The NCAA Tournament field of 68 has been whittled down to just 16 teams still competing for the 2016 national championship. And while everyone was excited for bracket-busting upsets the first few days, and insane comeback victories with multiple overtimes as the field came into shape for the second weekend, the end result is a fairly “chalkish” Sweet 16. That’s not a bad thing.
Sure, there are some higher seeds, but the names attached to those numbers feel less like party crashers than had Middle Tennessee State or UNI advanced. And, yes, going into the second weekend of March Madness without Michigan State seems incredibly odd given they were a 2-seed—less so without No. 2 seed Xavier—but most of the real heavyweights are still alive in this tournament. Here are 16 things you need* to know about the Sweet 16.
Sweet 16 by seed
While there surely were some big upsets in the first two rounds, the top four seeds in the tournament—Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Oregon—all advanced to the Sweet 16.
Of the top 16 seeds in the tournament—No. 1 through No. 4 in each region—10 advanced to the second weekend. Of the six other teams still alive, two of them are No. 5 seeds, barely much of an upset over the No. 4 seeds in those regions, and only one of those two had to face a No. 4 seed to advance as No. 5 Maryland was the favorite against No. 13 Hawaii in the South region’s second round.
2016 NCAA Tournament Records by Seed
- No. 1 – 8-0
- No. 2 – 5-2
- No. 3 – 5-2
- No. 4 – 5-2
- No. 5 – 4-2
- No. 6 – 2-3
- No. 7 – 3-3
- No. 8 – 1-4
- No. 9 – 3-4
- No. 10 – 3-3
- No. 11 – 4-3 (does not include First Four)
- No. 12 – 2-4
- No. 13 – 1-4
- No. 14 – 1-4
- No. 15 – 1-4
- No. 16 – 0-4 (does not include the First Four)
All Four No. 1 seeds advanced for just the second time in 7 years
All four top seeds made the Sweet 16 for just the second time in the last seven seasons. Since the 2006 NCAA Tournament, the top four seeds have all advanced to the second weekend six times in the last 11 tournaments, but only once, now twice, since the 2010 Big Dance.
In each tournament over the last decade, at least three of the four top seeds advanced to the Sweet 16, but that doesn’t always indicate future tournament success. Since the 2008 NCAA Tournament, where the top four seeds all earned spots in the Final Four, the No. 1 seeds have filled 23 of their expected 28 spots in the Sweet 16, but just 16 of the 28 spots in the Elite Eight.
Just once since 2008 has the tournament featured all four top seeds in the Elite Eight—the 2009 event, one year after the chalk Final Four. More than one No. 1 seed has qualified for the Final Four just one time since 2010.
Last year, three No. 1 seeds made the Final Four, but in the previous five tournaments, no more than one top seed had cut down regional nets.
The ACC dominates the Sweet 16 by-conference rankings
The ACC nearly ran the table in the tournament in the first two rounds, advancing six teams to the Sweet 16 out of seven that made the tournament. (Sorry, Pitt. Oh, and congrats, Louisville, you will be hosting a Sweet 16 despite your team being one of the best in the ACC yet not part of this group because of your postseason ban.)
- ACC – 6 teams (12-1 record)
- Big Ten – 3 teams (8-4)
- Big XII – 3 teams (6-4)
- Big East – 1 team (5-4)
- Pac 12 – 1 team (3-6)
- SEC – 1 team (3-2)
- WCC – 1 team (2-0)
Those numbers don’t mean a whole helluva lot unless they’re put in context of how many bids each conference got. So let’s do that.
Bids by conference
Four power conferences each received seven bids, with the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 sharing that distinction. The Big East had five bids, but despite only one team advancing to the second weekend, they do have just one fewer win than the Big XII, which got three teams in the Sweet 16. Boom or bust for the Big XII teams.
The SEC needed a miracle finish to get any teams in the Sweet 16, but by odds fared far better than the Pac 12, which has to be the biggest disappointment, with just one team in the Sweet 16 and just one other—No. 3 Utah—that won even one game.
The Sweet 16 by state
The 2016 NCAA Tournament will truly be crowing the national champion. The 16 remaining schools in the Big Dance hail from 14 different states across the country. Only North Carolina—UNC and Duke—and Indiana—IU and Notre Dame—have more than one team representing their states this tournament.
Not only are nearly as many states as teams represented, but so are different regions of the country. There are teams everywhere from New York to Oregon and Florida to Washington. And yet, there is some East Coast Bias—or at least Eastern time zone bias—still left in the tournament.
Of the 16 schools left, nine are in the Eastern time zone, five are in the Central time zone and two are in the Pacific time zone. Sorry, Mountain, and whatever Arizona is.
Last Year’s Sweet 16, revisited
With Wisconsin’s heart-pounding buzzer beater getting the Badgers back into the Sweet 16 for the second straight season, there are six of last season’s 16 teams featured in the second weekend again this year.
Notre Dame, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Duke and Gonzaga are all back in the Sweet 16 from last season. Some of those other 10 teams, however, had their chances again this year and probably should be there, at least on paper. Louisville was banned from the tournament and NC State and UCLA didn’t qualify, but the other teams were all in the tournament this year and of those, only Wichita State was a double-digit seed.
Arizona as a No. 6 seed was favored to win one game but lost in the first round, to the Shockers, but Kentucky (No. 4 seed), West Virginia (No. 3), Utah (No. 3), Xavier (No. 2) and Michigan State (No. 2) were all expected, per seeding, to advance to the second weekend for a second straight year and failed to do so.
Last year’s title game is still open for a rematch
Just two of last year’s Final Four teams are still alive in this season’s tournament, and for one, it took a ton of drama to get there.
While Kentucky and Michigan State fell in the first weekend, both of last year’s national finalists in Wisconsin and Duke have advanced to the Sweet 16. Last year, Duke was the top seed in the South and Wisconsin the top in the West. This year, Wisconsin is the No. 7 seed in the East, while Duke is the No. 4 out West, meaning if both make a similar run to last year, a rematch of the title game is still alive.
Auto bids vs. At-Large bids in the second weekend
Of the 16 teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament, just four were automatic qualifiers. Now, that will happen when six teams from the same conference make the second weekend, but only North Carolina (ACC), Oregon (Pac 12), Gonzaga (WCC) and Kansas (Big XII) automatically qualified for the tournament and then advanced to the Sweet 16. That said, Indiana, Villanova and Texas A&M all won (or tied) for their conference regular season titles this year.
Basketball Arenas. Hooray!
When watching the Sweet 16, fans will notice a distinct lack of domes for the regional semifinals and finals. In previous seasons the NCAA would take next year’s Final Four location and give that site a regional, as something of a double-dip and a dry run for what’s to come the following year.
While that helps the tournament organizers worry about logistics a year in advance, watching basketball in a dome is awful, and it’s often hard for players to get properly acclimated to the difference in depth perception while shooting.
Next year’s Final Four is in Phoenix, Arizona, but the West Regional is in Anaheim. Thank the NCAA for (hopefully) better basketball viewing this season.
East Regional travel
We hear so much about the “Road to the Final Four,” so what if each school’s fans wanted to drive that road, right from campus to the regional site?
Here are the distances and driving time for each team in the East regional, held this year in Philadelphia. (All times and distances via Google Maps.)
- No. 1 North Carolina – 409 miles – 6 hours, 5 minutes driving
- No. 5 Indiana – 696 miles – 10 hours, 17 minutes (without traffic)
- No. 6 Notre Dame – 675 miles – 9 hours, 40 minutes
- No. 7 Wisconsin – 914 miles – 13 hours, 8 minutes
All four teams that qualified have shorter than 1,000 miles to travel, though even the shortest trip is probably better in an airplane than a car. There is no home court advantage in the East, though Notre Dame has a ton of fans in the Philly area (mostly football) so the crowd could be in their favor.
Midwest Regional travel
Here are the distances and driving time for each team in the Midwest regional, held this year in Chicago.
- No. 1 Virginia – 739 miles – 10 hours, 45 minutes
- No. 4 Iowa State – 345 miles – 5 hours, 2 minutes
- No. 11 Gonzaga – 1,784 miles – 27 hours (24 without traffic if you leave RIGHT NOW)
- No. 10 Syracuse – 680 miles – 9 hours 50 minutes
As home courts go, Iowa State can’t exactly call Chicago one, but the fact the fourth-rated team in that region has half the travel of the top seed is unnerving.
Gonzaga and Syracuse both upset their way to the Sweet 16, so neither can complain when they hop on a plane to get to Chicago.
South Regional travel
Here are the distances and driving time for each team in the South regional, held this year in Louisville.
- No. 1 Kansas – 548 miles – 7 hours, 48 minutes
- No. 5 Maryland – 603 miles – 8 hours 29 minutes
- No. 3 Miami – 1,090 miles – 15 hours, 1 minute
- No. 2 Villanova – 659 miles – 9 hours 32 minutes
Had Villanova been put in the East, the travel would have been about 15 miles. Instead, it’s nearly 10 hours. And while Kansas didn’t have a regional that close to campus—Chicago and Louisville were nearly identical distances—Maryland does have just about the same distance to travel. Still, given Kansas was the top seed, expect the arena filled with Jayhawk fans.
West Regional travel
Here are the distances and driving time for each team in the West regional, held this year in Anaheim.
- No. 1 Oregon – 884 miles – 12 hours, 42 minutes (though more than 14 hours with traffic)
- No. 4 Duke – 2,511 miles – 35 hours
- No. 3 Texas A&M – 1,466 miles – 20 hours, 8 minutes
- No. 2 Oklahoma – 1,344 miles – 18 hours, 24 minutes
When you get put out West, you know your team is going to have to travel far. Even the West Coast teams have to hike to get to the regional every year and this year is certainly no exception.
What’s amazing is that Duke has the longest road of any team still remaining in the tournament. No, it’s not exactly sending Maryland to Spokane then back to Louisville, but having to go to Anaheim after a weekend in Providence is probably a longer trip than the defending national champions would have liked this season.
Buddy Hield and the NCAA Scoring Leaders
With his 36 points against VCU, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield increased his points per game to 25.4 this season. Hield, ranked second in the country in scoring, is one of just three players ranked in the top 25 still playing in the NCAA Tournament. Grayson Allen of Duke is averaging 21.8 ppg, ranking 14th in the nation, while Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer is 23rd at 20.4 ppg.
Of the teams left in the NCAA Tournament, Indiana averages the most points per game at 82.5, ranked 10th in the country, though behind mostly mid-majors and smaller schools. Iowa State and Kanas are 14th and 15th, averaging 82.1 and 82.0 ppg, respectively. Duke and Oklahoma both average more than 80 points per game as well.
If defense wins championships, then pick Virginia the rest of the way. The Cavaliers surrender just 59.5 ppg, by far the best of any team remaining in the NCAA Tournament. In two games this tournament, Virginia has surrendered 45 and 69, averaging 57 points against in the first two rounds.
Of the other 15 schools, Villanova gives up just 63.5 points per game and Wisconsin allows 63.9 points per game, 16th and 19th, respectively. Only Virginia and Wichita State, at 59.0 ppg, allow fewer than 60 points, but seven of the 16 schools remaining in the tournament allow 66.5 points or less per game, ranking in the NCAA top 50.
Cinderella stayed home
The last time a Sweet 16 failed to feature at least one double-digit seed was 2007, and since then at least three double-digit seeds made the Sweet 16 six times in the last eight years. There was real chance for more than two teams to make the second weekend this year, but higher seeds prevailed—some in late and highly dramatic fashion—giving this Sweet 16 just two double-digit seeds in No. 10 Syracuse and No. 11 Gonzaga.
While many debated if Syracuse should be in the tournament, they are hardly a Cinderella. Gonzaga is a perennial tournament team, meaning there won’t be a glass slipper fitting anytime soon, even with the guarantee that this tournament will have one double-digit seed in the Elite Eight this year.