Obviously that’s an exaggeration. Other seeds besides the 16’s have been obliterated from the NCAA Tournament field after the first weekend. Hell, there’s not one #5 seed remaining. It just feels like we’re only missing a #16 because we still have a #12 Oregon, #13 LaSalle, and #15 Florida Gulf Coast still hanging around the bracket.
As with any inexact science, I was hit or miss with some of my pre-tournament predictions last week. However, I’ll give it another crack now that the field has been whittled down a bit. To try and maintain some semblance of sanity, we’ll start with the most orderly region, and work our way to insanity. So here we go with a breakdown of the Sweet 16, starting in the East region.
The only region to stay true to form in the Sweet 16. Not that it didn’t come awful close to blowing up. Indiana, Miami, and Marquette each escaped by the skin of their teeth. I’m sticking to my guns in the East. I still think the Syracuse Orange make it to the Final Four.
Although I’m a firm believer that many championship runs are started with narrow victories, I don’t think it’ll hold true for the Hoosiers. The Syracuse zone defense, along with their length and athleticism will be bothersome for Indiana. Plus Jim Boeheim has the big bodies to throw at Cody Zeller all day.
I didn’t think Marquette would make it past day one, so I certainly don’t think they’ll get past the Hurricanes. It’ll be another battle, but Shane Larkin is playing so well, I think he’ll lead the Hurricanes into the Elite Eight. But two straight physical matchups with Big East foes, and a short prep time for the ‘Cuse zone spells the end of Miami by the end of next weekend.
The #1 Louisville, #2 Duke, and #3 Michigan State survived, so that makes for a pretty normal region. #12 Oregon joins them; but as I said before the tournament, that seed didn’t make a lot of sense for the PAC 12 Tournament champions.
The Ducks are the fun story in this part of the bracket after knocking off the #5 seed Oklahoma State and #4 St. Louis; a team that was supposed to threaten the likes of Louisville and make a run to the Final Four. Well, the fun ends for Oregon on Friday. The Cardinals have ramped up an already nasty defense to a new level. Oregon isn’t going to enjoy it.
Coach K and Coach Izzo is a matchup of epic proportions. Like Louisville, the Spartans have put a couple of beat downs on their competition. Quietly Duke has gone about their business, cruising to two easy victories. I’m just not sure how the Blue Devils are going to handle the frontcourt of Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix.
Like they did in 2009 the overall #1 seed Louisville Cardinals will face Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans, on one day’s rest. The game will be held in Indianapolis once again. The outcome will not be the same. The Cardinals will take this one, and move on to the third weekend.
The #15 seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have become the headliner, despite the presence of some heavy hitters. #1 Kansas looked asleep in the first half against #8 North Carolina, but woke up in time to stomp the Tar Heels in the second half.
I had my doubts about #4 Michigan coming into the dance, but they’ve more than proved me wrong. The Wolverines throttled #5 VCU; and are the one team that is making me question my original Final Four projection. I still think the Jayhawks best them. Better coach, better defensive team, and plenty of talent to go toe to toe with Michigan.
One would assume at this point that the #3 Florida Gators should smoke FGCU. Then again, the Eagles were supposed to get smoked in the round of 64. I won’t claim to know a ton about this club. But when I watched them play this past weekend, I didn’t see a team skating by on luck. I saw a team that was outplaying what was supposed to be better competition. I’ve got to think the Gators will prevail, but I sure hope FGCU makes it fun.
I still have a chance to salvage three of my original Final Four picks. The Jayhawks won’t disappoint. The Gators are making a habit of exiting in the Elite Eight. They’ll do it again this year. Kansas takes them down, and marches on to Atlanta.
This is the region of insanity. The #13 LaSalle Explorers are trying to replicate the play-in game magic that VCU showed a couple of seasons ago. It’s not a surprise to me, but #9 Wichita State shocked #1 Gonzaga, ousting the first top seed. And the west did have what looked to be the major upset of the tournament when #14 Harvard upset #3 New Mexico. That lasted just until some team named FloridaGulfCoast arrived on the scene.
The nice thing about the LaSalle and Wichita State matchup is that it guarantees a mid-major makes the Elite Eight. On the other hand, one of them will have to go. I think it’ll be LaSalle. I’ll go with the Shockers to move on and face the winner of Ohio State/Arizona.
The Buckeyes/Wildcats is an intriguing matchup. Arizona was a popular pick to go out early. The talent is certainly there, but running into Aaron Craft without a true point guard is an issue. Craft will give the Wildcat guards fits. Ohio State will send the Wildcats packing.
The West region will be decided by a brawl. Two tough defensive teams, that struggle to score at times. Malcolm Armstead versus Aaron Craft will be an unbelievable duel. In the one region where I lost my Final Four pick, I think Ohio State gets it done. Too much experience and the better floor general move on to the Final Four.
Obviously, it’s never going to be this simple. Although it looks like the bracket is about to normalize with higher seeds after this weekend, there’s bound to be more insanity. I can’t wait until Thursday night for the Madness to continue!