“March Madness” is real. The NCAA Mens’ National Championship Basketball tournament started last week and has provided 6 straight days of college basketball excitement. The opening round “Play-in” games were the appetizer as USC,Mt.St. Mary’s, Kansas State and UC Davis all picked up victories and advanced to the field of 64.
Then came the main course, round one where 12th seeded Middle Tennessee State upset the 5th seed of the South Region (Minnesota) by nine points; The 11th Seed in the West Region ( Xavier) did the same to the 6th seeded Maryland Terrapins by nine points.USC who was the only team to play in the “Play-in” games and advance to round two grabbed a one point win over SMU. Northwestern who was in the tournament for the first time in school history picked up the schools first tournament victory beating Vanderbilt by two.
That set up the stage for second round action with a field of thirty-two teams left in the tournament. On the first day of second round action the highlight of the day took place in the East Region, where Wisconsin the 8th seed knocked off the Villanova Wildcats by three points. The senior laden Badgers Lead at the half 31-27 and in the second half Villanova came back and had a seven point lead with under five minutes left in the game. The Badgers charged back and tied the game with less than 20 seconds left before scoring their final three points and winning the game 65-62 punching their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth year in a row.
The excitement of the second round did not stop there as Northwestern looking for their second tournament win in school history gave Gonzaga (the top seed in the West Region) all they could handle before succumbing to the Bulldogs 79-73. Day two of second round action saw two big upsets as Michigan knocked off Louisville (The second seed in the Midwest Region) 73-69 and South Carolina overcame a slow start to upset Duke (the second seed in the East Region) 88-81.The South Carolina win gives the Gamecocks their first trip to the Sweet Sixteen in school history;The Gamecocks reward will be third seeded Baylor.
The “Sweet Sixteen” action tips off on Thursday with Michigan battling Oregon; West Virginia and Gonzaga tip off 30 minutes later. The two late games feature Purdue against Kansas ,followed by Arizona and Xavier. Friday the action will continue with Butler taking on North Carolina and South Carolina battling Baylor in the early games. Friday night UCLA and Kentucky face off in a battle between the second and third seeds in the South Region, with Wisconsin facing Florida in the night cap.
The Tournament will not lose any excitement in the upcoming action,There are still three number one seeds in the final Sixteen teams ( Gonzaga, Kansas and North Carolina)two number two seeds (Arizona and Kentucky ) and Three teams that are seeded number three in their respective region (Oregon,Baylor and UCLA). So there is plenty of fire power left as this weekends action will whittle 16 down to the Final four. The lowest Seed breaking into the “Sweet Sixteen” is Xavier who is an 11th seed and I for one doubt that the team from Ohio with 23 wins this season and 11 losses is really an eleven seed in any region. Keep your eye on the four seeds (West Virginia,Purdue,Butler and Florida) as they are all still around, but the seven seeds (Michigan and South Carolina) are the dangerous teams as they are the giant killers. Speaking of giant killers 8th seeded Wisconsin who eliminated the defending champ is also still around. Who will be your final four?
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Trevin A Jones