College Basketball: Sweet Sixteen Has Mixture of Excitement & Old School
Who out there had already taken a Bic to their brackets by the time that Friday night ended? What about by the time the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament had wrapped up on Sunday evening? One thing is for sure in this year’s March Madness is that there has been a bit of excitement mixed in with the “old school” teams that you always expect to see come this time in the college basketball season.
Beginning on Thursday, the NCAA Tournament will weed out the final sixteen contenders down to just four, who will compete in the Jerry Dome in Texas for the next National Championship. It promises to be a great weekend of basketball, so let’s take a look at the logical suspects for this weekend’s winners.
The #1 overall seed in the tournament, Florida, had its hands full with a pesky Albany team in the first round, but they made it through to the Sweet Sixteen as expected. What wasn’t expected was the run by #4 UCLA and first-year coach Steve Alford to meet them there. The real excitement, however, was in the bottom half of the bracket. #11 Dayton’s double dip of beating Ohio State and Syracuse makes them another unlikely candidate in the Sweet Sixteen and #10 Stanford has been almost as impressive, knocking off New Mexico and Kansas in joining the party in Memphis.
The three teams arranged against Florida shouldn’t slow down their trek to Arlington in April, though. Thus, put Florida in the Final Four.
This is one of two brackets that almost went chalk last weekend. #1 Virginia had a relatively easy time in making the Sweet Sixteen, but waiting for them in New York is #4 Michigan State, which will be one of the exciting battles on Friday. #7 Connecticut stunned the #2 seed in the bracket, Villanova, and #3 Iowa State, even though they lost star forward Georges Niang to a broken foot after beating North Carolina Central, won one of the odder ending games over #g North Carolina on Sunday.
This is where I believe that Virginia’s season is going to end. The Spartans have gotten healthy at the right time and will more than likely face Iowa State going to the Elite Eight. I do see Michigan State booking the trip to Arlington for next weekend at the conclusion of that game.
This was the other bracket that nearly went chalk. #1 Arizona was dominating in its wins over Weber State and Gonzaga, while #4 San Diego State slipped by New Mexico State and topped North Dakota State easily. #6 Baylor was the surprise, ending Doug McDermott’s college career at Creighton and #2 Wisconsin making fairly easy work of their opponents on the way to the Sweet Sixteen.
Both of these games are intriguing matchups in Anaheim (Arizona/SDSU and Baylor/Wisconsin), but I see the steady Badgers, led by head coach Bo Ryan, making the slight upset over Arizona to move onto a chance at the National Championship for Wisconsin.
Chaos reigned supreme in the Midwest, even more so than in the South. #8 Kentucky upended the #1 seed in the region, Wichita State, to set up an intrastate matchup with #4 Louisville. #11 Tennessee came from the “First Four” play-in game (that path made easier by #14 Mercer’s upset over #3 Duke) and #2 Michigan had little opposition from their opponents (Wofford and Texas) in gaining their spot in the Sweet Sixteen.
Any of these four teams could be conceivably penciled into the fourth slot in the Final Four from the regional final in Indianapolis, but I see the defending champion Louisville being the most likely candidate to make it out.
At the conclusion of this weekend, this is what we’re predicting the Final Four will look like:
#1 Florida vs. #4 Michigan State
#2 Wisconsin vs. #4 Louisville
We’ll see on Sunday who the final contenders will be!
Last Weekend: The good news is that my Final Four is still intact (what, you thought I stopped at the Sweet Sixteen? I had to get my bracket in for Warren Buffett’s Billion Dollar Challenge, too!). The bad news is that, of the Sweet Sixteen teams, I went 9-7, not very impressive in the overall scheme of things.
Season: 31-23-1 and, with a decent run over the remainder of March Madness, will stay over the .500 mark; not many people can say that over the season-long haul.
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