NCAA March Madness: First Weekend Review
What is arguably the best weekend in sports has come and passed. And it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The NCAA tournament “2nd and 3rd” Rounds are considered the best weekend by sports because it offers a total of 48 win-or-go-home games. There are cinderella stories, bracket busters, buzzer beaters, and match-up nightmares every year.
This year, there were 9 games decided by 3 points or less (what would we could call one shot games), 4 OT games (three on the same night), and 13 upsets (by seeding, not necessarily by Vegas odds).
But there weren’t any “signature” moments. No buzzer beater winners. There were buzzer beater attempts, but all misses. Perhaps the most signature moments were: NC State free-throwing the game away, SFA’s 4 point shot to go into OT, and the classic UK-Wichita State game. But nothing to be added to the NCAA highlight reel for years and years to come. I would also add Duke losing to Mercer in the first round on the list, but that seems to happen every other year these days.
The UK-Wichita State game could go down as the best game from this NCAA tournament. Both teams were firing on all cylinders. No one wanted to lose. UK would hit a three, then Wichita State would hit a three. Both teams hit bank-shot threes (I don’t think either were called). We will see if UK can continue playing at that level for a few rounds.
As great as some of these games were, and as many “upsets” that happened, the sweet sixteen features only three teams seeded higher than 8. There are three 1 seeds, two 2 seeds, one 3 seed, and all four 4 seeds. However, the Elite 8 will have at least one team with a double digit seed (winner of Stanford/Dayton).
Next Weekend Predictions
South – Florida is going to have a tough test against UCLA, but I expect Florida to pull away at the end of the 2nd half. I believe Dayton will squeak past Stanford. Dayton has an entire team of capable players, while Stanford didn’t look very deep on offense. In the Elite 8, Florida beats Dayton in a very close game. Florida is very good at eliminating what the other teams want to do offensively, but the multiple directions Dayton can attack from will cause Florida’s defense some fits. Florida has the senior leadership to find a way to win in the end. Florida wins, 56-52.
West – Honestly, I have not seen Arizona or San Diego St more than a few minutes this tournament. I have Arizona winning and do not trust San Diego St. after last year’s early exit. Arizona should win because they are the more complete team. UPSET ALERT. Baylor over Wisconsin. Baylor has been playing phenomenally for a few weeks, and beat Creighton BY THIRTY POINTS! Baylor’s weapons are too much for Wisconsin to handle. If Baylor continues to play this well, look for them to upset Arizona as well. I have Arizona winning an absolute classic of an Elite 8 game, 77-76, in perhaps the first buzzer beater win of the tournament.
Midwest – It is always exciting when UK and UL get matched up together. Kentucky has already beat Louisville once this year, but that was back before conference play. Since then, Louisville has stepped up its game, while Kentucky backslid into the conference tournament. UK seemed to gain some mojo in the conference tournament, but Louisville won it’s conference tournament, so momentum should be equal. UK played one of its best games of the season against Wichita State and still only won by two points (and could have lost at the buzzer). Look for UK to show up once again and win a low scoring defensive game, 60-55.
Let me be clear about my feelings on Michigan. I had Texas beating Michigan. Michigan hit FOURTEEN threes against Texas and ended up winning by 14. Tennessee is gritty and averaged 84.5 points in the 2nd and 3rd round game. I will once again pick against Michigan as Tennessee out-muscles Michigan.
This sets up for a Tennessee-Kentucky rivalry game in the Elite 8. Also an 8-11 match-up, which has to be pretty rare. I do not know the statistics on the basketball history between the two schools, but I’d like to believe UK has a pretty large advantage. UK fans also travel better than any other fan-base in college basketball. Look for UK to win this game comfortably in the 2nd half. 72-60.
East – Virginia and Michigan State has the makings of a historic Sweet 16 match up. Everybody and the POTUS has Michigan State in the Final Four. I picked Virginia to win, but that was win the ACC looked a lot better. This game is going to go down to the wire, but I am changing my pick to Michigan State. Tom Izzo finds a way to win again.
Iowa State managed to squeak one past UNC without Niang, but will they be able to do the same again UConn? The answer is yes. Iowa State wins again, but loses to a (now due to injury) more well-rounded Michigan State team. Spartans win 77-70.
Final Four: Florida v. Michigan State and Arizona vs. Kentucky in a rematch of the 1997 national championship game.