Many, oh so many manly tears were shed over the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. Okay, maybe I wasn’t the one shedding them but there were tears. Tears from seniors who saw their basketball careers come to an end, tears of joy from teams upsetting the higher seeds and, lest we forget, all the people who lost their brackets on opening weekend.
Which, I’m quite sure, is a majority of people. Yes, I am included in this. During my column last week when I hyped up Arizona is a great team and DeAndre Ayton could carry them to a title game, well, joke’s on me.
Looking at my ESPN bracket, I only have two teams left in the Final Four, Michigan and Villanova. I felt froggy in this bracket and had Penn upsetting Kansas in a 16 vs. 1 matchup, I just picked the wrong two teams in this case. Who really saw that one coming with the UMBC upset of Virginia? I didn’t think that Virginia would last long in the tournament, in my office bracket I had them out in the second round against Kansas State, but getting dominated by a 16 seed?
The hype train picked up calling it one of the biggest upsets ever, which is was, but not the biggest. It was a great second half by UMBC just taking it to Virginia with about every shot falling in the process. The upset was a perfect storm of a team not having enough offense while relying on defense to win games and the 16 seed hitting everything.
Buffalo did the same thing to Arizona. Flat out dominated a more talented team. This was an upset happy first two rounds this season with the South region’s top four seeds all failing to make the Sweet 16. I think I read that’s the first time in tournament history this has happened since they began the seeding. Rather impressive and speaks to the parity of college basketball this year.
If anyone felt comfortable about any of the no. 1 seeds this year, they were lying to themselves. Even Villanova had a couple of rough games this season. The 2 seeds have had issues this seasons themselves as two of them were knocked out in the second round. North Carolina was a tough read all year and Cincinnati didn’t hang on to their lead. Purdue did well in their second round game despite the loss of their center to a broken elbow and Duke, well, I’d have to put my money on them right now.
They are playing outstanding basketball with two blowout wins. However, they are playing an ACC foe in the Sweet 16 in Syracuse who has suffocated opponents in this tournament with that zone defense. The Orange put Michigan State in a strangle hold in their second round game on Sunday and refused to let go.
However, one upset road to the Sweet 16 I had on ESPN at least was Loyola-Chicago making it that far. Kentucky is always a wildcard when it comes to the tournament given their consistent crop of ingoing and outgoing freshmen, so it’s not super surprising to see them in the Sweet 16, and have an easy-ish path to the Elite Eight. So, with what’s left in the field, time to revise my picks.
In the South region, Kentucky and Nevada will move on to the Elite Eight with Kentucky going on to the Final Four. Of course, Loyola-Chicago may be able to keep hitting game winners and advance, but at some point that shot won’t fall.
The West region comes down to probably Gonzaga and Michigan, although Florida State just upended a 1 seed. Texas A&M may have some lightning in a bottle after their thrashing of North Carolina, but Michigan is playing on a different level. I had them moving on in this bracket before everything went wayward so I still like the Wolverines to the Final Four.
The East region is much the same. This was the only region I had the top two seeds in the Elite Eight and that may still happen. However, Purdue has more work to do thanks to that injury to their starting center. Texas Tech is starting to peak again so they could give the Boilermakers a run. Villanova has time to prep for that West Virginia press so I think they’ll do alright. Sticking with Villanova to make it to the Final Four.
The Midwest region, well, I had Michigan State winning it so that was a rather silly move in hindsight now. I still don’t trust Kansas to to advance. Clemson could pull the upset and move on to the Elite Eight. I think this region is now Duke’s to lose. They have looked the most impressive out of any of the teams in the tournament this year. They also should be able to adjust to the Syracuse zone. Duke gets past Clemson in the Elite Eight to move to the Final Four.
Michigan will top Kentucky in one of the Final Four contests to move on to the National Title. Then, on the other side, Duke advances on to face the Wolverines. With the way the Blue Devils have looked and have come together, at this point, this is their tournament to lose. I dislike Duke, but I think they’ll come out as National Champions.
I’ve probably given them the kiss of death now. So any hate mail for ending Duke’s run can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org