What more can you ask for in the NCAA tournament so far? Big names are dominating the headlines, double-digit seeds are taking out top teams left and right, and game-after-game is competitive till the very end. Now the remaining teams will head to their regional semifinal games, also known as the Sweet Sixteen. Who survived and who is going home early?
Down Goes Duke
Duke came into the tournament as a highly favored team to win it all. The Blue Devils are fresh off an ACC tournament championship and showed they have the capability to beat any team in the country. Duke has been supremely inconsistent all year as well, so there is a threat for this team to get upset early on. The South Carolina Gamecocks, seventh-seed, did just that. They took advantage of Duke’s lackluster defense and scored 65 points in the second half to comeback and win 88-81. This loss ends a roller coaster year for Duke. The team dealt with adversity all year such as Coach K missing a month of action and the Grayson Allen drama, but still went on a late-season run to win the ACC tournament. You have to give credit to South Carolina for this one. They recovered from an abysmal first half to rattle off one of the highest scoring halves in the tournament. Now the Blue Devils will head back home to Durham as the Gamecocks are moving on. Prior to this tournament, South Carolina had not won an NCAA tournament game in 44 years. Now they are one win away from an Elite Eight appearance.
Louisville Loses Late
Another top ACC team, 2nd seed Louisville, found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard today. The Louisville Cardinals battled it out against the Michigan Wolverines in a classic ACC versus Big Ten clash. Also, this a rematch from the 2013 National Championship. Louisville led for the majority of the game, but Michigan found a way to just hang around. Up eight points going into the second half, Louisville started feeling the pressure of advancing against a desperate team. Michigan was able to tie the game at 51-51 with 9:16 remaining in the game. The comeback was a huge momentum shift for Michigan. The game stayed close util Louisville went on a scoring drought in the final two minutes. Michigan took care of business from there and pulled off the upset 73-69.
Top Seeds Survive
No team is going to go through an entire tournament without winning a close ballgame at some point. That point held true today for three-seeded Baylor and Oregon and 2nd-seeded Kentucky. Baylor faced a tough USC team which just came off an upset of SMU and a victory in the play-in game. The game was tight throughout but Baylor was able to prevail late and advance. Oregon walked into a similar situation as they faced the A-10 champion Rhode Island Rams. The game was in the hands of Rhode Island’s and all they needed to do was continue to score They scored 46 in the first half to open up an eight-point lead. The second half began just how the first half ended, all Rhode Island. However, Oregon kept hanging around and eventually, the Ducks found their stride and able to take a two-point lead after Dillon Brooks hit a three-point jumper with 4:51 to go. Oregon pulled it off and won 75-72.
Kentucky faced a scare in the second round as well. They found themselves up against a tough Wichita State team that plays better than their seventh-seed drawing. The Shockers don’t tend to get as much credit by the selection committee because they are a mid-major. The Shockers used the skepticism as a motivation of their late-season run. They do this just about as well as anybody and they showed Kentucky that they don’t go down. Kentucky was able to fend off the Shockers and came out with a 65-62 victory.
Smooth Sailing into the Sweet 16
Two top seeds went to battle today. Both came away with easy wins. Kansas took on Michigan State, ninth-seed, and won handily 90-70. North Carolina was the other top seed. The Tarheels faced Arkansas and won 72-65. Both Kansas and North Carolina are cruising right now and are now the clear-cut favorites to get to the Final Four, especially with Duke and Vilanova out of the picture. North Carolina will have their work but out for them with a matchup against the winner of Kentucky and UCLA. North Carolina will have to handle a hot Butler team before thinking about their Elite Eight matchup in the South regional. UCLA also won easily in their second round matchup against Cincinnati, 79-67. Lonzo Ball, UCLA point guard is starting to look like he was made for big time moments which he hasn’t disappointed thus far. In their second round game, Ball flirted with triple-double numbers with 18 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. The South portion of the bracket is the only side with seeds one through four still remaining.
The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight will go on this Thursday through Saturday. With big teams still playing well, expect some heavyweight matchups coming soon.