All 16 schools left in the 2017 NCAA tournament – ranked

Allen Barra
North Carolina’s Justin Jackson dunks the ball to punctuate the Tar Heels’ second-round win over Arkansas. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Fifty-two of the 68 schools that entered the NCAA tournament have been sent home. Here’s a look at who’s left – and who’s got the best chance of cutting down the nets in Phoenix.

16) South Carolina

Why They Can Win

Defense. The Gamecocks are here because of their 88-81 upset win over Duke (the Vegas favorite to win it all) and that happened because they forced an eye-popping 18 turnovers. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called USC “the best defensive team we played all year”.

Why They Won’t Win

Inconsistency. The Gamecocks were up and down all season, losing to Alabama 64-53 in the SEC tournament quarter-finals.

MVP

Senior shooting guard Sindarius Thornwell has averaged 21.2 points per game, pouring in 24 in Sunday’s big win.

Best Moment So Far

After a shooting drought early in the second half against Duke, the Gamecocks were down by 10 points but, led by Thornwell, scored 65 after half-time to pull off what may be the biggest upset of the tournament. That was the most ever surrendered in a half by a Duke team under Krzyzewski.

Worst Moment So Far

After a 4 March loss to Ole Miss, fans stormed the internet in outrage that the team was again “collapsing”. One sample: “I just want to personally thank our basketball team and coaching staff for playing our worst basketball at the absolute WORST time of year. Way to go guys!”

Key Stat

44. This is the first time in 44 years they have won two tournament games for their first ever Sweet 16 appearance.

15) Xavier

Why They Can Win

The Musketeers played one of the toughest schedules of any Sweet 16 team – ranked the 16th toughest in the nation by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. Also, their zone defense kicked in in their shutdown of the Seminoles on Saturday. And Xavier should have Bill Murray courtside – the actor’s son Luke is an assistant coach.

Why They Won’t Win

The Musketeers lost six of their last 10 games during the regular season. They may not have the depth to go further into the tournament.

MVP

Junior guard Trevon Bluiett, who came back from a late-season ankle injury, scored 29 points in the big win against the Seminoles.

Best Moment So Far

A resounding 91-66 win over No3 seed Florida State on the strength of a strong zone defense and three-point shooting.

Worst Moment So Far

A brutal schedule and hors de combat when Edmond Sumner suffered a season-ending torn ligament at the end of January.

Key Stat

40%. The Musketeers held the Seminoles to 24-of-60 shooting, a frigid 40% clip, with their zone defense.

14) Butler

Why They Can Win

This may be the best Bulldogs team ever. This is tiny Butler’s (less than 4,800 students) fifth Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2003. And their defense over the last month of the season was outstanding. In the first round they held Winthrop’s Giddy Potts scoreless.

Why They Won’t Win

Butler is well-coached and resourceful, but they’ve never had the top talent needed to get over the bar. They might be one of the top 25 teams in the country, but they probably aren’t one of the best 16.

MVP

Guard Avery Woodson didn’t become a starter until 7 February, but he might be the Bulldogs’ best long shooter with six three-pointers in their first-round victory against Winthrop and two more against Middle Tennessee State.

Best Moment So Far

On 8 January, Butler beat defending national champs Villanova, 65-58.

Worst Moment So Far

After the game, the Big East fined Butler $5,000 after their fans stormed the court.

Key Stat

25. The Bulldogs are 25-8, the best record in school history.

13) Oregon

Why They Can Win

This year’s team has the offensive balance (all five starters average over 10 points per game) and talent unlike any recent Oregon teams in program history, although last year’s Ducks were seeded higher.

Why They Won’t Win

Though they won 30 games this year, the Ducks seem largely untested. If they fall behind to Michigan by 11 at the half as they did again Rhode Island, they likely wont survive.

MVP

Tough call between guard Tyler Dorsey (27 points and four three-pointers, including the game-winner) and forward Dillon Brooks (19 points and seven rebounds). Some touted Brooks as Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Best Moment So Far

Making it to the Sweet 16 after losing senior forward Chris Boucher to a torn ACL in the Pac-12 semi-finals.

Worst Moment So Far

Falling behind the Rams by 11 at the half in the second round.

Key Stat

14. Number of US presidents since last time Oregon made it to the Final Four during the FDR administration.

Oregon’s Dylan Ennis and Tyler Dorsey put the squeeze on Rhode Island to book a spot in the Sweet 16. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

12) Michigan

Why They Can Win

Napoleon said that God was on the side with the best artillery. Michigan shot 16 of 29 from three-point range (55.2%) to beat No10 Oklahoma State by one point.

Why They Won’t Win

Like Napoleon at Waterloo, the artillery sometimes sputters. It’s difficult to maintain a three-point shooting as high as 40% in the NCAAs. Also, the inevitable letdown from Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine dying in the movie Logan.

MVP

Junior DJ Wilson has emerged as a star down the stretch. In Sunday’s victory over Louisville, he scored 17 points and blocked three key shots.

Best Moment So Far

The second half of their two tournament games so far, in which the Wolverines hit on 63% of their field-goal tries.

Worst Moment So Far

As the Wolverines were headed to the Big Ten tournament, their plane was severely damaged when it took off into high winds and skidded off the runway when the takeoff was aborted. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the Wolverines made their noon game the next day, although they had to wear practice jerseys.

Key Stat

Six. Since the harrowing day on the plane, Michigan has won six straight.

11) Arizona

Why They Can Win

The Wildcats are on a roll, winning 11 of their last 12. The trademark of most of their big games has been long scoring runs sustained by a deep bench.

Why They Won’t Win

In a word: turnovers. They gave up the ball 13 or more times in 13 regular-season games.

MVP

7ft center Lauri Markkanen, a native of Finland, has been sensational all season on both offense and defense. Against Saint Mary’s on Saturday he had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Best Moment So Far

Only leading by one point at the half, 30-29, the Wildcats shot 59% over the last 20 minutes of the game to win 69-60.

Worst Moment So Far

In Saturday’s game against Saint Mary’s, the Wildcats found themselves struggling early in the game when freshman guard Rawle Alkins had to leave the game with an injured finger. After an X-ray, he came back into the game and Arizona righted itself.

Key Stat

Five. This is the fifth time in the last seven seasons the Wildcats have reached the second weekend in the NCAAs.

10) Baylor

Why They Can Win

By most counts, the Bears won 26 of 33 games playing what is, by most ratings, the toughest team of any tam left in the tournament (Sagarin rates their schedule the fifth strongest).

Why They Won’t Win

The Bears were 15-0 as of 7 January; since then they lost 11 of 18 games.

MVP

Johnathan Motley led the Bears in scoring and rebounds. He led his team in rebounds in both NCAA tournament games and scored 19 points in the victory over Southern Cal.

Best Moment So Far

In their first nine games this season, Baylor beat four teams that were in the final 32: Oregon, Louisville, Michigan State and Xavier.

Worst Moment So Far

Lost to Texas Tech on 13 February (who finished 18-14) by a score of 84-78.

Key Stat

66. The number of years since Baylor went to the Final Four in 1950.

9) UCLA

Why They Can Win

You don’t win 31 games (out of 35) without doing something right, even if you didn’t play a very mean schedule. They’ve won tourney games against Kent State and Cincinnati by a combined 29 points.

Why They Won’t Win

Not only failed to win the Pac-12 but ended up third behind Arizona (whom the Bruins lost to twice) and Oregon.

MVP

Forward TJ Leaf led the team in scoring and rebounding in the regular season; against Kent State in the first round of the tourney he put up 23 points and against Cincinnati had seven rebounds.

Best Moment So Far

On 3 and 10 December, they had consecutive victories over Kentucky and Michigan.

Worst Moment So Far

Three of UCLA’s four losses were in the Pac-12. The second loss to Arizona on 10 March, 86-75, kept them out of the Pac-12 title game.

Key Stat

19-1: the Bruins’ record from 11 November through 19 January.

8) Wisconsin

Why They Can Win

Experience. Their seniors have been to two Final Fours and three Sweet 16 already.

Why They Won’t Win

Despite victories over Virginia Tech and defending national champ Villanova, the Badgers remain suspect, having lost five of their last seven games before the tournament.

MVP

Senior forward Nigel Hayes was second during the regular season in scoring, tied for the lead in assisst and second in rebounds. With 19 points, including the winning basket, he was the star of the upset win over Villanova.

Best Moment So Far

Beating Villanova.

Worst Moment So Far

Three losses in a row from 23 February through 2 March to Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa.

Key Stat

Six. Number of Sweet Sixteens the Badgers have made in the last seven seasons.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan led his team in both scoring and rebounds during the regular season. Photograph: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

7) Purdue

Why They Can Win

The Boilermakers won 27 of 34 games this year with two of those losses, against Michigan and Minnesota, coming in overtime.

Why They Won’t Win

Have found a way to lose to nearly all good teams they played this year, among them Villanova, Louisville, Iowa and Michigan (twice).

MVP

Forward Caleb Swanigan, Big Ten Player of The Year, overcame extreme obesity to get himself to fighting trim. During the season he led the team in both scoring and rebounds. In the win over Iowa State he had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

Best Moment So Far

26 February: won the Big Ten championship with an 86-75 win over Indiana.

Worst Moment So Far

They squandered a 19-point lead to Iowa State to find themselves two points behind with three minutes left.

Key Stat

28. The number of double-doubles Swanigan has posted this year.

6) Florida

Why They Can Win

Any team that’s one of the 10 best in the country could win it all, and most power ratings figure Florida seventh best or higher. (Sagarin has them less than a field goal from his No1 Gonzaga.)

Why They Won’t Win

The only possible rap on the Gators this year is their lack of experience: none of their starters had ever played in a tournament win. That and the fact that their mascot looks like the understudy for the crocodile in a road show production of Peter Pan.

MVP

Kesey Hill, senior forward, is one of just 10 players in school history to lead the team in both steals and assists.

Best Moment So Far

Their 65-39 crushing of Virginia, surely one of the 15 best teams in the country.

Worst Moment So Far

Losing three of their last four regular-season games. The loss to Kentucky is forgivable, but two losses to Vanderbilt are not.

Key Stat

41. The Gators have beaten their first two tourney opponents by a total of 41 points.

Florida’s Devin Robinson soars to the rim during Thursday’s first-round game. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

5) Kansas

Why They Can Win

Tough, consistent, tested with terrific D, and senior forward Landen Lucas, who is peaking at the right moment with his sixth consecutive double-double in Sunday’s 90-70 win against Michigan State.

Why They Won’t Win

One word: turnovers. The Jayhawks often play fast and loose with the ball, with the emphasis on loose: an average of 13.1 turnovers a game.

MVP

Point guard Frank Mason may be the best player in the country – without a doubt the best player under 6ft in the country.

Best Moment So Far

Ahead by just a shaky five at the half on Sunday, the Jayhawks shifted into high gear and won 90-70 against the resilient Spartans.

Worst Moment So Far

Or moments – in their four losses this year, Kansas had a total of 60 turnovers.

Key Stat

61. Josh Jackson, Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham accounted for 61 of Kansas’ 90 points in Sunday’s win.

4) West Virginia

Why They Can Win

Several power ratings, including Sagarin, rate them as one of the top five teams in the country. (Sagarin has them No4.)

Why They Won’t Win

Lack of a really explosive offensive star to go to in clutch moments.

MVP

Guard Jevon Carter, the Mountaineers’ leader in scoring, assists and steals.

Best Moment So Far

On 10 January, they beat then conference champ Baylor 89-68 by forcing 29 turnovers.

Worst Moment So Far

They lost back-to-back games on 18 and 21 January to Oklahoma and Kansas State by a total of six points.

Key Stat

Two. Number of times the Mountaineers have gone to the Final Four. (They’ve never won a championship.)

3) North Carolina

Why They Can Win

Every reason: talent, depth, versatility, coaching, tradition. They were already tested by schedule (Sagarin’s 13th toughest) well before the tournament began.

Why They Won’t Win

No reason, really, except that of the other 15 Sixteeners, Gonzaga may be better.

MVP

Tough call: probably split between senior forwards Isiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, who both starred against Arkansas in Sunday’s 72-65 win over Arkansas.

Best Moment So Far

The Tarheels went on a 12-0 run in the closing minutes of their win over the Razorbacks.

Worst Moment So Far

In the first half, they blew a 17-point lead.

Key Stat

Three. Carolina has won three NCAA titles in the last 23 years (since 1993), five overall.

2) Kentucky

Why They Can Win

A fantastic three-headed freshman force: De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo. They entered the tourney averaging a combined 49.9 points, 14.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. They combined for 36 points, 22 rebounds and six assists.

Why They Won’t Win

Morale can dip seriously if prior commitments keep Ashley Judd from being courtside.

MVP

De’Aaron Fox. With four minutes to go in Sunday’s win over the Shockers, Fox’s steal-and-dunk sent a message that the Wildcats were going to win.

Best Moment So Far

Freshman backcourt phenoms Fox and Monk scored 11 straight points in the fourth quarter to pull it out for Kentucky against the Shockers.

Worst Moment So Far

None. All the power ratings rank the Wildcats as one of the top five teams in the country, and they’ve already been severely tested in Sunday’s 65-62 thriller over the 10-seed Wichita State Shockers.

Key Stat

Eight. The Wildcats have won eight NCAA titles, second to UCLA’s 11.

1) Gonzaga

Why They Can Win

Because they may be the best team in the country. Also, they’re hungry, never having made it to the Final Four.

Why They Won’t Win

They played one of the weakest schedules of any major team in the country. (Sagarin rates their schedule as only the 118th toughest.)

MVP

Nigel Williams-Goss is not a member of the British Parliament but the Zags’ season and tournament MVP. The junior point guard led his team in scoring (16.6) and assists (4.8) and set a team record with 57 steals and was their top rebounding guard (5.8). In the victory over Northwestern that sent them to the Sweet 16, he led his team in all categories.

Best Moment So Far

A 28-6 run against Northwestern in Saturday’s game to build a seemingly insurmountable 18-point lead. Also, Bing Crosby enrolled there in 1920.

Worst Moment So Far

A second-half near-collapse in the Northwestern game marked by a blizzard of turnovers (11 in the second half alone) and bad shots (including six consecutive free-throw misses). Also, Bing Crosby failed to graduate.

Key Stat

One. Because they’re a No1 seed, because they’ve lost only one game all season, and because Sagarin ranks them number one in his power ratings.

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