&M has never advance beyond the Sweet 16, so reaching the Final Four would set a new mark of excellence for the Aggies.
The following is game previews of the two Sweet 16 match-ups.
No. 1 Oregon Ducks (30-6) vs. No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (25-10)
Oregon reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 16 Holy Cross in the first round and No. 8 Saint Joseph’s in the second round. While the Ducks had an easy game against Holy Cross, the Hawks nearly ousted the Ducks on the opening weekend – a fate Oregon would have suffered for the fourth straight year. Instead, Oregon relied on the team’s top scorer in Dillon Brooks to shoulder the load, and the 6-6 forward did just that by pouring in 24 points in the win. The knock on Oregon is their depth, a factor the Ducks must account for in order to turn their Sweet 16 berth into their first Final Four appearance since 1939.
Duke reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 13 UNC Wilmington in the first round and No. 12 Yale in the second round. The Blue Devils have won 90 NCAA tournament games under coach Mike Krzyzewski, but to win the next game will need more big-time scoring from sophomore guard Grayson Allen, and 6-9 freshman Brandon Ingram. The Duke duo combined for 54 of the team’s 71 points in the win over Yale, a mark higher than the 47 percent the teammates accounted for during the regular season. In addition to the top scorers, fellow freshman Luke Kennard or senior Marshall Plumlee will need to step up for Duke to advance past the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.
No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (27-7) vs. No. 3 Texas A&M Aggies (28-8)
Oklahoma reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 15 CSU Bakersfield in the first round and No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) in the second round. The Sooners relied on player of the year candidate Buddy Hield to make their second straight Sweet 16 appearance. In the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Hield scored a combined 63 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to pace Oklahoma. Overall, the Sooners’ offense has shot nearly 50 percent for the entire tournament, giving Oklahoma a significant edge over their competition. The Sooners will need more performances like this in order to continue on their path to the Final Four, their first since the 2002 post-season.
Texas A&M reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No. 14 Green Bay in the first round and No. 11 Northern Iowa in the second round. The Aggies played in a classic just to reach the Sweet 16 as the team scored 14 points in the final 34 seconds of overtime, erasing a double-figure deficit en route to winning in double overtime. Danuel House has been the star for Texas A&M in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, scoring 42 points and grabbing 11 rebounds combined in the opening round. The SEC’s regular season champions are the lone squad representing the conference in the Sweet 16. To continue their run, the Aggies will need to use their height – three starters are 6-7 or better – to out-rebound their opponents, and limit second-chance points.
To view the Sweet 16 East preview, click here.
To view the Sweet 16 South preview, click here.
To view the Sweet 16 Midwest preview, click here.
Which team from the 2016 NCAA Tournament West Region do you expect to advance beyond the Sweet 16 and make a Final Four run this season? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
[Photo by Ronald Martinez & Jim Rogash/Getty Images]