NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Teams with Sweet 16 Value, Odds and Preview

Is this the year the Grand Canyon Antelopes take over the NCAA Tournament?

Texas-Arlington v Grand Canyon
Texas-Arlington v Grand Canyon / Candice Ward/GettyImages

The time has finally come, the NCAA Tournament is just days away, a bracket has been revealed and the quest for a National Championship begins.

Now, while everyone is trying to fill out a bracket that will inevitably be rendered useless by the end of the first weekend, or trying to handicap individual matchups, I am going to discuss teams that can provide great value in reaching the Sweet 16.

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Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns didn’t do anything during the regular season that made them standout in a loaded Big 12 Conference, which is why despite the talented roster they possess they find themselves as a 7-seed. But this tournament is all about matchups, and Texas has excellent matchups.

The Longhorns will open against a Colorado State Rams team that eviscerated the Virginia Cavaliers in the First Four in Dayton. The Rams feature an efficient offense that loves to use all of the shot clock to their advantage, and they feature three players that shoot better than 50% from the field, and first-team all-Mountain West guard Isaiah Stevens is the leading scorer of this team.

The Longhorns will have their hands full with this senior laden Rams team, but they will provide a greater challenge to the Rams defense than the Cavaliers did on Tuesday night, which is why I believe they will pull away late in the second half.

Barring an upset in the first round, Texas will be facing the Tennessee Volunteers in the Round of 32, the “Rick Barnes Bowl” if you will. Everything about this potential matchup screams a Texas win in my opinion. Tennessee runs a four-guard lineup that isn’t very athletic, which will be a major problem when trying to guard Max Abmas and Tyrese Hunter.

Additionally, the guard heavy lineup leaves the Vols vulnerable against the Texas forwards, Dylan Disu and Dillon Mitchell, both of whom crash the glass and dominate the interior. Lastly, Tennessee has been eliminated in the past five tournaments by a lower seeded team.

Grand Canyon Antelopes

If you haven’t watched the Antelopes play this season then you are missing out on a treat. This team might be the most exciting team in the country, they have a fan base that travels everywhere, and they are legit.

The Antelopes open against the WCC champion St. Mary’s Gaels who have the nation’s second best scoring defense, holding opponents to 58.7 points per game. Despite the stout defense of the Gaels, the Antelopes are led by WAC player of the year Tyon Grant-Foster who is a legit NBA level talent, and I think his playmaking ability will be enough to squeak the Antelopes past a very tough Gaels team.

In the Round of 32, the Antelopes would face the winner of Alabama and the College of Charleston, and in my opinion they will be facing Alabama. The Crimson Tide have an incredible offense, averaging 90 points a game which is second best in the nation, but the problem with Alabama is that defense is optional.

The Crimson Tide allow 81 points a night, and a potential matchup against an electric Grand Canyon offense that scores 79.8 points per game, and also holds their opponents to 66.9 points per game is a bad matchup for Alabama.

The Antelopes also have the shortest odds of any 12-seed to reach the Sweet 16, which tells me that despite the brutal first round matchup, the odds makers love this team and that is enough for me to back them to the Sweet 16.

TCU Horned Frogs

The Horned Frogs at times this season looked like a Big 12 title contender, they beat Houston and Baylor, and then they drifted into a middle of the pack team. The Horned Frogs will open the tournament against the Mountain West regular season champion Utah State Aggies.

The Horned Frogs should run away with this game; TCU averages 79.2 points per game with a dynamic guard duo of Jameer Nelson Jr. and Micah Peavy leading the way, and Emanuel Miller is an athletic forward that can stretch the floor against an Aggies team that overachieved this season and wasn’t tested in non-conference play.

The Horned Frogs would then face Purdue in the Round of 32, barring another Purdue loss against a 16-seed. The Horned Frogs are a nightmare matchup for the Boilermakers. The Boilermakers struggle most when they have to play teams with athletic and physical guards; in their loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament, the Badgers’ guards combined to score 54 points while shooting 50% from the field, while the Boilermaker guards scored 25 points on 33% shooting from the field.

This isn’t a one-time thing with Purdue, if you look at every game they've lost this season the story is the same, teams with talented guards have their number. TCU has two guards that can score and play great defense, which is why Purdue is going to have their hands full and TCU is a serious threat to pull the upset.

McNeese State Cowboys

The Will Wade revenge tour has entered March, and these Cowboys love to wear the black hat. The Cowboys are the most popular Round of 64 upset pick, but I am looking far beyond a simple 12-seed over a 5-seed win with this team. McNeese State is possibly the most balanced team in the country; Shahada Wells leads an offense that averages 80.4 points per game, and he is also the leader of a defense that ranks fifth in the nation in points allowed with 61.5, and they force 16.45 turnovers a game.

These Cowboys will press a Gonzaga offense that while talented, has shown they don’t like to get physical, and their losses to Purdue, UConn, San Diego State, and St. Mary’s are all the evidence that you need.

Looking ahead to the Round of 32, the Cowboys would await the winner of Kansas and Samford, both opponents provide for a winnable game for the Cowboys. The Kansas Jayhawks will be on their own upset alert against Samford as they will be without leading scorer Kevin McCullar for the remainder of the season and Hunter Dickinson continues to nurse a dislocated shoulder.

Samford on the other hand has the nation’s eighth highest scoring offense averaging 86 points per game, and would face their toughest defensive foe in a matchup against the Cowboys. Defense wouldn’t be the only obstacle facing Samford in that matchup, they would also be battling recent history, as no 13-seed has made the Sweet 16 since LaSalle back in 2013.

Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.