The first three rounds of the NCAA March Madness tournament are over – but not before sending us on even more of a rollercoaster ride than we had expected.
The rollercoaster ride is far from over.
The field of 68 has been narrowed down to 16 and nobody could have possibly predicted who’s left. Overconfident teams have been sent home packing while mid-major schools and underdog teams have proved, once again, that Cinderella stories are standard when it comes to college basketball in March.
It’s become typical over the years for games to come down to the wire and for shocking upsets to occur – hence the name March Madness – but this year has almost been bizarrely shocking. The games have almost been too close.
After the first two days of the tournament (play-in games and round of 64) there were six games decided by one point.
• No. 11 Dayton over No. 11 Boise St. 56-55 (play-in game)
• No. 14 UAB over No. 3 Iowa St. 60-59
• No. 14 Georgia St. over No. 3 Baylor 57-56
• No. 11 UCLA over No. 6 SMU 60-59
• No. 8 Cincinnati over No. 9 Purdue 66-65
• No. 8 NC St. over No. 9 LSU 66-65
That’s not even mentioning No. 3 Notre Dame barely sneaking by No. 14 Northeastern or No. 4 UNC almost falling to No. 13 Harvard.
This all happened in the first two days.
If you were to combine the 2013 and 2014 tournaments from the first round to the final four, you would only find five total games decided by one point.
Like I said, almost too close.
The second day of the round of 64
slowed down a bit, only featuring one true upset when No. 11 Dayton dominated No. 6 Providence 66-53.
Once the round of 32 started, the madness began again.
On Saturday, NC St. became the first giant killer of the tournament this year, knocking off No. 1 seed Villanova 71-68, leaving Wildcats fans speechless.
On Sunday, Tom Izzo’s No. 7 Michigan St. squad knocked of No. 2 UVA 60-54 in a gritty battle of physical defenses.
Just a few hours later, the Wichita St. Shockers shocked the nation as they took down in-state foe Kansas. Another seventh seed vs. second seed upset.
And now here we are. Odds are your bracket – along with mine and just about everybody else’s – is either crumpled up in the trash or hidden far, far away where nobody can ever see it.
But there’s still a lot of tournament left to be played, there’s still a lot of upsets waiting to occur, and there’s still a chance that maybe your bracket can be salvaged… somewhat.
My sweet sixteen predictions:
• No. 7 Wichita St. vs. No. 3 Notre Dame- The Shockers pulled off the upset against Kansas and I have confidence in them to do it one more time. The Fighting Irish have struggled at times in this tournament and this matchup just screams “upset”. They are much stronger defensively and have had no problem getting the ball in the basket so far this tourney.
• No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Wisconsin- Wisconsin will bounce back after struggling against Oregon. The trio of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes is simply too good for Roy Williams and the Tar Heels.
• No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 2 Arizona- Arizona is the much better team here and they’ll prove it. They’re better on both sides of the ball and are more athletic. Xavier goes home.
• No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 2 Gonzaga- It’s been a nice run for UCLA, but I don’t see them knocking off the Zags and their high-powered offense.
• No. 5 Utah vs. No. 2 Duke- The Blue Devils have outscored their first two opponents by a total of 153-105. A team with Jahlil Okafor and Quinn Cook on the floor and Coach K on the sidelines won’t fall to Utah, no matter how good their defense is.
• No. 7 Michigan St. vs. No. 3 Oklahoma- This game could go either way, but it’s too hard to bet against Coach Izzo in March. If Travis Trice can get hot like he did against UVA and Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson can stay out of foul trouble, expect the Spartans to move on to the Elite Eight.
• No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Kentucky- Kentucky is beatable, but the Mountaineers aren’t the team that will be able to do it. No surprise here, the Wildcats advance to the Elite Eight.
• No. 8 NC St. vs. No. 4 Louisville- Louisville fell to the Wolfpack back in February by nine points. If NC St. can continue the rebounding dominance that they displayed against Villanova, they’ll make it to the Elite Eight.
The 16 remaining teams get a two-day break from the madness before returning to the court on Thursday, as every team will be looking to punch their ticket to Indianapolis for the Final Four.