Sweet 16 Swiftly: Thursday’s Early Window


There are just a Sweet 16 teams left wearing a pair of those elusive dancing slippers. Only an Elite Eight will survive the upcoming round of sweetness to see what awaits beyond.

It is March. It is college basketball. It is adults yelling random obscenities at teenagers over office bracket pools. Let’s survive and advance together, shall we?

Loyola (Chi) Ramblers vs Nevada Wolf Pack

CBS (7:07 PM Eastern)

Nevada -2, O/U 143

Loyola in a nutshell:

Sister Jean is stealing all the headlines, and America loves itself a Cinderella, but the Ramblers have won their two NCAA Tournament games by a combined point total of three.

Clearly the best team in the Missouri Valley, Loyola — Chicago’s Team. Sorry, DePaul/Northwestern/Insert Windy City Team here — has struggled to score in the Big Dance. Not exactly a shocking revelation, as the Ramblers are a squad who relies heavily on defense to get by, holding opponents to 62.2 points per game on the season.

Don’t be shocked if Aundre Jackson, who averaged less than 20 minutes per game on the season, gets an increased role against Nevada on Thursday. While not perfect, the senior guard has shown to be productive in bunches when inserted into the lineup. His 3-point shooting looks solid, though he doesn’t take many (1.5 per). With more minutes can come increased attempts. He’s one of the few players capable of — relative to the roster — creating offense.

Nevada in a nutshell:

Fred Hoiberg had Transfer U at Iowa State. With Hoiball currently operating (poorly) at the NBA level in Chicago, Eric Musselman has taken a similar approach with the Wolf Pack.

The Martin brothers, Caleb and Cody, were once ho-hum North Carolina State talent. Having traded one form of Wolf Pack for another, with each players’ defense improving in the process, Nevada has shown a propensity for stifling defense when needed. While not exactly West Virginia or anything, as shown against the might Cincinnati Nuclear Meltdowns, Nevada has just enough to be considered too sweet.

I have Nevada in the Final Four in my lone bracket. #Humblebrag #Flexbrag #Hashtag

Prediction on all things Loyola-Nevada

Nevada is the better team by a measurable margin. To be fair, we could have said that about the first two teams Loyola met in the NCAA Tournament, but neither Miami or Tennessee were as regularly good as Musselman’s crew.

Not only will the Wolf Pack win, but that spread of only two points can’t be ignored. Think about it logically. In two prior games, Loyola won by a combined three points. Sure, the Ramblers might be Cinderella, yet the dancing slippers came out a Costco bin.

As for the O/U, Nevada scores A LOT of points. Loyola does not (71.9 on the season, 61.6 over the last five games). 143 (and in some places you can add a half point here) seems like a lot, even if the Wolf Pack attempt to push the tempo to disrupt Loyola’s defense. The Ramblers haven’t scored above 70 points since late February. Let’s go with the under.

Halftime Sponsored by Zero Humanoids

The Open Man (Right Now Eastern)

You -34, O/U 300 Words

Daniel Bryan has been medically cleared by the WWE to wrestle once again. While I’m with everyone else in being excited over seeing him in action, tickle me cynical, as the timing of this feels so weird. WrestleMania season is here, and all of a sudden Bryan is finally given the OK by WWE doctors to give it a go? Naturally, I’m worried for his health.

Bill Polian is a part of the new football league that’s starting a full year before the XFL. He’s the former legendary front-office person who currently uses his ESPN platform to claim Lamar Jackson, a dynamic and more accurate than Josh Allen QB prospect, should play wide receiver in the NFL. While the AAF already has a more structured system for success put in place than the XFL, I’m not exactly on Team Polian when it comes to anything regarding vision and creativity.

People are really excited about the latest comic movie trailer, Marvel’s Infinity War (or something). I’m not going to tell you what to like. Enjoying stuff is subjective. You do you. For me, few comic-based — mostly the superhero variety — movies and television shows have done anything for me. Outside of the TV shows Legion and The Punisher, I’ve enjoyed very few of these adaptions. Don’t get me wrong. I liked Civil War and Winter Solider. It’s just that I didn’t love them.

Speaking of the realm of creativity, have we run out of new and exciting projects? Hitting the theaters in the future we have movies based off stuff created in other genres. Comics turned movies, video games (Rampage) turned movies, reboots galore and so on. I don’t hate the idea of rebooting or adapting anything. It would just be a little more awesome if alongside those projects were actual creative works. And, no. Adapting a book isn’t new, either.

Random plug aside: I write (works-in-progress, I’m trying to get better at it) fiction. I like to think, while rooted in two genres, they are at least original pieces, even if not exactly great from a literary standpoint. Find that nonsense here.

Texas A&M Aggies vs Michigan Wolverins

TBS (7:37 PM Eastern)

Michigan -3, O/U 136

Texas A&M in a nutshell:

The Aggies had arguably the most talented roster in all of the SEC, save for Kentucky, but could never put together long stretches of winning. In turn, people loved to question effort and coaching. Nothing like a little narrative based tomfoolery to spark the fuels of discussion.

Robert Williams, an NBA-level player, came back for another season with Texas A&M. His counting-stats are roughly the same, which lends credence to the idea he hasn’t improved. I’d combat that idea with another; the Aggies are better from an overall standpoint, needing to rely on the big man for less. He can’t create offense, is limited, and all that jazz. Still, he’s averaging nearly a double-double per game.

A&M is one of the best rebounding teams in the entire nation. Considering how stout Michigan’s defense can be, the Aggies will likely need a lot of second-chance buckets to get to the Elite Eight.

Michigan in a nutshell:

A Wolverines team playing its best basketball come March? Tickle no one shocked and call zero humans Nancy. Well, except my neighbor Nancy, who I have affectionately — and accidentally — referred to as Denise for the last eight years. Big ups to other neighbor, Adam, for finally correcting me last month.

Moritz Wagner is yet another example of a player under John Beilein who has improved dramatically since stepping foot on campus. Wagner went from a 6-foot-11(ish) developmental project to one of the more efficient players in the Big Ten this season, shooting 53 percent from the floor and a mind-boggling 40 percent from three.

This is somewhat redundant, but it’s important. While A&M is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, Michigan is one of the worst, only snagging 33.5 per game. The Wolverines will need their usual great defense to do its thing against the Aggies, but if their bigs can’t box-out and overachieve on the glass, it might be for not.

Prediction on all things A&M-Michigan

As you can tell, I’m worried about the rebounding discrepancy heading into this one.

There’s no data to actually back this up other than the famed eyeball test, which has its obvious flaws, but I believe the Aggies have the better overall talent despite Michigan being the favorite in this game. Don’t eat the three. Take it, and take the Aggies.

Texas A&M’s offense has been cooking lately. Michigan has been, because college basketball law, great defensively. It puts the O/U situation in a weird predicament, because if you’re betting on the Aggies, you almost have to bet on the over. So, do that.