Now that the A-10’s season is over, which second-weekend team should you root for?

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On Saturday, the Atlantic 10’s season came to an unfortunate end. Rhode Island’s humiliating 87-62 loss to the Duke Blue Devils concluded a wildly successful season for a conference that sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament and won two games. A wild first weekend came to a close the following day. With URI, St. Bonaventure and Davidson out and your bracket busted, who should you root for going forward?

If you love the underdog…

(11) Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (7) Nevada

The Ramblers have captured America’s collective hearts over the past week. Led by 22-year-olds Aundre Jackson and Clayton Custer and 98-year-old nun Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the Ramblers are in the Round of 16 as a double-digit seed. Not only that, but this is a team capable of doing some serious damage. ESPN’s BPI gives Loyola-Chicago a 44% chance of advancing to the Elite Eight, and 16% to reach the Final Four. If you love rooting for double-digit seeds but want your team to go far, pick the Ramblers. Loyola lucked out with its placement in the bracket, needing only to beat 7-seed Nevada and then a 5-9 winner to advance to San Antonio.

Prediction: Final Four

(11) Syracuse Orange

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (2) Duke

Syracuse looks to follow in the steps of the 2011 VCU Rams and go from the First Four to the Final Four. To do so, however, the Orangemen will need to knock out a Duke Blue Devils squad that has lived up to its preseason No. 1 ranking. To do so will be a difficult task. I’d love to see ‘Cuse advance but in no way expect it.

Prediction: Sweet Sixteen

(9) Kansas State Wildcats

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (5) Kentucky

The Wildcats made history on Sunday when they became the second 9-seed ever to wear home jerseys and the first to do so on the first weekend. After beating Creighton, K-State had the easiest walk into the Sweet Sixteen of any 8-9 winner in tournament history, taking on 16-seed UMBC. Unfortunately for Kansas State, its next opponent is not just another gang of Wildcats, but John Calipari’s Kentucky contingent. Good luck, K-State. You’ll need it.

Prediction: Sweet Sixteen

(7) Nevada Wolf Pack

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (11) Loyola-Chicago

It’s interesting to note that Nevada is the “Wolf Pack” (note the space) while NC State is the “Wolfpack.” As part of my highly scientific research for this article, I visited the Wikipedia page for college sports team names, specifically those involving groups of wolves. Three schools (Loyola-New Orleans, NC State, and something called Keuka College) opt for “Wolfpack,” while Nevada stands alone as the “Wolf Pack” and the Canadian Thompson Rivers University opts for CamelCase, specifically “WolfPack.” It’s more interesting to think about the Nevada team’s chances of advancing in the NCAA Tournament. If they were matched up against almost any other opponent, I’d wave them into the Elite Eight. Loyola-Chicago, however, is one of the hottest teams in the tournament right now. I just can’t see the Pack getting by the Ramblers.

Prediction: Sweet Sixteen

If a good team name/mascot matters…

(2) Purdue Boilermakers

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (3) Texas Tech

Unsurprisingly, a boilermaker is someone who makes boilers. The Purdue University athletics page has this to say about how its sports teams acquired their name:

In the 1890s, hometown newspapers were considerably more protective of college teams than they are today. After the 44-0 drubbing, one Crawfordsville newspaper lashed out at the “Herculean wearers of the black and old gold.” Beneath the headline “Slaughter of Innocents,” the paper told of the injustice visited upon the “light though plucky” Wabash squad.

“Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers From Purdue” proclaimed another headline on the same story in the “Daily Argus-News.” […]

The nicknames stemmed from the nature of a Purdue education. As a land-grant institution since its founding in 1869, the college had schooled the sons and daughters of the working class for occupations that were considered beneath the high-born who attended liberal arts colleges such as Wabash.

So there you have it. I’ve made some pretty bold (not to mention awful) predictions in the past week, but there’s no way that Purdue gets by Texas Tech without Isaac Haas. The Boilermakers barely escaped 10-seed Butler on Sunday without him, and the competition doesn’t get any easier on the second weekend.

Prediction: Sweet Sixteen

(3) Texas Tech Red Raiders

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (2) Purdue

Another good mascot, the same matchup as Purdue, and a better chance of advancing. What’s not to like about the Texas Tech Red Raiders, whose name stems from the school’s colors and a 1936 football team with a lot of traveling? This squad should be the favorite to emerge from the 2-3 Sweet Sixteen matchup and take on the Villanova-West Virginia winner, but in all likelihood, its season will end there.

Prediction: Elite Eight

If you’re into giant-killers…

(9) Florida State Seminoles

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (4) Gonzaga

FSU avenged a crushing 2017 NCAA Tournament upset at the hands of an upstart Xavier Musketeers squad by returning the favor exactly a year later. While some may be tempted to forecast the momentum carrying over, it is important to remember that Xavier was by far the weakest 1-seed and much more deserving of a 2 or 3. Gonzaga, on the other hand, has gone rolling along while taking care of business in typical fashion. Realistically, the only second-weekend team FSU could count on beating is Kansas State. The two couldn’t meet until the championship game.

Prediction: Sweet Sixteen

(7) Texas A&M Aggies

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (3) Michigan

The first game I watched on Sunday, MSU-Syracuse, was a tough one. I saw what was left in my bracket go up in flames, as the team I had hoped to carry me to victory after Virginia’s defeat of the century was eliminated. The second, however, was even more delightful than the first was miserable: North Carolina vs. Texas A&M. I laughed and laughed as the Tar Heels were destroyed on CBS in front of the whole nation. As a mid-major fan, the only thing that gives me more pleasure than watching my team win is watching a blueblood experience humiliation. The Aggies have a decent chance against Michigan, but I ultimately expect the Wolverines to prevail.

Prediction: Sweet Sixteen

If you’d like to watch a team fight valiantly only to lose in the Sweet Sixteen…

(4) Clemson Tigers

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (1) KansasĀ 

Clemson emerged victorious from an all-SEC, all-Tigers Round of 32 matchup against Auburn on Sunday. As a prize…they get to be destroyed by Kansas! I apologize to any Clemson fans who may take offense, but there’s nobody on the team’s roster who can do much against the mighty Jayhawks. Enjoy one last look at the 2017-2018 edition of your SEC regular season co-champion squad, Tiger faithful.

Prediction: Sweet Sixteen

(5) West Virginia Mountaineers

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (1) Villanova

Let’s start with two simple facts. First, West Virginia is a very good basketball team, as is anyone on the verge of cracking the KenPom top 10. Second, Villanova is an elite basketball team. Ranked first in both KenPom and T-Rank, there’s little doubt that the Wildcats are among the favorites to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Do you see why this doesn’t bode well for the Mountaineers? I’m envisioning a hard-fought first half of the game, but see the second starting with Nova pulling off a huge run to put the game out of reach by the second media timeout.

Prediction: Sweet Sixteen

If you want a team with a chance to win the title…

Remaining Sweet Sixteen teams, ranked from least to most likely to win the championship.

6. (4) Gonzaga Bulldogs

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (9) Florida State

Prediction: Elite Eight

5. (5) Kentucky Wildcats

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (9) Kansas State

Prediction: Elite Eight

4. (1) Kansas Jayhawks

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (4) Clemson

Prediction: Elite Eight

3. (1) Villanova Wildcats

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (5) West Virginia

Prediction: Final Four

2. (3) Michigan Wolverines

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (7) Texas A&M

Prediction: Runner-up

1. (2) Duke Blue Devils

Sweet Sixteen opponent: (11) Syracuse

Prediction: National Champion

Ultimately, nobody will stop Duke this year. The Blue Devils will be tested every step of the way, from a giant-slaying Syracuse defense to two top seeds in the Elite Eight and Final Four, but will cut down the nets once again. Maybe some of this prediction is wishful thinking–after all, if your team has to lose in the tournament, it might as well be to the eventual victor–but anyone who disputes that the Devils have a good shot at winning the title is joking, ignorant, or both. By the way, please don’t root for Duke. You’re not that evil, are you?

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Michael Garman

Devoted Rhode Island Rams fan, but I also love the A-10 as a whole. While I may be writing on a basketball site, nothing will ever trump my love of baseball and the Boston Red Sox. CBB, however, comes very close.

5 Comments

  1. Ethan Price

    I believe that clemson will actually win and move on to the elite eight and meet up with syracuse there. And make it to the final four. Kansas only has one player I would really worry about Dovente’ Graham. But Clemson’s defense will hang tough to get a gritty win in Omaha.

  2. Ethan Price

    Also Clemson is in the ACC and finished tied for the third best conference record. Auburn was the co-regular season champs in the SEC but they are no longer in the tournament. CLEMSON IS IN THE ACC not the SEC

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