In one game Friday night, Duke’s loss to Lehigh, two things occurred that had never happened before: Duke lost an NCAA Tournament game in Greensboro, N.C., and a No. 2 seed lost twice in the first round of the tournament (Missouri had already lost to Norfolk State.) But those weren’t the only top-four seeds to not advance to the Sweet 16: Michigan, the fourth seed in the Midwest Region, lost to Ohio University and Georgetown, the No. 3 seed in that very same Midwest Region, lost to N.C. State on Sunday. Florida State also lost to Cincinnati, although that wasn’t as big of an upset. Those games (and others) led to three teams seeded 10 or higher making it to the Sweet 16: Ohio, N.C. State and Xavier.
Otherwise, believe it or not, the seedings pretty much held. And, despite so many calls for their collapse, Syracuse’s nine-point victory over UNC-Asheville (in front of an anti-Orange crowd in Pittsburgh) was not the narrowest margin of victory by a No. 1 seed all weekend. That dubious distinction belongs to Michigan State, who beat the St. Louis University Billikens by just four.
So here are your Sweet 16 match-ups:
East: No. 1 Syracuse Orange vs. No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers, 7:15 p.m. (CBS); No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats, 9:45 p.m. (CBS)
This region boils down to two Big Ten vs. Big East match-ups. Syracuse-Wisconsin will be entertaining on numerous levels. One, without Fab Melo, it’s entirely possible Syracuse is actually rebounding better than they did with him during the regular season and, two, Rakeem Christmas has played pretty well as a freshman starting in the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers are one of the best defensive teams in the country, so this will be a battle of Wisconsin’s man-to-man defense vs. Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone. The OSU-Cincy game will be more of the same. Both teams have good big men and both can score in spurts. Cincy was one of the teams to beat Syracuse this season, so they’ve got the pedigree to win big games.
Midwest: No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 13 Ohio Bobcats, 7:47 p.m. (TBS) ; No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks No. 11 N.C. State Wolfpack, 10:17 p.m. (TBS)
Both games involve top seeds against teams who upset top seeds. North Carolina should be able to stop Ohio’s roll, while Kansas — who escaped their round-of-32 game against Purdue — might have more troubles with the Wolfpack. Like the East, this could yield a interconference regional final and, in this case, one that comes out of the Tar Heel State.
South (Atlanta): No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers, 9:45 p.m. (CBS); No. 3 Baylor Bears vs. No. 10 Xavier Musketeers, 7:15 p.m. (CBS)
Kentucky gets a crack at the only non-conference team to beat them this season. And Indiana just beat a VCU team that still had some magic leftover from last season’s run to the Final Four. If Kentucky plays the way it did this past weekend, things could get out of hand quickly, but the Hoosiers are no pushover, and money says that this one stays close throughout. Xavier and Baylor might be another high-scoring affair, but Butler clearly has the better pedigree here.
West (Phoenix): No. 1 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 4 Louisville Cardinals, 7:47 p.m. (TBS); No. 7 Florida Gators vs. No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles, 10:17 p.m. (TBS)
This is a doozy of a region. The Michigan State-Louisville game is going to be a slow, methodical defensive battle with lots of physicality and plenty of rebounding. The Spartans have the edge because Louisville has no match for Draymond Green. In fact, the Cardinals’ center, Gorgui Dieng, is pretty good on defense but he’s no threat on offense. During the Syracuse-Louisville game in Kentucky earlier this year, the Orange purposely stopped guarding Dieng, who continued to miss wide-open shots. Don’t think Tom Izzo won’t look at that game tape. The Gators-Golden Eagles game will be an up-and-down score-fest. (Those who watched the Marquette-Murray State game will understand.)
Footnote: Of the three Final Four teams from 2011, only Kentucky advanced to the Sweet 16 in this year’s tournament. UConn. lost in the first round, VCU in the second and Butler plays Penn tonight in the College Basketball Invitational, which pretty much amounts to the Toilet Bowl of postseason hoops.
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