Does everyone remember how uneventful the first two days of the tournament were? Well, that changed pretty damn quickly. Saturday and Sunday were filled with competitive and heart ponding games that went down to the wire.
Wisconsin fought their way to an upset the overall #1 seed and the defending champs Villanova. It was a back and forth game and at the end, the Badgers were able to grind it out. Badgers may be the best 8th seed in NCAA Tournament history. Then later in the day, Xavier came out of nowhere to completely dominate Florida State. It is insane to see what the Musketeers have done after losing maybe their best all-around player in Edmond Sumner. They barely made the tournament but now, they’re hot and have a date in the Sweet 16 with Arizona. Of course, the best game of the day was saved for last when Purdue vs. Iowa State looked more like Rocky vs. Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. It was right hook after right hook with Purdue landing the final knockout punch, as they land in the Sweet 16. Iowa State may have lost but you can’t say they didn’t have heart.
Just when you thought you couldn’t top Saturday’s basketball madness, Sunday came strolling along and said, “not so fast my friend!”
In the first game of the day we got a dandy as the team of destiny, the Michigan Wolverines upset the Louisville Cardinals. It is awesome to see how much the Wolverines have improved on the defensive end to finish this season. They have really come together and look as if they can play with anyone. The next few games were also spectacular as the lower seeds Wichita State, Arkansas, Rhode Island and USC all took the higher seeds down to the wire. All of these games could’ve gone either way.
Finally, quite possibly the biggest surprise of the weekend unfolded as the University of South Carolina Gamecocks earned their first ever Sweet 16 appearance as they were able to upset the Duke Blue Devils. The Gamecocks were overlooked almost all year long, people just passing them along as an average team from a below average Southeast Conference. On Sunday night they showed that they could hang with the big dogs as they gutted out a great win.
Biggest Surprise: South Carolina Gamecocks
This could’ve easily gone to Xavier but because this team was overlooked the entire year, it has to go to the Gamecocks. I don’t think anyone even gave South Carolina a real shot to beat the Blue Devils but here we are, looking at South Carolina in the Sweet 16. It is the first time in program history that they have reached the Sweet 16 which makes this story so much better because Duke and Coach K has five championships. South Carolina now has a matchup with the Baylor Bears to move to the Elite 8 and what the heck, why stop now Gamecocks, that Cinderella Slipper looks pretty nice on you.
Dark Horse: Michigan Wolverines
I’m not saying having a near death experience will give you a better chance to win the National Championship but I’m also not saying it couldn’t hurt. This Wolverine team has so many weapons on the offensive end it that it isn’t even fair. Big men that can shoot from deep in Moritz Wagner, D.J. Wilson and Duncan Robinson, one of the smartest point guards in the country in Derrick Walton Jr. and a great coach who has been there and done that in John Beilein. If the Wolverines can take down Oregon, who is missing a valuable weapon in Chris Boucher, they could quite possibly meet up with Purdue, who they have already beaten twice this season. How does Oregon beat Michigan in the Sweet 16 game in Kansas City, Missouri? Well, there is a plane flight right? Just kidding…
Biggest Disappointment: ACC
Nine have entered and only one remains. Ouch. The ACC was touted as the best conference in basketball going into the dance, but it doesn’t look like that’s the case right now. Duke is gone, Louisville is gone, Florida State is gone and Notre Dame is gone. All of these teams were Final Four contenders if not National Championship contenders. The best ACC team still remains though in UNC, but they will have to go through a gritty Butler team and then either the UCLA Bruins or the Kentucky Wildcats. This is March though it doesn’t mean they weren’t the best conference. The ACC was great all year long but they have laid an egg so far here tournament.