So your bracket’s already busted, and you don’t have any chance of winning your office pool. Maybe you’re going to take your chances betting on single games or maybe you just need to pick a new team to cheer for this week. Either way, TIME’s got you covered. Here are all the reasons to root for (or against) all 16 teams that made it to the regionals.
- Exclusive: The Making of the U.S. Military's New Stealth Bomber
- Your Next House Could Be Made on an Assembly Line
- The Legal Implications of the Debate Over Whether 'Extreme Racism' Is a Mental Illness
- Why European Countries Are Giving Teens Free Money To Spend on Books, Music, and Theater
- Republican Skepticism of Trump Has Never Been Higher
- Column: The U.S. Prison System Doesn't Value True Justice
- How Green Is the Qatar World Cup’s Outdoor AC?
- 16 Funny and Whimsical White Elephant Gifts Under $25
- The 5 Best New TV Shows Our Critic Watched in November 2022
Pros: Let’s face it, if you pick Kentucky to win, you’ll probably be right. The team is well on its way to going undefeated. Some talking heads are even suggesting that the roster could make the Eastern Conference playoffs in the NBA. If Kentucky succeeds, they will become the first team since Bobby Knight’s 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to have a perfect season.
Cons: There’s a reason you root for Jack against the Giant. A perfect record is impressive, but it’s less fun than an upset. Plus rooting for John Calipari? That’s a tough proposition for most basketball fans.
Kentucky (#1) plays West Virginia (#5) on Thursday at 9:45 p.m. EST.
West Virginia (#8)
Pros: West Virginia has had a big turnaround season after missing the tournament two years in a row. They’re scrappy: they play full court D for all 40 minutes, scramble in and out of traps and force turnovers. And don’t forget: they stole an Elite Eight game from a seemingly unbeatable Kentucky team in 2010.
Cons: If WVU doesn’t get turnovers, they’re not scoring. If they’re not scoring, they’re just another stepping stone on Kentucky’s road to the championship.
West Virginia (#5) plays Kentucky (#1) on Thursday at 9:45 p.m. EST.
Notre Dame (#3)
Pros: Going into the tournament, they were criticized as a team that didn’t hustle enough. But now they’ve proven that they can get scrappy. In their first two games they went only 8-for-26 beyond the arc and were forced to pull off tough wins (one in overtime). Before the tournament, they beat Duke, UNC and Louisville—all Sweet 16 teams. Maybe they’re capable of more than pundits thought.
Cons: Wichita is anything but your average 7 seed, and most bettors have them beating Notre Dame. The luck of the Irish may run out this week.
Notre Dame (#3) plays Wichita State (#7) on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. EST.
Wichita State (#7)
Pros: Beating Kansas was a sweet victory for Wichita State. The Shockers have tried to schedule a game against in-state rival the Jayhawks for years (the last time they played one another was 1993), but Kansas has always refused. And no wonder, considering Wichita’s 78-65 victory on Sunday. Full of confidence, Wichita State will likely roll past Notre Dame and on to the Wildcats. Kentucky ended the Shockers’ perfect season in 2014, and Wichita is probably ready to return the favor.
Cons: The Shockeres are heavily dependent on their star Fred VanVleet. If he has a bad night, Wichita is in trouble. Plus, the team was extra-motivated to knock Kansas out of the tournament. They could lose steam.
Wichita State (#7) plays Notre Dame (#3) on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. EST.
Pros: Wisconsin’s victory against Oregon proved that they don’t just rely on their star player. When Frank Kaminsky got shut down for parts of the game, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes took over, pushing the Badgers to a victory. Wisconsin has one of (if not the most) efficient offense in the country and is an odds-on favorites to make it to the Final Four.
Cons: The Badgers arguably have the toughest road of the remaining 1 seeds to the Final Four. UNC coach Roy Williams is a veteran who knows how to effectively stop all-stars like Kaminsky. And even if they do beat the Tar Heels, an under-seeded Arizona will be waiting for them.
Wisconsin (#1) plays UNC (#4) on Thursday at 7:47 p.m. EST.
Pros: UNC has the athleticism to be a great team, even if they haven’t played to their full potential yet. They’ve been playing better defense during the tournament, and against Arkansas, Marcus Paige finally played the way he should have been during the regular season. If UNC can beat Wisconsin, it will be on the glass—they rank fifth nationally for offensive rebounds.
Cons: The Tarheels have been, to put it kindly, inconsistent in high-pressure games this year. They turn over the ball too much. It’s hard to imagine they can beat both Wisconsin and Arizona.
UNC (#4) plays Wisconsin (#1) on Thursday at 7:47 p.m. EST.
Pros: Don’t underrate Xavier, the last Big East team in the tournament. Matt Stainbrook is a quality big man who could shake up the game against Arizona. And the team has been gaining steam throughout the end of their season.
Cons: Xavier had an easy road to the Sweet 16. They’re not a very good shooting team, and if anybody can shut down Stainbrook, it’s a bigger squad like Arizona. Plus, Xavier ended Georgia State’s Cinderella run, and we’re all still a little bitter.
Xavier (#6) plays Arizona (#2) on Thursday at 10:17 p.m. EST.
Pros: Arizona should have been a 1 seed, and they won’t let you forget it. They’re in the top 10 in the nation in both defensive and offensive efficiency (just like Kentucky), and wings Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will likely both be first-round NBA draft picks. Plus, their defense is excellent.
Cons: Occasionally, Arizona can go long stretches without scoring and they don’t have the depth to save them during a drought.
Arizona (#2) plays Xavier (#6) on Thursday at 10:17 p.m. EST.
North Carolina State (#8)
Pros: If you want to root for a giantkiller, the Wolfpack is your team. They pulled off the biggest upset of this tournament by knocking out No. 1 Villanova and took down fellow Sweet 16 teams UNC and Duke earlier this year. Trevor Lacey and Anthony Barber had a combined 30 points against Nova. It’s hard not to root for the duo to pull that off again.
Cons: Even though the N.C. State has Vegas worried about potential future upsets, the 8 seed is in danger of becoming overly confident. (See: Cat Barber’s “What the f— is wrong with Barack Obama?” comment.) Even if they beat Louisville, they’ll eventually meet Duke or Gonzaga, and those teams are going to be harder to take down than Villanova.
N.C. State (#8) plays Louisville (#4) on Friday at 7:37 p.m. EST.
Pros: Louisville prepared for the tournament with a tough ACC slate (five of the sweet 16 teams are from the ACC). This is the fourth year in a row that the Cardinals have made it to the Sweet 16, and though this isn’t their best team in recent memory, they’ve refused to give up. Their tough defense will be a challenge for N.C. State.
Cons: Coach Rick Pitino has been brutally honest about the team’s flaws, admitting that conflicting personalities have made them hard to coach. Their starting point guard Chris Jones was dismissed from the team late in the season, and they’ve had a hard time recovering since—including struggling against UC Irvine in the opening game of the tournament. Louisville was bested by N.C. State (74-65) in February, so despite its higher seeding Louisville is probably the underdog headed into this game.
Louisville (#4) plays N.C. State (#8) on Friday at 7:37 p.m. EST.
Pros: If Big 12 player of the year Buddy Hield produces this week, Oklahoma could take the East Region, which blew wide open with No. 1 Villanova and No.2 UVA both fell. Oklahoma is the top seed left and therefore, in theory, the best bet.
Cons: Michigan State’s physical defense could mean big trouble for the Sooners. MSU Coach Tom Izzo’s favorite month is March, so this will likely be a very tight game.
Oklahoma (#3) plays MSU (#7) on Friday at 10:07 p.m. EST.
Michigan State (#7)
Pros: Remember last year when 7 seed UConn won the national championship? It looks like Michigan State just might follow in their footsteps. Coach Tom Izzo’s teams historically play their best in March, and this Spartans squad is no exception. They almost defeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten Conference Championship and upset 2 seed Virginia last week. Plus, they’ve got the support of alumnus Magic Johnson. What’s more inspirational than that?
Cons: Even though the Spartans are now favored to reach the Final Four, their path isn’t completely clear. N.C. State, Louisville and Oklahoma are all gunning for the same spot and will put up a tough fight.
MSU (#7) plays Oklahoma (#3) on Friday at 10:07 p.m. EST.
Pros: I know, I know. Duke is the (blue) devil incarnate. You hate Coach K. You hate the Cameron Crazies. You hate that the I Hate Christian Laettner 30 for 30 documentary somehow made Laettner likable and got him in commercials with Dr. J. But even though Christian Laettner did this, remember when he also did this—the most memorable buzzer beater in all college basketball history? Duke (and Laettner) ruined UNLV’s perfect season. Could they do the same for Kentucky? With a likely #1 NBA draft pick in the dominant Jahlil Okafor, they just might.
Cons: Okafor has had trouble hitting free throws all season. If Duke fails to maker threes (as it did when Notre Dame upset it in the ACC Tournament), the Blue Devils could lose a close game at the free throw line.
Duke (#1) plays Utah (#5) on Friday at 9:45 p.m. EST.
Pros: The Utes’ 7 foot center Jakob Poeltl is one of few players in the tournament who can measure up size-wise to Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Utah plays good help defense and may be able to shut down the Blue Devil’s big man.
Cons: Utah is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005 and likely won’t be prepared to take down a 1 seed.
Utah (#5) plays Duke (#1) on Friday at 9:45 p.m. EST.
Pros: A vote for UCLA is a vote for the underdog. Widely dubbed the team that shouldn’t have even made the tournament, UCLA has been playing like they have something to prove. Now they’re the only double-digit seed left in the bracket. UCLA won their first two games sinking threes, and if they can continue that trend, they’ll prove that they came to dance.
Cons: Then again, if those threes don’t fall, the Bruins are in big trouble. The big criticism of UCLA is that they play as individuals, not a team. If they don’t come together, their run it over.
UCLA (#11) plays Gonzaga (#2) on Friday at 7:15 p.m. EST.
Pros: This is arguably the best team that Coach Mark Few has put together—including the 2013 1 seed squad. The Zags’ impressive 52.6 field goal percentage means that they’re going to be hard to stop offensively, and their bench is deep. They won easily on Sunday against Iowa, and the elimination of Iowa State makes their path all the easier.
Cons: Gonzaga has a history of choking in the tournament. They were knocked out early in 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 2013, they were upset as a 3 seed by Wichita State. And of their last eight tournaments, they’re 0-8 against top-four seeds, so their prospects against 1 seed Duke down the road do not look good.
Gonzaga (#2) plays UCLA (#11) on Friday at 7:15 p.m. EST.