Lonzo Ball is all the talk as the Sweet 16 starts

So, how is your bracket? It’s probably the most-asked question over the past few days. And really, unless you had Villanova becoming the first repeat NCAA champion since Florida in 2007 or you had Duke or Louisville in the Final Four, most brackets are probably still okay.

What we have left in the 2017 NCAA Tournament are three No. 1 seeds, two No. 2s, three No. 3s and four No. 4s – not to mention two No. 7s, one No. 8 and one No. 11 seed.

And … plenty of great Sweet 16 match-ups going into the second week of action.

Of the final 16 teams, three teams have kind of separated themselves as biggest favorites to cut down the nets in Glendale on April 3 – those being Gonzaga, Kansas and North Carolina in alphabetical order – with Arizona just a shade behind them.

The absolute must-watch Sweet 16 game is the Friday nightcap in the South Regional between UCLA and Kentucky. Sure it will be interesting to see how Butler can try to slow down No. 1 seed North Carolina in Memphis. But everybody is waiting to see how UCLA superstar Lonzo Ball handles the stars from Kentucky. The Bruins are shooting 52.1 percent from the field this season and have pushed that to a tournament-best 56.2 percent over the first two games.

Moving to the Midwest Regional in Kansas City, Josh Jackson has been wowing fans who haven’t been paying much attention this season to top seeded Kansas, who face No. 4 Purdue. Not to be forgotten, the superb backcourt tandem of Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham are two of six Jayhawks who helped the United States to win the 2015 University Games title.

The other game is probably even more intriguing as Oregon fans are happy about seeing the Ducks still alive after losing Chris Boucher to injury. But Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey have been great. The third seed Oregon will have to stop the magical run of Michigan, who beat Oklahoma State and second seed Louisville as the seventh seed.

The West Regional in San Jose, California probably is the one in which most brackets had the top two seeds Gonzaga and Arizona facing off in the Elite Eight. Gonzaga will face some major pressure from the West Virginia guards as heavy favorites in their Sweet 16 showdown. Nigel Williams-Goss has been fantastic all season for the Zags and will likely need to play well to reach the next step. Arizona meanwhile take on Xavier with Finnish international Lauri Markkanen playing just as well including a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds against St. Mary’s.

The biggest bracket busters have come in the East Regional where eighth-seeded Wisconsin took down top seed and reigning champs Villanova, and South Carolina hung 65 points in the second half in knocking off No. 2 seed Duke. Wisconsin still features two players who led Wisconsin to two straight NCAA Final Fours in Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. And the Badgers will face a tough test against a tough Florida Gators with a tough defense. South Carolina meanwhile will be looking for another surprise to keep dancing.


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