NCAA Sweet 16 Power Poll

There are two main ways you can reflect back on the first four days of the NCAA tournament:

1. Boy, that sucked. My bracket is in shambles and the one guy who we all laughed at for picking West Virginia, Villanova, Western Kentucky, and Davidson all to the Sweet 16 is now in first place. Why does this always happen to me?

2. Wow. Duke/Belmont, Drake/Western Kentucky, Davidson/Gonzaga, San Diego/UConn, West Virginia/Duke, Stanford/Marquette, UCLA/Texas A&M, Davidson/Georgetown, and Tennessee/Butler all in four days. Are you kidding me? Anybody who isn't insanely in love with the NCAA tournament needs to check their fanhood (to borrow from some commercial). This is the best sports has to offer.

Since so much of the past weekend has already been broken down elsewhere, let's take a look at the remaining Sweet 16, power poll-style.

16. Western Kentucky — It's hard to knock a team that makes the Sweet 16, but the Hilltoppers have twice blown huge leads that almost cost them their season. Against Drake, they held a 74-59 lead with eight minutes left, completely blew it, then needed a miracle shot at the end of overtime to survive. And against San Diego, they let a 50-35 lead with 16 minutes remaining in the second half turn into a 55-54 deficit 10 minutes later.

Give them credit for hitting the shots they needed to get the Ws, but UCLA is a whole different animal from Drake or San Diego.

15. Villanova — One of the last at-large teams in (if not the last), 'Nova once again proves that a great point guard is often enough to carry you to the second weekend. Scottie Reynolds followed his 21-point outing in the 12-5 upset over Clemson with a fantastic all-around 25-point, 8-rebound, 5-assist, 2-turnover performance against Siena on Sunday. Perhaps just as importantly, he got scoring help from freshmen Corey Fisher (17 against Clemson) and Corey Stokes (20 against Siena). If Reynolds comes back for his junior year (he's only No. 52 on Chad Ford's top 100), he and the Coreys might well be the best guard trio in the Big East next season.

Can Nova beat Kansas on Friday night? I have my doubts. Then again, doubts haven't meant a whole lot to this crew.

14. West Virginia — To put into perspective just how unlikely this Sweet 16 run is for the Mountaineers, consider that in a January 30 home game against Cincinnati, West Virginia got hammered 62-39. They shot 1-for-22 from three and only made 10 field goals total. They got out-rebounded 39-24. Against Cincinnati.

Fast forward to this weekend, and the Mountaineers are on fire. They nail 11-of-19 from three against Arizona, then, when their shots don't fall against Duke, they just go get the ball for second and third chances, racking up a ridiculous 45-19 rebounding advantage.

They key to their game against Xavier is going to be Alex Ruoff, who scored 38 in the two weekend wins on 14-of-23 shooting (7-of-12 from three). Joe Alexander (36 points and 19 boards combined) is going to have his hands full with Josh Duncan, so Ruoff, Da'Sean Butler and Darris Nichols are going to have to pick up the slack.

13. Tennessee — They just look like a team waiting to get beat. They came out soft against American, then used their athleticism to pull away. They played dumb against Butler (J.P. Prince in the last few minutes of regulation especially), then used their athleticism to pull away. That's a great way to make the Sweet 16 when you're as athletic and deep as the Vols, but it's a great way to get knocked out when you run into a team just as athletic as you. Guess what — Louisville is that team. And unless Bruce Pearl figures out a way to get his team's swagger back, they could be in deep trouble against the Cardinals.

12. Michigan State — The Spartans are just an all-around solid team. They rebound well (+19 combined over Temple and Pittsburgh). They shoot well (48 percent from the floor in each game). They hit their free throws (16-of-18 against Temple, 9-of-9 against Pittsburgh). They defend (Owls shot 37.5 percent, Pittsburgh 32.7 percent).

But can they run with Memphis? And can they keep it close enough to where their free-throw advantage (sorry, huge free-throw advantage) will come into play against the Tigers? In the end, it'll be up to Drew Neitzel to determine how far the Spartans go. If he comes up with 20+ and hits his threes, they have a chance. If he puts up a 2-for-11 like he did against Temple, they won't.

11. Davidson — If anybody had any questions about Stephen Curry, he just gave you 70 reasons to put them to rest. But perhaps even more impressive than the total points, Curry only had 2 turnovers in a combined 75 minutes against Gonzaga and Georgetown, and none against the vaunted Hoyas' perimeter defense. Total line: 70 points on 22-of-43 from the floor (51 percent), 13-of-25 from three (52 percent), 13-of-16 from the free-throw line (81 percent), 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 8 steals, and 2 turnovers.

Has anybody ever had a greater first weekend than that? Without doing the research, I can't think of one off the top of my head.

(Also, we should point out that Davidson is far from a one-man team. Point guard Jason Richards had a fantastic weekend of his own, scoring 35 with 14 assists to only 4 turnovers in the two games.)

10. Washington State — The team nobody is talking about just demolished Notre Dame by 20. Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody put up 22 and 10, but it was the wrong kind. His 22 rebounds were spectacular, but he had ample opportunity with his team missing 40 of its 53 shot attempts. Harangody himself only hit 3-of-17 from the floor thanks to the physical Wazzu interior led by angry beard guy Aron Baynes.

Washington State fans should take a moment to really enjoy this week. By next week, their season will likely be over and their head coach the subject of rumors from every major program with an opening, led by Indiana.

9. Wisconsin — The Badgers' guards straight dominated the Kansas State backcourt. Trevon Hughes and Michael Flowers combined for 40 points on 13-of-20 from the floor and 7-of-12 from three. Kansas State, which had 15 assists in an upset over USC on Thursday, had only 5 against Wisconsin on Saturday.

But that was K-State, not exactly known for its perimeter shooting (putting it kindly). Next up for the Badgers is the amazing Curry and the Davidson Wildcats. Bo Ryan is a very smart coach, and I'm sure he'll point out to his guys that Davidson committed only four turnovers against the Hoyas, while forcing Georgetown into 20.

8. Xavier — They looked terrible in the first half against Georgia on Thursday, giving up easy dunks and falling behind 35-26 at the half. Then I guess head coach Sean Miller had a talk with them, because they came out and put a 47-26 second-half whooping to end the Bulldogs' run.

Against Purdue, it looked like more of the same, with the Boilermakers running out to a 15-6 lead over the first six minutes. But the Musketeers turned it on from there, using their balanced offense (four guys in double figures, two more with 8) to pull away in the end. For the game, they shot 54 percent and forced Purdue under 40 percent. Just as importantly, they shut down Purdue's most important player, Robbie Hummel (2-of-10 for 7 points). They're going to need to do the same thing to West Virginia's Alexander if they want a shot at the Final Four.

7. Texas — The Longhorns rode their perimeter superiority past Austin Peay and Miami, but they're going to face a whole new kind of challenge in the Lopez brothers at Stanford. Texas big man Connor Atchley has pickied up four fouls in each of the previous two games. If he gets in foul trouble early in this one, a fairly high likelihood, Texas is going to be at a huge disadvantage inside. For the Longhorns to win, they're going to have to be smoking hot from outside. (I'm talking 15 threes kind of hot.)

6. Stanford — After watching the Lopez brothers get all the calls in the Pac-10, it was no surprise to see Stanford take control of Marquette inside. What was somewhat of a surprise was the sudden outburst of productivity from the less-heralded Robin Lopez, who chipped in 18 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and lots of trash talking that seemed to get into the head of the Marquette big men.

One thing people forget is that Stanford's dominance inside isn't just about the Lopez twins. Taj Finger and Lawrence Hill will also be factors in testing the Texas interior defense. The question will be how guards Anthony Goods and Mitch Johnson hold up against a much better Longhorns backcourt.

5. Memphis — I'm not allowed to curse on this site, so I can't give you a real sense of what it was like watching my pick to win it all (preseason and my bracket) nearly blow a double digit lead thanks to horrific free-throw shooting in the closing seconds against Mississippi State. Suffice it to say, it was an unpleasant experience I am not eager to repeat.

On a positive note, the Tigers will have the two best players on the floor against Michigan State. Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose are better than anybody Tom Izzo can throw out there. From the perimeter to the post, Memphis is a better team. But being a better team does not always equate to wins, especially when you miss 4-of-6 free throws in the final 16 seconds.

4. UCLA — If it wasn't for Kevin Love, we'd be talking about the amazing upset by Texas A&M. But Love dominated when everything else was going to hell, and now the Bruins get Western Kentucky in the Sweet 16. The big question is whether the Bruins have enough time between now and Thursday to get Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Josh Shipp healthy. Though the rest of their bracket isn't exactly laden with NBA superstars in the making, Mbah a Moute and Shipp are going to need a lot more than a combined 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting if they still want to be alive this time next week.

3. Louisville — Whoo-eee! Watching them dismantle Oklahoma 78-48, while at the same time watching Tennessee struggle with Butler, kind of makes me wish I had taken the Pitinos over the Pearls in what could be the most entertaining of the Sweet 16 games. The crazy thing about the Oklahoma game was that Louisville only had two guys in double figures with Earl Clark's 14 and Jerry Smith's 12. Six other guys had between 6 and 8 points. Add to that the fact the Cardinals totaled 24 assists in the game (to 12 turnovers), and you have the vision of a well-oiled offensive machine. Considering the bumbling nature of Tennessee's play, Louisville looks like the pick to move on to face North Carolina for a shot at San Antonio.

2. Kansas — The Jayhawks haven't been tested, using their vastly superior everything (my everything is better than yours) to dominate Portland State and UNLV by an average of 21.5 points. Portland State shot 38 percent. UNLV, coming off a demolishing of a very good Kent State team, shot only 26.7 percent. And though you have to give Jay Wright and Villanova credit for upsetting Clemson and then taking out Siena, I'm not sure they're any more prepared for Kansas' physical defense than UNLV was.

1. North Carolina — Boy am I glad I chickened out on picking Indiana in the Sweet 16. Like Kansas, all we've learned so far is the Heels are one of the two or three best teams in the country. They shouldn't have a problem shutting down Washington State (jinx alert). If they do get past the Cougars, a matchup against the Louisville/Tennessee winner could be one of the best five games of the entire tournament.

Picks (Sweet 16) — North Carolina over Washington State, Louisville over Tennessee, Kansas over Villanova, Davidson over Wisconsin, Xavier over West Virginia, UCLA over Western Kentucky, Stanford over Texas, Memphis over Michigan State

Picks (Elite 8) — I started with all the one seeds in the Final Four (first time I've ever picked that, by the way), and I might as well stick with it since they're all still alive. If any of them are going to get upset, it would probably be Memphis, followed by UCLA.

Seth Doria is a writer based out of St. Louis. For the only daily column that mixes sports, politics, and entertainment news in one, visit The Left Calf.

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