By Chris Riewald
It’s going to be hard to top last year. After all, it did end with a game-winning, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping shot from Villanova’s Kris Jenkins to give the Wildcats its second title in program history.
But after a noticeably quiet first round was followed by a collection of shocking defeats during the second round, the tournament is off to a decent start.
The defending champion and No. 1 seed Villanova lost to the No. 8 seed Wisconsin Badgers 65-62 Saturday afternoon in Buffalo. Then, the No. 7 seed South Carolina stunned another East region heavyweight, Duke, 88-81.
Other notable upsets included the No. 11 seed Xavier blowing out the No. 3 seed Florida State in the West region 91-66 and No. 7 Michigan eliminating the No. 2 Louisville 73-69 in the Midwest region.
These upsets played a major role in the eradication of all potential perfect brackets both on ESPN and CBS.com’s bracket challenges. However, brackets are not completely hopeless yet. Even guessing just two Final Four teams could win a bracket group.
Popular Final Four picks to safely make the Sweet 16 include North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA from the South, Kansas from the Midwest, and Gonzaga and Arizona from the West. If you have any combination of two of these teams from different regions (or even picked Baylor out of the East) you have a decent shot at making a late push for the lead.
Kentucky and UCLA will face each other on Friday, with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight to face the winner of North Carolina vs. Butler. Regardless of the outcome, most brackets will have either UCLA or Kentucky advancing to the Elite Eight, making this game an important watch for those still following their brackets.
Cinderella teams to have made it to the Sweet 16 will face an uphill battle. The No. 11 seed Xavier plays the No. 2 seed Arizona, a team on a tear after earning a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and winning the Pac-12 conference tournament in Las Vegas. South Carolina plays the No. 3 seed Baylor, who held the top spot in the nation’s polls for several weeks earlier this season and features All-American Forward/Center Johnathan Motley. Wisconsin faces the No. 4 seed Florida, with both teams sporting strong defenses and offenses predicated on ball movement. However, despite Wisconsin’s seeding at No. 8, they may have the upper hand on Florida, who is without starting center John Egbunu.
Whether your bracket is a dumpster fire or a priceless gem, I encourage you to remain engaged in watching the rest of the March Madness games. With everything on the line, seniors playing in their final games, coaches facing off against history and a national championship hanging in the balance, this is the highest quality play on the highest stage in collegiate basketball.
By the end of the night on April 3rd, in Glendale, Arizona, a new champion will be crowned. All debate will be settled and there will be one team standing above all the others. But until then, let’s all embrace a little Madness in our lives.