The 2016 NCAA college basketball national tournament has narrowed the field down to the Sweet 16. All four of the top seeded teams in each region survived the weekend, with the Kansas Jayhawks and North Carolina Tar Heels potentially headed toward a national championship showdown.
Neither of the two favorites faced any kind of a scare through the round of 32. In the opening round, the Jayhawks dismantled Austin Peay by 26 while the Tar Heels defeated Florida Gold Coast. Kansas appeared to have a tricky match in UCONN next. However, the Huskies weren’t able to keep pace as they saw their post-season run come to an end 73-61 while North Carolina took out Providence. Next up for Kansas is what could be a battle against 5th-seeded Maryland on Thursday while the Tar Heels will prepare for Indiana on Friday.
Virginia and Oregon, the top seeds in the Midwest and West respectively, also advanced. Oregon was the No. 1 that faced the most trouble as they only handled Saint Joe’s by 5. Next up for the Ducks are the Duke Blue Devils in a game that could very well end Oregon’s season. That one goes on Thursday while the Cavaliers will face Iowa State on Friday.
For upsets, there were a lot in the opening round. Hawaii took out a highly-touted California team in what was a 13 vs. 4 matchup. Furthermore, SF Austin took out West Virginia in a 14 vs. 3 matchup. However, the upset of the tournament clearly took place in the Midwest where the 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders took out the Michigan State Spartans in the round of 64. In what may be the biggest upset in tournament history, the Spartans saw their season end and college basketball fans the world over saw their brackets busted.
However, despite all the upsets in the opening round, so few of the double-digit seeds made it into the Sweet 16. Syracuse and Gonzaga are the exceptions, two schools that will clash on Friday for a spot in the Elite Eight. Other than a 6 vs. 7 match-up in the East between Notre Dame and Wisconsin, things are pretty much going to form. While many may have had Kentucky going deeper than the round of 32, despite their indignance about getting a 4 seed, the Wildcats didn’t even prove themselves worthy of that as they fell to Indiana.
For buzzer beaters, Notre Dame had a close one as freshman Rex Pflueger had a clutch tip-in with about a second a half left to give his side a 1-point win over SF Austin. Had the shot missed, it’s hard to picture Notre Dame getting another chance, so it truly was a do-or-die moment. However, the truest of buzzer beaters went Wisconsin’s way as Bronson Koenig nailed a three-pointer as time expired to send off 2nd seeded, Xavier.
As things look right now, the South region is Kansas’ to lose with a draw through Maryland and then either Villanova or Miami. In the East, the Tar Heels look very strong for the Final Four. In the West, I think Duke will defeat Oregon before entering a coin toss against either Texas A&M or Oklahoma. Meanwhile in the Midwest, things are a little more wide open with Virginia’s draw through Iowa State and then either the zags or ‘cuse. By the end of next weekend, the Final Four will be set with the national championship game scheduled to go on April 4th from Houston.