The first three rounds of the NCAA tournament offered up a little bit of everything. There were six overtime games, big upsets, the traditional victories by the No. 12 seeds over the No. 5 seeds, and still quite a bit of chalk on the brackets. Now we regroup and get ready for the Sweet 16 games. Wichita State, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse have been eliminated. Based on everything we saw last weekend, all the available statistics, and our own eye test, here are the Sweet 16 Power Rankings. Enjoy the games. -- Ken Davis
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY SportsJasen Vinlove
The Flyers gave us one of the great storylines of the first weekend, beating Ohio State and Syracuse to reach the Sweet 16. Archie Miller has created a name for himself, not just as the brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller. Dayton could beat Stanford and take another step. Then again, that would probably mean playing Florida in the regional final. Not sure any team really wants to play Florida right now, but you know the Flyers would love any opportunity.
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Coach Johnny Dawkins came up with a great game plan for the Kansas Jayhawks, who were trying to find themselves without center Joel Embiid. The Cardinal played with poise in both victories and their length was an impressive weapon against Kansas. Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell could carry Stanford to the South Regional final against Florida.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY SportsJasen Vinlove
14. San Diego State
It’s no secret that the Aztecs can struggle offensively and it almost cost them when they needed overtime to defeat New Mexico State. They shot slightly better and held North Dakota State to 44 points to reach the Sweet 16. But Xavier Thames (left) will need some help from his teammates if the Aztecs hope to upset Arizona in Anaheim.
Scott Drew and the Bears have engineered an amazing transformation and here they are in the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2010. They wiped out the dreams of the Cornhusker state by beating Nebraska and Creighton to get here. Cory Jefferson (pictured) and Isaiah Austin have absolutely owned the paint in those victories. Despite the turnaround, they still face a tough task in a region that includes Arizona and Wisconsin.
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The Bruins took care of business against Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin. If that doesn’t sound impressive, consider the teams that have been unable to do so in this tournament. Coach Steve Alford has the Bruins playing their best ball of the season. Kyle Anderson (pictured) is a tough matchup for any team and that will include Florida. Anderson has a solid supporting cast but the Bruins face a monumental task against Florida.
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11. Iowa State
The Cyclones adjusted well in their first game without Georges Niang, who was lost for the remainder of the season with a broken foot suffered in the win over North Carolina Central. Now it gets tougher. Iowa State stretches the floor on offense and Fred Hoiberg will need other scorers to step up without Niang. Iowa State will face a tough task against UConn, a team that loves playing in Madison Square Garden.
APDavid J. Phillip
We know that John Beilein got a lot of credit for coaching the Wolverines to the Final Four last season. But think about how he had to reboot Michigan this season without Trey Burke. Any team that hits 21 of 45 shots from three-point range in two NCAA games is a force to be reckoned with. Michigan won’t go away easily.
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College basketball fans couldn’t ask for much more than a Kentucky-Louisville confrontation in the Sweet 16. Forget that these teams were seeded No. 8 and No. 4 just over a week ago. John Calipari’s team has matured and the Wildcats erased a lot of doubt by beating Wichita State. Brace yourself for some high drama from Indianapolis.
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Senior guard Shabazz Napier doesn’t want his career to end. That may sound like a cliché at this point in the season, but he really proved it with his gutty, 25-point performance against Villanova. The subplot against Iowa State will be Napier going against DeAndre Kane. Kevin Ollie is carving out his own style with the Huskies. UConn fans should be out in force at Madison Square Garden.
Getty ImagesJared Wickerham
No one is talking about Tennessee. Maybe that’s a result of the SEC stigma. Maybe it’s because the Vols slipped into the tournament and had to play Iowa in the First Four. Maybe no one is impressed by wins over UMass and Mercer. But Cuonzo Martin’s team can score points – and the Vols should be a big concern for Michigan. Color the Vols dangerous.
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Ben Brust of the Badgers delivered the biggest shot of the game in Wisconsin’s win over Oregon and then clearly stated his motivation. “Do whatever it takes to not make it your final game,” Brust said. Wisconsin is hitting 3’s, turning up the defense when needed, getting physical inside and winning all the mental battles. That will make the Badgers a tough out.
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The Cardinals weren’t happy with their seed. Rick Pitino didn’t like being matched against Manhattan. As a result, Louisville seemed to play a very defensive style of basketball the first weekend. Louisville can dominate opponents that way. But look for Russ Smith, Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock to shift offensive gears against Kentucky. They will need to in order to win.
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Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and N.C. State have all gone home and the Cavaliers are the last team standing out of the ACC. Virginia plays the type of defense that gives opponents fits. The Cavaliers contest shots and don’t allow second chances. Friday’s game against Michigan State will feel like a regional title game, if not a national semifinal.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
3. Michigan State
Coach Tom Izzo has all his weapons ready for a Final Four run and Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Gary Harris took turns doing damage against Delaware and Harvard last weekend. The Spartans can prove themselves as a championship contender with a win over No. 1 seed Virginia in the East semifinals because that may be the marquee pairing of this round.
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The Wildcats jumped on Gonzaga early and simply dominated in an 84-61 victory that carried Arizona into the Sweet 16. Coach Sean Miller called it one of the best performances of the season. Arizona’s defense is so consistent and the Wildcats scored 31 points on 21 Gonzaga turnovers. It’s going to be difficult to keep the Wildcats out of North Texas.
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Anything could happen in this tournament of surprises, but Florida is the closest thing to a heavy favorite right now. Defense and guards win championships and coach Billy Donovan has both. The Gators play the best defense in the country and Scottie Wilbekin has been super-efficient on offense. Reaching the Final Four doesn’t appear to be a daunting task.