MARCH MADNESS POWER RANKINGS: Where every team stands heading into the Sweet 16

The Kentucky Wildcats have had a few things break their way and now have a clear path to the Final Four.

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The Kentucky Wildcats have had a few things break their way and now have a clear path to the Final Four.
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After a wild first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, four days worth of March Madness has whittled the field down to 16 teams that remain to compete for the national championship.

There’s not a weak team in the field, and with numerous powerhouses already taken down in surprising fashion, it indeed is anyone’s title to win. That said, the dominant programs that have experience making deep runs in the tournament hold a clear advantage over teams that haven’t made as many Sweet 16 trips.

Below we break down which teams are in the best position to take home the 2018 national championship, and which teams are going to need a little help to keep their Cinderella stories going.


16. Syracuse

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Syracuse beat the Michigan State Spartans despite being out-rebounded by 20 and making just one three-pointer. The Orange needed poor shooting from the Spartans to prevail, a gift they’re not likely to get in their Sweet 16 matchup against Duke. That said, Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense is the great equalizer here – we’ve seen it take down many teams in March.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: <1%


15. Loyola-Chicago

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With the UMBC Retrievers out of the tournament, Loyola-Chicago is the most loved Cinderella story left in March Madness. Team chaplain Sister Jean has become an international sensation, and the Ramblers have proven that they can hang with the best teams in college basketball, taking down both Miami and Tennessee en route to the Sweet 16. They’re the lowest seed remaining in the tournament, but with the South region wide open, they still have a shot at the Final Four.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: <1%


14. Florida State

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After starting the season 9-0, the Seminoles have been up and down since December, with impressive wins over the likes of UNC and Clemson, along with head-scratching losses against Boston College and Wake Forest. They can play up for any one game, but can’t afford to cool off for a game now that the field has narrowed.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 1%


13. Nevada

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The Nevada Wolfpack seem incapable of playing boring basketball. They forced overtime against the 10th-seeded Texas Longhorns by erasing a 14-point second-half deficit to open the tournament, and in the second round, the Wolfpack took down the second-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats despite trailing by 22 points with just 11 minutes left in the game – the second most significant comeback in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: <1%


12. Texas Tech

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Texas Tech has played well all season and looked perfectly competent through its first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. But with Purdue and then potentially Villanova standing between them and the Final Four, no team in the field has a more difficult path to the third weekend of March Madness.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 2%


11. Kansas State

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Kansas State is just the seventh No. 9 seed to make the Sweet 16 in the history of the tournament – but usually those teams have had to beat No. 1 seeds in the second round. With the Wildcats instead beating the No. 16 UMBC Retrievers to punch their Sweet 16 ticket, Kansas State still has to prove something to basketball fans to make them believers – and they’ll get their chance against Kentucky.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 2%


10. Clemson

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Clemson made Auburn look downright silly in the second round, stretching their lead to over 40 points before winning by a final score of 84-53. The high-octane offense of the Tigers would have them higher on this list if not for the daunting road that stands between them and the national championship.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 2%


9. Texas A&M

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Before the tournament began, FiveThirtyEight gave Texas A&M just a 0.8% chance of making the title game. After taking down Providence and UNC en route to the Sweet 16, that number is all the way up to 14% – pretty good for a No. 7 seed.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 5%


8. West Virginia

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Bob Huggins is hoping to take West Virginia back to the Final Four for the first time since 2010, but the Mountaineers will have to take down Villanova in their Sweet 16 matchup to get there. Survive through Friday, and there’s no telling how far WVU could go in this tournament.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 6%


7. Purdue

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Purdue’s chances are hurt slightly after an injury to center Isaac Haas left the team down one of its most talented players, but freshman Matt Haarms has stepped up in his stead to give the Boilermakers the big-man presence they need.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 5%


6. Michigan

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If any team feels chosen by the fates to take home the national championship this year, it is Michigan. After their dominant run through the Big Ten tournament, the Wolverines pulled off their most enthralling win of the season yet with their buzzer-beating victory over Houston in the second round. Michigan can be beaten, but opponents would be best not to let the game come down to the final possession.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 5%


5. Gonzaga

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Gonzaga has all the motivation in the world and a team with enough tournament experience to carry them all the way to the final. They might not be the most talented team in the field, but after losing the national title game last year, there’s a good chance they want to win it all more than any other team.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 8%


4. Kansas

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Kansas may be a No. 1 seed, but their road to the Final Four is relatively treacherous – they’ll face a hot Clemson team in the Sweet 16, and then will likely have to face Duke to advance to the final weekend of the tournament. That Seton Hall kept pace with them doesn’t bode particularly well for the Jayhawks, but if they can make it through their gauntlet of a region, there’s no reason they couldn’t win the title.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 11%


3. Kentucky

The Kentucky Wildcats have had a few things break their way and now have a clear path to the Final Four.

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The South region proved to be the most chaotic of any in March Madness this year, which has been great news for Kentucky, who appears to be turning it on at the right time. The Wildcats have a favorable road to the Final Four, and now have the second-best odds in the field to make it to the title game, according to FiveThirtyEight.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 11%


2. Duke

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Coach K is not to be doubted, especially when it comes to shepherding a team through the storms of March. The Blue Devils have looked dominant in their two wins so far this tournament, and have one of the best (if also despised) players remaining in the tournament in Grayson Allen. March Madness has so far been defined by its upsets, Duke winning it all, in the end, would be ironically fitting.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 18%


1. Villanova

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With Virginia and UNC now bounced from the tournament, Villanova is easily the best all-around team remaining in the field. They have the talent, experience, discipline, and coaching necessary to take home a national title, and are eager to prove their 2016 championship was no fluke. While they still could stumble on the way, the Wildcats are in pole position to win another championship.

FiveThirtyEight chances to win title: 22%


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