16 Thoughts On The Sweet 16
In case you weren't sure Ohio State is the best team in the country. Beating a 16 seed by 29 is typical but the Buckeyes put a 32 point beatdown on George Mason that was as impressive as the margin of victory indicates.
We love the upsets but doing so deprives us of the great 4-5 matchups in the new third round. The Kentucky-West Virginia game was classic 4-5. Brandon Knight went from a two point performance against Princeton to a 30 point output versus the Mountaineers that served as a reminder that despite losing a ton of talent the Wildcats have reloaded.
Marquette is not known as a defensive team but defense played a key role in wins over Xavier and Syracuse. We all knew the rematch with the Orange would be close but great defense kept Xavier at arm's length. Sometimes you just need to play defense at the right time and the Golden Eagles appear to be doing just that.
Is there a more entertaining team than North Carolina? The Tar Heels poured in 188 points in two games. The drawback is North Carolina struggles on defense, They're also young and prone to making mistakes.
Duke on the other hand is not young. For as much as I don't care for them, they are poised and that poise was on display in the closing minutes against Michigan.
When did a simple inbounds pass become an adventure? Arizona benefited from baseline buffoonery in the win over Texas. It also helps that Derrick Williams is playing terrific basketball.
With 11 teams in the field you knew there'd be a chance that an early round game would feature two Big East opponents. I'm not really a fan of such matchups so early in the tourney. The Connecticut-Cincinnati game felt more like a random Wednesday night game on ESPNU than a tournament game. Nevertheless, I give the Huskies credit for continuing to play great basketball when the tank should be empty.
Everybody a believer in San Diego State now? They play solid defense, rebound well and get balanced scoring. A perfect combination for a team looking to make a deep run. They also took advantage of mistakes by Temple in the second overtime of their 71-64 victory. The Aztecs sure don't look like a school that hadn't won a tournament game prior to Thursday.
Kansas now has the easiest road to the Sweet 16 with a 12, 11, and 10 seed left in the Southwest region. Or do they? In 2005 and 2006 the Jayhawks lost in the first round to 14 seed Bucknell and 13 seed Bradley respectively. Makes you wonder if Bill Self's spidey sense is tingling right now...
...and for good reason because arachnophobia is back. The Richmond Spiders, no strangers to the glass slipper, played great defense in the third round against Morehead State after stunning Vanderbilt. Having beaten Purdue in the regular season and Temple in a must-win conference tourney game the Spiders know how to play clutch basketball as they prepare to play Kansas.
The award for biggest chip on the shoulder goes to VCU coach Shaka Smart. After getting bashed by many pundits for their at-large selection the Rams went ballistic against USC, Georgetown and Purdue. Smart used the criticism as motivation but where was this play all year? The Rams finished the season 3-5 before getting the invite.
Maybe the ACC is better than advertised. Florida State was under the radar most of the year but the Seminoles are in the spotlight now after shutting down Notre Dame in a stunning display of defense. But the performance was not an isolated incident. In the regular season FSU gave up less than 62 points per game.
The end of the Butler-Pitt game was by far the most bizarre conclusion of a game I can ever remember. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs know how to win in close games and with 7 tournament wins in two years they are no longer just a mid-major darling. They're a legitimate FInal Four contender again.
Good defense is needed in March and Wisconsin has it. In the final minute the Badgers did everything right against Kansas State and now have a great matchup with another solid defensive team in Butler. The winner may not score more than 45 but that's just how both teams like it.
BYU has put the off-court distractions behind them. That's easy to do when you have Jimmer Fredette. BYU's offensive juggernaut put up 32 and 34 points on the heels of an unforgettable performance in the MWC tournament. We've seen it in the past with teams like Kansas of '88 and the 2003 Syracuse Orange. Sometimes you just need that one guy to carry you all the way to a title. Fredette has the look of that guy.
Perimeter shooting and defense. Florida played well on both ends against UCLA to earn a trip to the Sweet 16. If the Gators can knock down the 3s they can beat anyone in the country, be it a half-court plodder like Wisconsin/Butler or a one man band like BYU.