Sweet 16 Story Lines
March 23, 2017
March Madness eliminated 68 schools from the field last week to just 16 after a four-day (two rounds) weekend of action.
Unlike a high majority of years, all 16 teams remaining have proved that they belong. No huge upsets, no bad calls late in games that advanced an undeserving school, and no teams that should not have even gotten a bid to the Dance.
Actually, the first two rounds did not produce buzzer-beaters or controversial calls by the men in stripes.
The relatively dull start will give us a big upside this week for the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8. With the deserving schools still playing ball, we are left with some interesting and fascinating matchups. Lots of quality teams and players remaining.
Standing out to me in the round of 16 this week are UCLA vs. Kentucky. Lots of talented freshmen and lots of NBA talent on the floor led by Lonzo Ball of the Bruins. I also like Gonzaga vs. West Virginia. I predicted the top-seeded Zags would be upset in this round and the Mountaineers are just the team to do it. Gonzaga has not seen anything like West Virginia’s swarming, turnover-producing full court defensive pressure.
All of a sudden I am interested in the Baylor-South Carolina game. I am not afraid to say that it was fun watching the Gamecocks take care of Duke. North Carolina better watch out this next round as Butler is a dangerous team.
One thing that is also different this year is that the ACC has put up little resistance. Eight of the ACC’s nine teams are already gone. Ouch. Only the Tar Heels are left. That has to pain the thousands of North Carolinians who had Duke and UNC in the Finals.
Having watched numerous games, I have some new opinions to pass along. Opinions that you should think about as I made some impressive picks last week if I say so myself.
Will Josh Jackson be MVP
I told you No. 1 seed Villanova would have a difficult time coming out of the East. Wisconsin of the Big Ten ended the Wildcats thoughts of repeating. My Cinderella school in the West, West Virginia, upset Notre Dame and very well could upend No. 1 seed Gonzaga this week. I also stated that Michigan would surprise and it has by moving on with an impressive second round victory over #2 seed Louisville. My pick to win it all, #2 seed Arizona out of the West, has looked impressive.
If I could reseed, I would put Arizona as the top seed in the West. I would leave Kansas as the top seed in the Midwest. The Jayhawks won their first round game by 38 points and took care of Michigan State by 20 in the second round. Josh Jackson of Kansas is the early tourney MVP as he is averaging 20 points, three steals, and three blocks a game. He has been unguardable early on as he is shooting 17 of 28 (60%) from the field. I would leave North Carolina as the top seed in the South though Butler could pull off the upset. The Heels are not the same team when they are not at home and they have to win six straight games away from Chapel Hill to win it all. I am going to move Wisconsin up to the top seed in the East. After all, the Badgers did upset top-seeded Villanova and they have been annual visitors to the Elite 8 and the Final Four in recent years.
I am sticking with Arizona. I would take Kansas but the Jayhawks always seem to find ways to not make the Final Four.