March Madness Sweet 16 picks: J. Brady McCollough's prediction for every game

Villanova 's Jermaine Samuels (23) plays during the second half of a college basketball game against Delaware.
Villanova's Jermaine Samuels drives to the basket during a win over Delaware in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last week. Villanova plays Michigan in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Iowa to the Final Four? Kentucky to the national championship game? Miami and Iowa State, who face each other in the Sweet 16, out in the first round? My bracket picks last week were so far off I even whiffed on my alma mater, Michigan, a team I’ve watched closely all season, making a fifth straight run to the second weekend.

Luckily, I know I am not alone in digging through the carnage early this week. Certainly, we all could empathize with Charles Barkley crossing out his awful picks with a red sharpie — but, seriously, Sir Charles, Colorado State to the Elite Eight?

Now, a chance to regroup and improve our performance with fresh knowledge gained. Given that I only correctly picked seven of the Sweet 16, I wouldn’t blame you for moving on with your day. But, amazingly, according to the @tallysight Twitter account, I ranked No. 5 in picks against the spread for the first round. Let’s hope more tangible redemption is coming for all of us this weekend.

Thursday

Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard (3) and forward Drew Timme (2) celebrate with teammates.
Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard (3) and forward Drew Timme (2) celebrate with teammates after beating Memphis in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. (Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Arkansas

Thursday, 4:09 p.m.

TV: CBS

Line: Gonzaga by 8.5

Pick: The Bulldogs took Memphis’ best shot and came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to win 82-78. The Razorbacks didn’t have to beat a single-digit seed to make it this far, and they don’t have the next-level athleticism like Memphis that challenged the Zags.

Gonzaga 88, Arkansas 70

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 11 Michigan

Thursday, 4:29 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Villanova by 5

Pick: The Wolverines were ranked No. 6 in the preseason and it took all year for them to play at that level. They’re dangerous now that they can play with an underdog mentality. Center Hunter Dickinson will need to be dominant against the Wildcats if Michigan is going to avenge its loss to Villanova in the 2018 national championship game — also played in San Antonio. Villanova ultimately is too experienced and won’t beat itself.

Villanova 68, Michigan 65

Duke forward Paolo Banchero gestures after hitting a three-pointer against Michigan State on Sunday.
Duke forward Paolo Banchero gestures after hitting a three-pointer against Michigan State on Sunday. (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Texas Tech

Thursday, 6:39 p.m.

TV: CBS

Line: Texas Tech by 1.

Pick: Coach K’s talented underclassmen had to grow up fast to get past Michigan State in the second round. Now they’ll have to face an even greater test of their toughness in Texas Tech’s top-rated defense (according to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency metrics). The Red Raiders have the bodies to frustrate Duke stud Paolo Banchero. This year, Oral Roberts transfer Kevin Obanor will get to the Elite Eight.

Texas Tech 71, Duke 67

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 5 Houston

Thursday, 6:59 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Arizona by 2.

Pick: Houston looked good this weekend defending its trip to the Final Four and will aim to muddy up the Riverwalk to stall the Wildcats’ propensity for high flying. But Arizona will have the best two players on the floor in guard Bennedict Mathurin and center Christian Koloko, who got their scare out of the way in escaping Texas Christian in overtime Sunday.

Arizona 65, Houston 55

Friday

St. Peter's Hassan Drame dunks during a win over Murray State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.
St. Peter's Hassan Drame dunks during a win over Murray State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 15 St. Peter’s

Friday, 4:09 p.m.

TV: CBS

Line: Purdue by 12.5

Pick: Cinderella gets to dance again just 90 miles from home in Philadelphia, and there’s little doubt that the crowd at Wells Fargo Center will be pulling hard for St. Peter’s. The Peacocks deserve all the love, and they’ll keep this game close against Purdue, which rarely plays well as a clear favorite. But the Boilermakers found an antidote to the pressure cooker of March by playing through big man Trevion Williams.

Purdue 77, St. Peter’s 69

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Providence

Friday, 4:29 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Kansas by 7.5.

Pick: It seems Vegas still isn’t convinced Providence, the Big East regular-season champion, can win big March games. The Friars handled their business easily against inferior teams, and they’ll keep the same formula against Kansas — play stifling defense that feeds into its offense. The Jayhawks are notorious for messing up great situations in March, and here’s another one: beat Providence and Miami/Iowa State to make the Final Four. Bill Self’s squad will do just enough to avoid heartbreak this time.

Kansas 64, Providence 60

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell controls the ball during the Bruins' win over St. Mary's.
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell controls the ball during the Bruins' win over St. Mary's in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. (Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)

No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 8 North Carolina

Friday, 6:39 p.m.

TV: CBS

Line: UCLA by 2.

Pick: In the first round, I had a lot of confidence in UCLA, and the Bruins got lucky to win against Akron. In the second round, I flipped to St. Mary’s, and UCLA looked like a Final Four team once again. My gut says the Tar Heels’ Armando Bacot will feast inside and that the Bruins are in trouble if Jaime Jaquez Jr. can’t go. But I’ll go against my instincts and trust UCLA’s poise in tough moments whether Jaquez plays or not.

UCLA 69, North Carolina 66

No. 10 Miami vs. No. 11 Iowa State

Friday, 6:59 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: Miami by 2.

Pick: One of the few things I felt sure of entering the tournament was that Iowa State didn’t belong and was going to be handled by Louisiana State. Oops. The Cyclones doubled down by knocking off the Badgers, who were basically playing a home game in Milwaukee. Despite gaining respect, I still like Miami’s trio of scoring guards Charlie Moore, Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong to find enough gaps within a stingy defense.

Miami 67, Iowa State 60

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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