MARCH MADNESS FIRST WEEKEND LESSONS
With the First weekend in the books There’s a fair amount to unpack from the March madness tournament. We don’t have too many surprises this time around but there’s still plenty of stuff left to be decided. Especially since it’s only the second time in history that all four number one, two, and three seeds have advanced.
With all four number one seeds still alive, the strength they possess could set us up for the all number one final four, which hasn’t happened since the 2008 season. Besides UCF near upset over Duke, all number one seeds advanced with ease. Duke on average won by 12 points, Virginia won by 13 points, North Carolina by 18 points, and Gonzaga by 25 points. All four of these teams will face unique opponents in the Sweet sixteen, but we could very well be preparing for an all number one final four.
The state of Michigan is having a very relaxed start to the NCAA tournament, with two seed Michigan State and two seed Michigan running rough shot over there opponents so far. Michigan State breezed past Bradley 76-65, before stomping on Big ten foes Minnesota 70-50. Meanwhile Michigan walked right through Montana in the opening round then manhandled the Florida Gators to put an exclamation point on their first weekend. Kentucky however after starting off strong against Abilene Christian, they struggled against Wofford. The Wildcats can thank there second half defense for the win against Wofford able to shut down the Terriers offense in the closing minutes. Tennessee also managed to escape a near upset after dropping a 25-point lead at one point to Iowa. The Vols managed to get past Colgate with the 7-point margin being a little misleading, but the OT win over Iowa was something to close for comfort for the Vols Coaches, players, and Fans.
The three seeds saw a similar scenario play out just as the two seeds did. With two teams not having any real threat of elimination with Purdue comfortably winning over Old Dominion then, man handing defending champs Villanova 87-61, and this game was never that close. Texas Tech was also able to get through the first weekend with relative ease, first knocking off Arizona state, then smacking buffalo by 20-points. Houston had a relatively easy first weekend beating Georgia state by nearly 30-points, then after pushing through a tough and scrappy first half with Ohio State the Cougars were able to pull away during the second half. LSU however was the team that had to fight off two hungry upset bids. After having a 16-point lead at halftime Yale battled back against the Tigers in the second half, and thanks to Skylar Mays hitting four free throws in the final seconds of the game LSU got to fight on. Maryland was up next, and they were giving the Tigers everything they could handle. Again, LSU had a decent lead at the half and couldn’t hold on to it. Then, with the clock winding down at the end of the game Tremont Waters hits the game winner to send LSU through.
Now essentially, we have four wildcards left in the Sweet sixteen field. Two number four seeds, one number five seed, and a number 12 seed could shake things up come the second weekend. Virginia Tech and Florida State are the two four seeds. Virginia Tech has played a very solid start to the tournament, beating Saint Louis by 14-points, then topping Liberty by 9. The other fourth seed, Florida State, after getting past Vermont in the first round breezed past Murray State by nearly 30-points. Then an Auburn team decided they were going to take this first weekend to establish themselves and let the nation know, if you haven’t heard of us, get ready to hear all about us! After escaping the first-round match against New Mexico State they stood toe to toe with powerhouse Kansas and beat them by 14-points. Then as there always seems to be, we have one double digit seed remaining and it’s those crafty Ducks from Eugene. The Ducks were able to upset Wisconsin by nearly 20-poits, then beat UC Irvine also by nearly 20-points. The Ducks might be the hottest team in college basketball right now, having made a run through the Pac-12 tournament to reach March Madness, they could be on another run to bring home their programs second National championship.
Now it’s time to look forward to the second weekend, as we trim the field from 16 to four teams. I have Duke beating Virginia Tech, Michigan state beating LSU, then Duke getting the better of the Spartans to reach the final four out of the East. In the south, I see Virginia getting the better fi the Ducks in a close game, and Tennessee putting out the fire that is Purdue, ultimately with Tennessee upsetting Virginia to reach the Fina Four. In the Midwest I feel like Auburn is in a good place right now and will squeak by North Carolina, while Kentucky tops Houston in just the second OT game this tournament, eventually with Kentucky beating Auburn for a final Four Spot. Then last but not least in the West, I like Gonzaga to beat Florida state, and Michigan to beat Texas Tech, with the Wolverines upsetting Gonzaga and reaching Minneapolis.