NCAA Tournament: From 64 to 16
March 21, 2017 by Jean Neuberger • Print Story •
We're down to the Sweet 16, but what a weekend it was.
The defending champions went down in flames. Duke found itself exiting sooner than later. Lots of favorites managed to squeak by in the waning moments. While the first two days lacked drama, the last two provided the kind of excitement we've come to expect in March.
So what have the last four days taught us?
For starters, the ACC was overrated. Big time.
The conference sent nine teams to the tournament and only one survives the weekend ... barely. With a 7-8 record, only North Carolina is left to carry the ACC banner this year. Virginia got throttled by Florida. Louisville was no match for Michigan. Duke ran into a buzz saw, falling to South Carolina, who was blessed with a very short trip from Columbia to Greenville. As for the Tar Heels, they managed to slip past Arkansas with solid defense in the last three minutes. However, had a charge/travel been called on a play that ended in a Kennedy Meeks tip with under a minute to go, the chances would certainly have been there for the ACC to have been shut out of the second weekend.
This isn't the demise of the ACC. The conference cares way too much about basketball to ever slip too far down. However, this was not their year, as the other P5 conferences stepped up.
The initial seeding was fairly good, given the few upsets that happened in the First Round of play. Naturally, most people thought Wichita State was well underrated and the Shockers proved them right. Wichita should've been a seven seed, which means they still would've fallen to Kentucky. However, it wasn't right for Dayton to play a 10 seed that tough. It's time the committee gives the Shockers the same treatment that they've done for Gonzaga. Conferences aside, Wichita State has proven they are consistently a dangerous team.
The most impressive teams? I'd say it's a tie between Kansas and Xavier. Kansas has looked the part of a one seed and their dismantling of Michigan State seemed to announce that the Jayhawks have found their groove. As for Xavier, it wasn't too much of a surprise that they took down Maryland in the first round. However, they completely destroyed Florida State 91-66 in the most impressive performance of the whole tournament. Xavier was underrated as well; the Musketeers making it to Glendale is certainly within reason.
The best dark horse? For now, it's fourth-seeded Butler. The Bulldogs have been steady and solid in winning their first two games. Drawing North Carolina won't be easy, especially since the Tar Heels have already faced a scare. Facing either UCLA or Kentucky if they win makes it about as daunting a task as they get. Butler is a team that doesn't back down from any opponent and they always seem to peak in late March. I'd keep an eye on what the Bulldogs could do down in Memphis.
This weekend should deliver some intense, tight games all around. Unpredictable? Without question. But there's no doubt we'll learn more about this season come next week.