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Sweet 16 Picks: South Region, West Region

Donte Ingram, Loyola-Chicago
South Region

5 Kentucky Wildcats vs. 9 Kansas State Wildcats
After ending UMBC's Cinderella run this past weekend, quiet but effective Kansas State looks to keep on chugging against the top-remaining seed in the South Region: Kentucky. Kentucky has been playing superb basketball over the last few weeks, but this isn't a perfect team by any means. Swingman Kevin Knox has emerged as the team's top offensive option (15.6 PPG), while steady point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has also stepped up in a big way. The big question is down low, where this team still lacks a real presence on the low post. Youngsters Nick Richards and Jarred Vanderbilt are rock-solid on the glass, but Kansas State will still look to expose some of UK's frontcourt issues. K-State will also hope for a big day from their top two scorers, Dean Wade and Barry Brown. This is still a team that will lean more on their defense than the other side (allowed just 66.9 PPG this year) but Kansas State will need to score more than 48 points to defeat the other Wildcats. It will also be intriguing to see how well both of these sides shoot the ball from deep. Kansas State really struggled to shoot from downtown against UMBC, but they will need the three-pointer to really be open if they are to overcome a Kentucky squad with more talent and athleticism. I think Kentucky is certainly the team to beat in the South, but Kansas State is the type of team that plays hard and can compete with anyone. If they can play lockdown defense once more, I wouldn't rule out a nine seed upset here in the Sweet 16.
Kentucky by six

7 Nevada Wolfpack vs. 11 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
Two of the coolest stories of this March will collide in Atlanta this weekend, as seventh-seeded Nevada squares off with Loyola-Chicago. The Wolfpack have made a living this Tournament coming off in miraculous ways, and are guided by a starting lineup, that amazingly, is comprised completely off transfers. The Martin twins, who came from NC State, are a two-headed offensive machine that can are streaky, but lethal when they're on. They may pose the toughest test this Ramblers' defense has seen in this field. For Loyola, the key to their success has been a guard-orientated offense and a team that plays best in clutch situations. Donte Ingram and Clayton Custer are two of the most underrated playmakers in the bracket, but it will be interesting to see how they attack Nevada's defense. The Wolfpack aren't an elite defensive team, but they have a lot of guys who can do great in the one-on-one and on the wing, but they have struggled to defend the paint. The Ramblers could choose to run their offense through the post more than usual, which will be interesting to see how they succeed. Nevada has been playing with fire all Tournament, and they have the talent to make their first Elite Eight appearance ever. However, I actually like Loyola's improbable March run to continue. They have the shooting, confidence and experience to get over the top here. It looks like the Ramblers run can continue, and the comeback kids at Nevada to finally have their luck catch up with them.
Loyola-Chicago by four

West Region

4 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. 9 Florida State Seminoles
Gonzaga came up just a few points short of a National Title a season ago, and now they look to finish the job in 2018. This Bulldogs team isn't quite as strong overall as last year's edition, but they have some terrific shooters and really impressive athleticism in the frontcourt. Veteran guard Josh Perkins leads an extremely efficient and methodical offense, while forwards Jonathan Williams and Rui Hachimura will give Florida State some real difficulties with their versatility up front. This Seminoles team is coming off a great showing against Xavier, but it will be interesting to see whether they can keep it up. They have a ton of weapons in their backcourt that should really be able to challenge Gonzaga up and down the court, but can they continue their hot shooting? This FSU offense has been streaky and inconsistent throughout much of the year, so it's hard to know which edition with come out in Los Angeles. Up front, Florida State doesn't have much offense, and tends to lean more on their defense. Can that defense stand up to the tough test these Bulldog big men present? I wouldn't be surprised at all to see this Seminoles team move on, especially with the momentum they've created. With that being said, Gonzaga has the talent and depth to sink them, and make yet another Elite Eight trip.
Gonzaga by ten

3 Michigan Wolverines vs. 7 Texas A&M Aggies
If not for a miraculous last-second three-pointer by Jordan Poole to stun sixth-seeded Houston, the Big Ten Tournament Champion Michigan Wolverines would be sitting at home right now. However, they survived, and now see a wide-open West Region. Texas A&M will be quite the challenge here in the Sweet 16, as the Aggies are coming off a dominant showing against UNC. The thing that makes this A&M team so tough is they are so large and physical throughout their roster. Gigantic center Tyler Davis is a load to handle for anybody, NBA Draft prospect Robert Williams is an absolute tank, and guards D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder constantly create mismatches. The Wolverines are not a great defensive team, and they could have a tough time handling the Aggies variety of weapons. Michigan does have plenty of offensive options they can counter with, namely a fantastic crop of guards. Veteran Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman has become so important for this team, while Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole can really be instant offense. The X-factor for this team, as it usually is, will be center Mo Wagner. When Wagner is playing well and the UM guards are spacing the floor, this offense is so tough to handle. Wagner will also have an important job containing Davis on the other end, as well as hanging with the Aggies on the glass. Even though they have had some issues this year, the way Texas A&M is playing, it is hard to pick against them. With that being said, Michigan has the offensive skill and is riding an emotional high after their thrilling second round victory, I still like my Final Four pick in the region to keep on surviving and advancing.
Michigan by three

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