After a rousing weekend of college basketball there seems to be only one thing to do… it’s time for 16 thoughts about the Sweet 16:
The Midwest Region – Mostly predictable with Phil Knight showing up for the ball with an unexpected dancer.
Louisville – They appear to be what everyone thought they were…The #1 overall seed. They dispatched both of their opponents with ease on the way to the Sweet 16. What lies ahead will be interesting…
Oregon – They are one of those cases of “just get in the tournament and then see what happens” and boy did they get hot at the right time. The way they rolled over both Oklahoma State and St. Louis you would be hard pressed to find someone who could look at their performances and guess they were a #12 seed. Now, can they keep that up against top rated Louisville? That’s the question (not holding my breath).
Michigan State – The more telling game to me was the Memphis game where their defense was suffocating. How well they can replicate that side of the ball will be the critical element against Duke.
Duke – They seemed to sleepwalk through the first round, but then they made sure not to give Creighton any hope down the stretch. It wasn’t a particularly pretty game, but it was very effective. That being said, they definitely need to shoot better against Michigan State if they are going to win.
The West Region – Correction…The Wild Wild West Region
(Note: The remaining schools in this region are the #2, #6, #9, & #13 seeds)
Wichita State – The Shockers from Kansas lived up to their name. They booted the higher seeded Pitt Panthers with great ease and then sent brackets straight for the toilet with their unlikely upset of #1 seed Gonzaga. The way they played however wasn’t a fluke and even if they played a #5 or #4 next round it wouldn’t be a shock to see them win. Of course the fact that they are a #9 and will be wearing the home colors of being the higher seed… that’s a shock!
La Salle – I consider these guys probably the second biggest surprise of the tournament. They won a 2 point game in what amounted to a virtual home game for #4 Kansas State in Kansas City and then faced one of the hottest teams in the tournament in Ole Miss. The Rebels had won the SEC tournament and then upset Wisconsin and were looking like a serious threat to this region. At least until La Salle took them to the wire to the tune of another 2 point finish. I’m pretty sure that Wichita State vs. La Salle wouldn’t have been thought of as must-see TV before this past weekend, but based on how they are playing, it certainly qualifies now!
Arizona – The Wildcats had one of the easier roads to the Sweet 16 once Harvard shocked New Mexico. So the tournament really begins for them now as they face the #2 seeded Buckeyes. The winner of this game will be the favorite to come out of the West.
Ohio State – CRAFT! OSU is the only team expected to be in the Sweet 16 in the west that made it, and that was by the skin of their teeth. Possibly the most clutch shot of the tournament so far, Aaron Craft’s 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left propelled the Buckeyes to the next round and a matchup with Arizona. They definitely can’t complain that their chances of coming out of this region now.
The East Region – Boooooring
This is the only region where all of the top 4 seeds advanced. Hence, I don’t need to give you too much information…you already knew it would happen!
Syracuse – The Orange seem likely to be a tough out for anyone at this point. It will be interesting to see how they finish their final Big East season.
Marquette – Their matchup with Butler was one of the best games of the Round of 32. It was truly a nail-biter that can help build the character needed to make a deep run.
Miami – This team has proven that it can win games that are fast-paced or deliberate and they definitely don’t fear the close games. This should serve them well, but they will have a tough road to get out of the East and to Atlanta.
The South Region – Cinderella Plays Here
Kansas – The Jayhawks had their fans NERVOUS in the first round against Western Kentucky, but they bounced back with the kind of performance you would expect against the Roy Williams coached Tar Heels. Even with their best player shooting poorly, the kids from Lawrence brought the thunder as they advanced to the next round. That being said, they have possibly the hardest road to the Final Four of any top teams (left).
Michigan – If their big 3 guards play like they did in the VCU game, I don’t know how anyone can beat them. That being said, it’s pretty hard to live and die by your guards and that’s how the Wolverines operate. It will be interesting to see how long they can hold up.
Florida – They have the opportunity to make the Elite 8 without facing a single-digit seed. I am confident that Billy Donovan will not complain about that road. The only question will be if Cinderella can cast a spell over the Gators and have them overconfident and thus leave them open for the upset.
Florida Gulf Coast – The ultimate Cinderella. No #15 seed has EVER made the sweet 16. The school has only existed since the year after I graduated from high school. The basketball team has only played at the Division I level since last year. And in their first tournament appearance they have done what has never been done before. Not only that, they won both games by double-digits and are the loosest team in the entire tournament. It seems unlikely that the pressure will get to them since they are playing with house money, and with a victory over Miami earlier this season as well, they clearly seem to be unfazed by the big boys from their state. I expect the crowd to be on their side as only March Madness crowds can be and it should be entertaining. And if they make the Final Four, I am pretty sure that the Swamette will be about the only person outside of family members of the team that will have this region winner correct. (Side Note: if Ohio State faces FGCU in the championship game, I fully expect a call from ESPN about the Swamette’s bracket)
If I had to make a pick, I would say that based on this Sweet 16, my best guess at a Final Four would be Louisville, Florida, Ohio State, & Miami.
Now sit back, relax, catch your breath, and get ready for another fun-filled weekend of college basketball!! And GO FGCU Eagles!