4. Arizona (West, No. 2)
The Wildcats are versatile, able to play fast or slow, as they had to do in wins over North Dakota and Santa Clara. Coach Sean Miller, steaming toward his first Final Four, is known for his pack-line defense, but he also has elite scorers in guard Allonzo Trier (17.1 ppg) and 7-footer Lauri Markkanen (15.8), who are hot at the right time. Next up is Miller’s old employer, Xavier, but that storyline was mostly exhausted when Arizona beat the Musketeers in the 2015 Sweet 16.
5. Gonzaga (West, No. 1)
The Bulldogs survived Northwestern in the second round to reach the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year. Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss gives Gonzaga better-than-usual athleticism at the position, and he will be key to breaking West Virginia’s press in the Sweet 16. Williams-Goss had 20 points and eight rebounds vs. Northwestern. Can the well-balanced Zags get hot from 3-point range? They were 12 of 46 in the first two tourney games.
6. UCLA (South, No. 3)
The Bruins are a joy to watch, the highest-scoring team in the country, led by fab freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, who had 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in a second-round win over Cincinnati. Now comes a blue-blood rematch in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky; UCLA won 97-92 at Rupp Arena on Dec. 3. The Bruins might not be great defensively, but they picked up their effort considerably in February, making them title-worthy.
7. Michigan (Midwest, No. 7)
Looking like a team of destiny, Michigan won four games at the Big Ten tournament after its plane perilously skidded off the runway, and the hot streak continued with wins over Oklahoma State and No. 2 seed Louisville. Forward Moritz Wagner became a tournament “name” with his 26 points vs. the Cardinals, adding to an attack that loves the 3-point shot, led by guard Derrick Walton Jr. The Wolverines commit the fewest turnovers in the country (9.4 per game), a skill that will come in handy against a high-energy team, Oregon, in the Sweet 16.