As fitting as it gets, Grayson Allen’s Duke Blue Devils “tripped” against South Carolina on Sunday night, as the number two ranked team failed to make it out of the round of 32. The seventh seeded Gamecocks would pick up the 88-81 victory to complete the upset.
The Blue Devils’ loss was just one of the many upsets so far in the first two rounds of the NCAA March Madness tournament. In the round of 64, the opening round of the tournament, the seemingly inevitable #12 v. #5 upset came with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders taking down the Minnesota Gophers by a score of 81-72.
The number one through four seeds were perfect in the first round, however, that didn’t translate into the second round. The defending champions, the Villanova Wildcats, were taken down by the Wisconsin Badgers. Later that day, another Big Ten team, the Purdue Boilermakers, punched their way into the sweet 16 with a narrow 80-76 victory over the Iowa State Cyclones.
The Michigan Wolverines took down the Louisville Cardinals 73-69 as Michigan head coach John Beilein finally got his revenge against Rick Pitino for the 2013 tournament championship. International player, Moritz Wagner, led the charge for the Wolverines picking up 26 points.
The Kansas Jayhawks took down the Michigan State Spartans, as NBA draft prospect Josh Jackson dropped 23 points. The Spartans’ Miles Bridges, another top draft prospect, had 22 points and eight assists in the loss.
Justin Jackson had 15 points as the North Carolina Tarheels were able to avoid an upset, as they surged back in the final minutes to pick up a 72-65 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. The final number one seed, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, slipped past the tournament’s feel good team, the Northwestern Wildcats, 79-73.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the second round was the Xavier Musketeers absolutely annihilating the Florida State Seminoles by a score of 91-66. Florida States’ Dwayne Bacon (who might win this tournaments award for best name) had 20 points. Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett had 29 points.
Lonzo Ball, who arguably has a shot at being selected number one overall in the upcoming NBA draft, helped his UCLA Bruins punch their ticket to the sweet 16 with a near triple double. Ball’s 18 points, seven rebounds and nine assists were instrumental in his team’s 79-67 over the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Now that this weekend is finished, the teams will get a few days rest until the sweet 16 begins. The lowest seeded team still in the mix is the Xavier Musketeers – a highly underrated team that doesn’t get any recognition after quietly making it to the sweet 16 six times in the past 10 years.
The sweet 16 will give NBA fans a great look at some top level talent that could be hearing their names called early on draft day. UCLA’s Ball, Kansas’ Jackson, North Carolina’s Jackson, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk could all find NBA homes within the lottery selections.
All in all, if the sweet 16 is anything like the first two rounds of the tournament, it will not disappoint. I would have to say the Michigan and Xavier seem to be the two lower seeded teams that could make a run at the final four. The Wolverines would have to get through Oregon Ducks and either the Kansas Jayhawks or Purdue Boilermakers, and the Musketeers would have to knock out the Arizona Wildcats and either the Gonzaga Bulldogs or West Virginia Mountaineers to complete the feat.
The tournament schedule for the sweet 16 is as follows:
Thursday March 23:
(7) Michigan v. (3) Oregon – 7:09 p.m.
(4) West Virginia v. (1) Gonzaga – 7:39 p.m.
(4) Purdue v. (1) Kansas – 9:39 p.m.
(11) Xavier v. (2) Arizona – 10:09 p.m.
Friday March 24:
(4) Butler v. (1) North Carolina – 7:09 p.m.
(7) South Carolina v. (3) Baylor – 7:29 p.m.
(3) UCLA v. (2) Kentucky – 9:39 p.m.
(8) Wisconsin v. (4) Florida – 9:59 p.m.