After an exciting first weekend the Sweet 16 has been decided. Florida Gulf Coast, Oregon, LaSalle and many more surprises stormed in. What will the second weekend have in store?
Madness does not even begin to describe the opening weekend of the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. After 48 games over 4 days, the sweet 16 certainly contains some shockers. Why don’t we start by looking at the aptly named Shockers of Wichita State who upset West top seeded Gonzaga Saturday 76-70. They hit 5 straight 3 pointers late to open up a neck and neck name and send the Bulldogs back to Spokane with tails between their legs. All American Kelly Olynek of Gonzaga finished with 26, but it wasn't enough. The shockers will face LaSalle in the next round, another Cinderella, a 13 seed who won a play in game before upsetting Kansas State and Ole Miss to make it this far. The Explorers are ruining everyone’s bracket; I certainly didn't pick “round 1 winner” to beat the wildcats and go on to the sweet 16. 2 seed Ohio State against 6 seed Arizona is the other West Region game.
Also in the Sweet 16 is a school that was founded less than 16 years ago; Florida Gulf Coast. If you haven’t heard of them before the tournament, that’s because the athletic program is 11 years old, only 6 in Division 1. This is their first NCAA appearance and they are off to some kind of start, taking down Big East Player of the year Otto Porter and Georgetown 78-68 Friday and San Diego State 81-71 Sunday to earn their trip to the next round in the South Region. Senior Guard Sherwood Brown is creating quite a name for himself after one weekend; besides scoring 24 points against the Hoyas and 17 against the Aztecs he shook the hands of all media personnel during a foul shot in the final seconds of the Georgetown win and ran over to hug the cheerleaders as soon as the buzzer sounded and seems to have become a fan favorite. Florida Gulf Coast will take its Dunk City act on the road to Arlington, Texas to take on the University of Florida, the 3 seed in the south bracket, on Friday. Also in the South on Friday will be Kansas Michigan, one of the few matchups featuring the highest possible seeds with the Jayhawks at 1 in the south and the wolverines at 4.
Oregon is another double digit seed still playing. The Ducks made it into the tourney by winning the Pac 12 tournament, which only earned them a 12 seed in the Midwest bracket. They went out and upset Oklahoma State 68-55 in the opening round and topped St. Louis 74-57 in the round of 32. Some thought the pac-12 got no respect in the seeding and the teams should have been given better rankings, but Oregon has emerged as a sleeper and is still alive heading into the second weekend. They’re in for the toughest test of their season though, as their next game is against overall No. 1 seed Louisville, the top seed in the Midwest. Also on tap in Indianapolis is Duke against Michigan State, a great matchup of powerhouse teams and legendary coaches in Dukes Coach K and Tom Izzo of State.
The East bracket is the only one that played out as seeded, with the top 4 seeds advancing to the sweet 16. Indiana will play Syracuse and Miami will take on Marquette this Thursday. Miami is an interesting story as the U is known for football but the basketball team had a great season led by Coach Jim Larranaga who coached George Mason to the Final 4 in 2006 and has a veteran team who won both the ACC regular season and tournament.
Now, I can’t not talk about Harvard. The Ivy Champs claimed a 14 seed and matched up with the Lobos of New Mexico who most thought were under-seeded and had the potential to make a run and challenge Gonzaga and Ohio State, the top 2 seeds in the West bracket. Harvard came out and outplayed the Lobos in winning 68-62 and moving on to the field of 32, where they were promptly handled by Arizona 74-51. Congrats to the Ivy League I guess, but it still doesn’t match Cornell’s sweet 16 run of 2010.
It promises to be another wild weekend of hoops as team battle for berths in the Elite 8 and ultimately the Final 4. Make sure you park yourself in front of the TV starting Thursday night and take in all the action. My guess is that Ohio State, Louisville, Miami, and Kansas will be making the trip to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, although I'll be rooting for Florida Gulf Coast and Dunk City.
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