Rob Dauster

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) drives to the basket around Cal State Bakersfield guard Dedrick Basile (5) in the second half during a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 18, 2016. Oklahoma won 82-68. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Sweet 16 Preview: The 16 best players left in the NCAA tournament, plus 16 more


We’re kicking off our preview coverage of the Sweet 16 today with a ranking of the 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament to get you primed for the second weekend.

If you’re not ready to let the first weekend go, trust me, I hear you.

It was wild. You relive the eight buzzer-beaters we saw or the 13 craziest moments we experienced.

And when you’re ready to move on, go check out our Sweet 16 Power Rankings and the Sweet 16 Things You Need To Know. Then continue reading here.

1. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: Think about this for a second: In the second round of the NCAA tournament, Buddy Hield scored 36 points. That’s pretty incredible, right? Well, 29 of those points came in the second half, which is an insane number for anyone to score in one half of a college basketball game. But it gets better: Hield scored 26 of Oklahoma’s final 31 points as No. 10 seed VCU was doing everything they could do to try and erase a 13-point half time deficit. They even took the lead at one point, which is why it is safe for us to say Hield literally put the Sooners on his back and dragged them to the Sweet 16.

That’s absurd, what he was able to do. How come we aren’t talking about it more?

2. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: Brogdon can go into star mode and take over a game offensively. Maybe he didn’t do it on Saturday, but he’s done time and again this season. Where Brogdon really makes a difference is on the defensive end of the floor. He can, when needed, totally shut down an opponent’s best player, whether it’s a point guard or, in the case of Butler’s Andrew Chrabascz, a power forward. So, Georges Niang, are you ready for Friday night?

3. Brice Johnson, North Carolina: The best big man left in the tournament. Johnson is averaging a double-double this season, but he’s made tremendous strides on the defensive end of the floor in the last three weeks. And it’s that improvement defensively that has changed this Tar Heel team.

4. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: Ferrell has been phenomenal for Indiana this season, as he carried the team through a stretch where a group of young guys were learning new roles and figuring out how they can impact a game at this level. And he’s still capable of that. But it’s worth noting that, now, the Hoosiers supporting cast is playing at a level where he doesn’t always have to dominate. That’s why there is a real chance that Indiana can beat North Carolina on Friday night.

5. Grayson Allen, Duke: There seems to be a national push-back against Grayson Allen right now, given the hate that comes with being white and a star at Duke (and, of course, the tripping). But what’s worth remembering is that Allen is a “star at Duke”. He’s the biggest reason why a team with no depth, a single post player that Coach K trusts and a single point guard — an inconsistent freshman, at that — on the roster is in the Sweet 16.

6. Josh Hart, Villanova: Criminally underrated. That’s the best way to describe Hart, whose ability to rebound and defend multiple positions allows Kris Jenkins to be somewhat hidden defensively. He’s always been tough as nails, though, but now that he’s actually scoring at a consistent rate as well? Look out. I judge how much people know about basketball based on what they think of Hart as a player.

7. Georges Niang, Iowa State: There may not be a more versatile or dangerous 1-on-1 scorer in the country than Niang. Like Allen, he’s carrying a team that has so many roster flaws they really shouldn’t be in the position that they are in right now. He’s not underrated at this point, but he may be under-appreciated.

8. Domas Sabonis, Gonzaga: There’s an argument to be made that Sabonis is the best big man left in this tournament. I think that title still belongs to Brice Johnson, but Sabonis isn’t that far behind. He’s a nightmare to deal with in the paint because of his strength, his physicality and his ability to work through contact. That, and he might be the toughest player in the sport.

9. Monte’ Morris, Iowa State: Niang is the most recognizable name on the Cyclones, but there’s an argument to be made that Morris is their best player. The dynamic point guard doesn’t turn the ball over and gives Steve Prohm two dynamic, borderline unstoppable players on his perimeter.

10. Brandon Ingram, Duke: Ingram’s really flourished since he was asked to take over the small forward role for the Blue Devils. His matchup with Oregon is going to be really interesting and telling, because Oregon has the athletes at the four spot to matchup with him.

Brandon Ingram
(AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

11. Perry Ellis, Kansas: I initially had Ellis lower on this list than 11th, which should tell you something about Kansas: They’re the best team left in the tournament but their best player is Perry Ellis? The thing that makes the Jayhawks so good is that they don’t have a star, because a punch does the most damage  when you don’t know where it’s coming from.

12. Dillon Brooks, Oregon: This may actually be too low for him. Brooks is one of the guys that lets Oregon play a small-ball style. He’s their leading scorer and their go-to guy in big moments, be he’ll be tested defensively against Duke.

13. Sheldon McClellan, Miami: Like Hart, McClellan is really underrated. He’s a terrific athlete that can score at all three levels as well as create his own shot with the bounce. He’s the guy in that Miami back court where you know what you’re going to get on a nightly basis.

14. Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame: Jackson is the engine that makes Notre Dame’s offense tick, much the way that Jerian Grant was Notre Dame’s engine last season.

15. Melo Trimble, Maryland: I loved Trimble last season, and in the preseason, and early this season. But he’s been such a disappointment the last month or so. Is the real Melo going to show up for the Sweet 16 and Kansas?

16. Danuel House, Texas A&M: He’s the kind of guy that can score 18 points in the final 11 minutes and change of a double-overtime win against Northern Iowa. He’s also the guy that scored exactly zero points in the first 35 minutes of that game.


17. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
18. Frank Mason, Kansas
19. Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma
20. Anthony Gill, Virginia
21. Zach Auguste, Notre Dame
22. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
23. Chris Boucher, Oregon
24. Troy Williams, Indiana
25. Angel Rodriguez, Miami
26. Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
27. Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
28. Elgin Cook, Oregon
29. Thomas Bryant, Indiana
30. Kris Jenkins, Villanova
31. Jalen Jones, Texas A&M
32. London Perrantes, Virginia

Report: Oklahoma’s Akolda Manyang returned to Minnesota following brother’s suicide

Texas guard Kerwin Roach Jr. (12) falls to the court after he is fouled as he drives to the basket against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) and center Akolda Manyang (30) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Austin, Texas. Texas won 76-63. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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Akolda Manyang, a reserve center for Oklahoma, missed Sunday’s second round game against VCU as he returned to Minnesota following a death in the family.

According to multiple reports, that family member was Akolda’s brother, Ater Manyang, a former high school basketball star in the state. He had been admitted into a treatment facility on Thursday morning, the Minnesota Star-Tribune reported, where he was found dead of an apparent suicide on Friday.

He was discovered by a staff member at 4:10 p.m. CT on Friday, according to the report. Oklahoma’s first round game against Cal State Bakersfield tipped off just after 3:00 p.m. CT on Friday.

“We don’t even know yet exactly when he’s going to be back or when the services are for sure,” said head coach Lon Kruger. “I think we’ll find that out today. But yeah, it’s tough. I mean, you just feel for anyone, but especially a young guy at this time of season. It adds to the difficulty because he wants to be here, but he needs to be there, I mean, all those things that he’s got to deal with.”

Florida State’s Malik Beasley to enter NBA draft

Florida State guard Malik Beasley (5) is fouled by Boston College guard Eli Carter, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, in Washington, Tuesday, March 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State freshman guard Malik Beasley announced Monday night that he will enter the NBA draft.

“The things I have learned and the growth I have realized this season as both a person and player have made me confident that I can take the next step in realizing my dreams to play at the next level,” Beasley said in a statement.

The 6-foot-5 Beasley was third among freshmen in scoring in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, averaging 15.6 points per game.

He was second on the team in scoring behind fellow freshman Dwayne Bacon as both were selected to the conference’s all-freshman team.

Beasley was eighth in the conference in free throw percentage (.813) and 10th in field-goal percentage (.471). He scored in double figures in his first 24 games, which was the second-best start in conference history. Georgia Tech’s Stephon Marbury has the record at 26.

“Malik is a wonderful young man and we are very happy for him and his family,” said coach Leonard Hamilton in a statement.

“He was an outstanding player for our basketball team, is a young man of tremendous character and is an extremely hard worker. We are behind Malik and know he will be successful in everything he does because he is such a quality person both on and off the basketball court.”

Beasley is the first player in Florida State history to enter the draft after only one season in school. In 14 seasons under Hamilton, Florida State has produced nine NBA draft picks including three in the first round. Al Thornton was the highest of those picks, going 14th overall to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007.

Shyatt steps down as Wyoming coach; Edwards is new coach

Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt talks to his players during their NCAA college basketball game against Fresno State on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, in Laramie, Wyo. (Hugh Carey/Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)
Hugh Carey/Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP
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LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) Larry Shyatt has resigned his head coaching job at Wyoming, and Allen Edwards, who has been an assistant coach under Shyatt the last five seasons, was named the new head coach.

Shyatt says he’s proud of his players’ accomplishments on the court and in the classroom and praised his staff, which includes his son, Jeremy.

Shyatt has coached at Wyoming for a total of six seasons, split over two stints. His teams compiled an overall record of 117-78, including this year’s team which finished 14-18.

He first took over the Cowboys in the 1997-98 season, but then left after that season for Clemson.

Shyatt returned to Wyoming in 2011, leading the Cowboys to the NCAA Tournament last year where they lost in the first round to Northern Iowa.

Sweet 16 Preview: Re-ranking the remainder of the NCAA Tournament field

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) celebrates at a timeout during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. Seldon scored 24 points in the game. Kansas defeated Baylor 102-74. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

We’re kicking off our preview coverage of the Sweet 16 today with a ranking of the 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament to get you primed for the second weekend.

If you’re not ready to let the first weekend go, trust me, I hear you.

It was wild. You relive the eight buzzer-beaters we saw or the 13 craziest moments we experienced.

And when you’re ready to move on, continue reading here.

1. No. 1 (South) Kansas: Kansas is not the most talented team in the country. They don’t have the best player left in the tournament. They probably don’t even have the best player left in their region and may not even have the best player on the floor when they take on No. 5 Maryland on Thursday night. But Bill Self has done a tremendous job with this team, balancing egos and shots and touches. They may not have that one guy that you know will take over a game at some point, but they will have three or four guys on the floor at any given moment that can take over a game. A punch is the most dangerous when you don’t know where it’s coming from.

2. No. 1 (East) North Carolina: Part of me wanted to put UNC No. 1 on this list because I think that, when push comes to shove, Roy Williams has the team with the highest ceiling of anyone left in the NCAA tournament. With Brice Johnson playing like an all-american and the good Marcus Paige and Joel Berry showing up, the Tar Heels are really, really, especially when they decide to defend like they have the last three weeks. But will that last? Are we sure there won’t be anymore defensive blips?

3. No. 2 (West) Oklahoma: Buddy’s back, baby. Hield went for 27 points in the tournament opener and followed that up with a 36-point performance against VCU where he scored 29 in the second half and had 26 of Oklahoma’s 31 points in the final 15 minutes. Oklahoma is a limited, one-dimensional team, but when that one-dimension is kicking into high gear, they can be awesome.

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

4. No. 1 (Midwest) Virginia: If you were to give me odds on who would win the tournament, I think I’d have the Wahoos higher than Oklahoma simply because I think they have a much easier path to get there, locking horns with Iowa State and a double-digit seed instead of Texas A&M and the Duke-Oregon winner. I’m still going to reserve the right to change my mind on this before the Sweet 16 starts, because I’m not sure anyone else in the country has a guy that can take over offensively and defensively the way that Malcolm Brogdon can.

5. No. 1 (West) Oregon: This is a chance for Oregon to prove a lot of things to a lot of people. We’re now into the Sweet 16 and there are probably still die-hard college basketball fans that can’t name their starting lineup. That’s what happens when you’re underrated in the preseason, you can’t get many nationally-televised games and your TV network makes it as difficult as possible for media members and fans alike to actually be able to see the games. How many people are going to actually be seeing the Ducks — who are really, really good, but the way — for the first time when they play Duke on Thursday?

6. No. 5 (East) Indiana: I’m still concerned about Indiana’s size and depth along their front line, but it is absolutely impossible to ignore how good they’ve gotten on the defensive end. The combination of Troy Williams being locked in and O.G. Anunoby and Colin Hartman becoming effective and versatile players is a difference-maker. Oh, and they’ve got this dude named Yogi who’s pretty OK. I can’t believe how much I like the Hoosiers right now based on what they were three months ago.

7. No. 3 (South) Miami: The only reason that I don’t have Miami in the top five is Angel Rodriguez. He’s one of the most talented point guards left in this tournament, and, as I wrote on Saturday, is one of those guys that is not afraid of the moment. The problem is his consistency. It’s been less of an issue this season, but there is still a phenomenon known as ‘Good Angel’ and ‘Bad Angel’. When he’s good, their talent — Sheldon McClellan is the real deal — and their athleticism is probably better than you realize.

8. No. 2 (South) Villanova: Kudos to Villanova for getting over the Sweet 16 hump. Ryan Arcidiacono has been too good for too long to forever be associated with early tournament exits. But the problem is that I’m just not sure that this team has the talent or athleticism to make it to the Final Four. Those fears, however, are somewhat assuaged  when Kris Jenkins plays the way he has for the last month.

9. No. 4 (West) Duke: The depth issues and the point guard issues reared their ugly heads in the second round game against Yale, when Duke nearly — and probably should totally — blown a 27-point lead to a Bulldog team that isn’t exactly known for their ability to press. But the bottom line is this: Duke is going to have the two best players on the floor almost every time they play. Will that be enough this deep into the tournament?

10. No. 3 (West) Texas A&M: I’m just not sold on the Aggies. I haven’t really been all season long. I love Danuel House, but I’m not sure who else on this team can beat you. Tyler Davis is a year away from truly being a force, Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins are not exactly guys you need to guard out to the three-point line and Jalen Jones can be inconsistent. If Northern Iowa was able to inbound the ball under their own basket, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.


2016 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Bracket - 3.20.16

11. No. 4 (Midwest) Iowa State: There are two reasons the Cyclones are rated this low: Depth and the fact that you never really know what you’re going to get out of Deonte Burton and Jameel McKay. That said, Georges Niang and Monte’ Morris is the best 1-2 punch this side of Allen and Ingram.

12. No. 6 (East) Notre Dame: I’m not really sure how to feel about this Notre Dame team. I love Demetrius Jackson, I love Zach Auguste and I think that Steve Vasturia, Bonzie Colson and V.J. Beachem are underrated role players. But this team also should have lost to Stephen F. Austin, they should have lost to Duke in the ACC tournament, where they eventually lost by 31 to UNC.

13. No. 11 (Midwest) Gonzaga: The big difference for the Zags has been the play of their back court recently. If they can get this effort from Josh Perkins (reached double-figures five of the last eight games) and Eric McClellan (an elite defender who has gone off for 20+ points in three of his last five games), their front line of Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer is good enough that this might be Mark Few’s best chance at getting to a Final Four.

14. No. 7 (East) Wisconsin: Maybe I just can’t shake the image of December Wisconsin from my memory, but I think it’s fair to make the argument that this is the least-talented team left in the tournament. That hasn’t slowed them down the last two months, however, and the only thing currently standing between them and a shot at the Final Four is Notre Dame … well, and Nigel Hayes if he can’t find a way to get it going this weekend.

15. No. 5 (South) Maryland: In terms of talent, Maryland might be No. 1 on this list. Seriously. But the Terps looked anything like the team we expected to see this season for an extended period of time. The did for four minutes Sunday night. They did for a half against South Dakota State. I’m not sure why people expect them to change against the best team left in the tournament.

16. No. 10 (Midwest) Syracuse: I’m going to recycle a line that I used in the Sweet 16 Preview because I love it so much: “Please, don’t be the guy that says the Orange justified their inclusion with these two wins. By all means, enjoy this run, but it doesn’t “prove” the committee right anymore than getting drunk in a bar “proves” you’re 21 if you got in with a fake ID.”

Ben Simmons makes it official, declares for the NBA Draft

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2015, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives downcourt as teammate Antonio Blakeney (2) follows in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in New York. For all of his gaudy numbers, Simmons is still trying to figure out the best way to put the Tigers in position to win. And now the schedule gets harder, starting with Tuesday night's, Dec. 29, 2015, tilt against Wake Forest, followed by the opening of Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt and No. 10 Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Ben Simmons confirmed today what everyone in the world knew to be true: He will be turning pro and signing with an agent.

Shocker, I know.

“I’m making it official,” Simmons told

The 6-foot-11 Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists this season, but he didn’t play in the NCAA tournament or the NIT after his LSU Tiger team went 19-14 and finished just 11-7 in an SEC that saw only three teams get into the NCAA tournament.

Simmons had long been projected as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, and that may still end up being true. But it’s not because he’s the sure-fire top prospect in this draft; it’s going to depend on the preference of whichever team gets the first pick, whether they like Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons more.

Assuming, that is, that Ingram follows Simmons in the one-and-done route.