Big Dance Round Up and Look Ahead

Staff Writer

Last week we gave you a preview of the tournament and some predictions of teams that we felt could make a run to the Final 4. Well, those predictions were way off and the bracket this writer submitted to his friends and a couple websites sits in about 10 millionth place. All the wise guys were talking about Iowa State and Virginia. Those teams won a combined 1 game. Now we are going to go region by region to see what happened and what we can look forward to seeing next weekend.

Midwest Region

The Midwest region saw Kentucky impose its will against lesser competition as expected. They blew out Hampton from the jump in the first round. Kentucky went on to face a Cincinnati team that outlasted Purdue with a heroic last second come back. Cincinnati actually kept it close with Kentucky for a while, but ultimately the Wildcats imposed their will and went on a run to put the game out of reach.

Maryland had a close call against Valparaiso in the first round. Valpo came up just short and lost 65-62. West Virginia also got all they could handle from a scrappy fast paced Buffalo team. West Virginia was able to handle the pace of play and came away with the victory 68-62. This set up a good matchup between the Maryland and close by West Virginia. It was a close battle throughout, but Maryland had trouble with West Virginia’s full court press defense. Maryland also lost star player Melo Trimble in the second half due to an inadvertent kick to the head. West Virginia came away with the win 69-59 to move on to the sweet 16.

The bottom half of the bracket saw Butler dispatch Texas in round 1 56-48 behind a solid defensive effort on Texas’ large front line. Notre Dame was taken to the wire against Northeastern, but Northeastern couldn’t get a shot off in the closing seconds before losing 69-65. This set up a showdown for the state of Indiana. It was a back and forth game between Butler and Notre Dame. Ultimately, Notre Dame’s strong guard play was too much for Butler. Notre Dame advanced to the round of 16 with a 67-64 win.

Wichita State got all it could handle from a scrappy Indiana team, but came away victorious 81-76 in round 1. Kansas blew out New Mexico State 75-56 as expected in the 2 vs 15 matchup. This set up a battle for the state of Kansas. Wichita State and Kansas haven’t played each other since 1993. A lot of people would say that Kansas has been avoiding the upstart Shockers of Wichita. If you think about it, they have everything to lose and not much to gain playing against the smaller school in state. The tournament committee forced them to play and the Shockers blew the top off of the Jayhawks. Wichita State employed crisp passing and timely shooting to a 78-65 victory.

So the Midwest region will now meet in Cleveland for the right to go to the Final 4. At the top of the bracket we will have Kentucky squaring off against West Virginia. The most exciting part of this game is the match up of 2 legendary coaches. West Virginia’s Bob Huggins is actually 8-2 all-time against John Calipari. Calipari comes equipped with one of the most talented teams we have seen in quite some time. The undefeated Wildcats should be too much for West Virginia. Kentucky features three 7 footers and will eventually wear down the fast paced Mountaineers. Frankly, the Wildcats should beat whoever they face from the winner of Wichita State v. Notre Dame as well.

In the lower part of the bracket Wichita State will meet Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the higher seed and played a tougher schedule this year, but the Shockers have only lost 4 times this year. Wichita State is playing great right now and should be able to slip by Notre Dame. This is all for the right to lose to Kentucky the next weekend.

West Region

Top seeded Wisconsin cruised through the first 2 rounds taking down Coastal Carolina and Oregon in the process. At the same time, North Carolina just narrowly beat a Harvard team looking for their first tournament victory. Harvard actually had a chance to win the game at the end before fumbling the ball in their last possession and falling 67-65. Arkansas saw a similarly close game against Wofford, but held them off by the score of 56-53. Arkansas and North Carolina met Saturday and played a fast paced game that really favored North Carolina’s style of play. North Carolina came away with the 87-78 win.

On the bottom half of the bracket, Xavier easily dispelled Ole Miss 76-57 in round 1. We also saw one of the most thrilling upsets of Day 1 between Georgia State and Baylor. Baylor got their hearts broken by 14th seeded Georgia State when RJ Hunter hit a 35 foot last second 3 pointer to win. Georgia State is coached by RJ Hunter’s father, Ron who ruptured his Achilles tendon celebrating Georgia State’s conference tournament victory. This time we saw Ron fall off his office chair on the sideline as the heroic shot went down. After all the fun, the clock struck midnight against Xavier. The Musketeers were too much for upstart Georgia State as they won 75-67.

Arizona made quick work of Texas Southern in the first round winning 95-72. VCU and Ohio State gave each other all they could handle in an overtime thriller. D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State was too much for the havoc defense of VCU and pulled Ohio State ahead for a 75-72 overtime victory. Arizona met Ohio State for the right to go to the sweet 16. Arizona was far too strong against a tired Ohio State team. The 73-58 victory sets up a matchup between Arizona and Xavier. It will be fun to watch Arizona coach Sean Miller coach against his old team for the first time.

After the first week of the tournament Wisconsin and Arizona look like the 2 of the best teams in the tournament. It is a shame they will have to meet in the regional final. Yes, I am picking both of them to win their sweet 16 matchups. It will be a rematch of last years’ regional final when Wisconsin beat Arizona on a last second 3 pointer. This game will be a coin flip much like last years, however we think Arizona will come out on top this year.

East Region

The East region has been wild one thus far. Top seeded Villanova dominated their opening round opponent Lafayette 93-52. North Carolina State met up with LSU in the 8-9 seed game. This one was back and forth throughout with NC State squeaking out the 66-65 victory. NC State’s Beejay Anya came up with the last second hook shot for the victory. North Carolina State kept the good times rolling against Villanova. Villanova’s 3 point shooting has been a strength all year, but only shot 9-28 against NC State. This allowed North Carolina State to take down top seeded Villanova 71-68.

Louisville got all it could handle from UC Irvine in round 1. Irvine’s 7’6” Mamadou Ndiaye gave them fits all game. They even held the lead for a good portion of the game. However, Irvine could not execute on their last possession and didn’t get a shot off as they fell 57-55. Northern Iowa cruised by Wyoming in round 1 71-54. Louisville’s size was too much for Northern Iowa in round 2 as they won 66-53.

The bottom half of the bracket saw a couple upsets as well. Dayton, fresh off last year’s run to the Elite 8 met 6th seeded Providence in a pseudo home game for the Flyers. Dayton met Providence in Columbus, Ohio a mere 60 miles from the Dayton campus. They had the home crowd and they definitively beat Providence 66-53. This set up a round of 32 match-up against the 3 seed Oklahoma. Oklahoma beat Albany easily 69-60 in round 1. It was an exciting game as Oklahoma came out hitting 3 pointers at an alarming rate. They lead by as much as 12 in the first half. Dayton would make a run of their own as they took a 9 point advantage in the second half. However, they went 9 minutes without a field goal and Oklahoma asserted control winning 72-66.

Virginia and Michigan State both took down Georgia and Belmont respectively, to set up the 2 vs 7 match up. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is no stranger to playing late and March and didn’t flinch against a defensively suffocating Virginia team. Travis Trice came out firing on all cylinders for the Spartans, he ended the game with 23 points. Virginia didn’t have an answer for him as they lost 60-54. Tom Izzo is now 13-1 all time in the round of 32. He has also brought Michigan State to the sweet 16 13 of the last 18 years.

Next week we will have Louisville taking on NC State. Louisville has been battle tested all year, but NC State has too. In fact, NC State beat Louisville on the road earlier this year 74-65. Look for Louisville to have a revenge game and advance to the elite 8. Michigan State should be able to take down Oklahoma to set up a Rick Pitino- Tom Izzo death match to go to the Final 4. We think Michigan State will be that team that ends up in the Final 4 from the East Region.

South Region

The top half of the South bracket saw all the higher seeds advance in round one. This set up Duke with a second round match up against San Diego State. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor was too much for San Diego State as he had 24 points on 12-16 shooting in the 68-49 Duke victory. Utah and Georgetown met in the 5-4 second round match up. Utah assumed control and sprinted to the 75-64 victory.

The bottom half of the bracket was upset city. UCLA, the 11 seed, beat SMU on a controversial goaltending in the closing seconds. UCLA’s Bryce Alford put up a 3 pointer with seconds remaining. The shot appeared to be well off course; however an SMU defender touched the ball on its downward trajectory, prompting the refs to call goaltending. UCLA won 60-59 and it was quite heartbreaking to see a team lose that way. UAB were also giant slayers as they beat 3 seed Iowa State 60-59 as well. The big difference for UAB was their offensive rebounding. This set up the unconventional 11-14 match up in the second round. UCLA quickly asserted their will as they pulled out the 92-75 victory to go to the sweet 16. Gonzaga cruised through both their games against North Dakota State and Iowa. Gonzaga looked great; they scored from the inside, had deadly 3 point accuracy and really got up and down the floor.

We have the Gonzaga and Duke meeting in the Elite 8. No offenses to UCLA or Utah, but these 2 teams are playing their best basketball right now. Gonzaga and Duke will be an extremely fun game as they both matchup extremely well against each other. Both teams have skilled big men with soft touches. Both teams have competent ball handlers that limit turnovers. Both teams can shoot the 3. Both teams will have trouble stopping each other’s offenses. It could come down to the last minute and we believe Duke will be able to get back to the Final 4.

To sum it up, we were wrong about everything last week and there is a decent chance we will be wrong again. Don’t get caught up in your work tournament contest and just enjoy the madness! Have a great week!