Sweet 16 Sports Two No. 7 Seeds, one 11 Seeds, one 8 Seeds
The first two rounds of this year’s Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament had several games that were decided by the last shot—or in a couple of cases—the referee’s whistle, with five being dubbed “upsets” by the way they were seeded.
This year’s Sweet Sixteen bracket doesn’t really show any bona fide Cinderella teams, although No. 11 seed UCLA beat a No. 14, but there are one No. 8 seed, two No.7 seeds and two No. 5 seeds that are still alive because they beat a lower seeded team.
The biggest upset of the tournament so far has to be eighth-seeded North Carolina State’s 71-68 victory over No. 1-seeded Villanova in the East Regional Saturday. And the second surprise was No. 2 Virginia being ambushed by seventh-seeded Michigan State 60-54, also in the East Regional.
The other No. 7 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 this week was the Missouri Valley champion Wichita Shockers, who really shocked state-rival Kansas 78-65, seeded No. 2 in the Midwest Regional.
“There’s so much to be said about this rivalry with Kansas,” commented an ecstatic Fred Van Fleet, head coach of the Shockers. “What better story is there for Wichita State?”
The four regional sites for this week’s Sweet Sixteen are Syracuse (East), Cleveland (Midwest), Los Angeles (West) and the one closest to Southeast Texas college basketball fans, Houston (South Regional).
The South Regional will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, which will be the site of the Final Four in April 2016 and Super Bowl 51 in February 2017. There will be about 40,000 seats available this weekend, but next year’s Final Four should have seating for approximately 70,000.
The opening-round Sweet 16 game will be played at 6:15 p.m. Friday between No.11 UCLA and second-seeded Gonzaga, which reached the Sweet 16 for the first time after failing to get past the opening weekend for the last five years. The Zags are an early 8½-point favorite over the Bruins.
This contest will be followed by my favorite team, the No. 1-seeded Duke Blue Devils who will take on No. 5 Utah at 8:45 p.m. and are favored by five points. Both games Friday will be aired by CBS-TV.
Duke cruised to victories last week over No. 16 Robert Morris (85-56) and San Diego State (68-49) and had double-digit leads in 61 of the 80 minutes in the two games. Three of the Blue Devils’ top scorers are freshmen and before last weekend were never faced with a win-or-go-home-for-good contest.
Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski was pleased his tourney-inexperienced squad played so well last week, making 54.5 per cent of their shots, including six-of-14 from beyond the three-point line against San Diego State, which had not allowed a team to make more than 47.3 per cent of its shots all season.
“I thought our guys had fun this week,” Coach K commented. “When it got down to 10 points against Robert Morris and seven points against San Diego State, our guys responded with their best play. That’s the thing you can’t teach.”
According to Monday’s edition of The Houston Chronicle, senior guard Quinn Cook is the only player who was part of Duke’s NCAA Tournament victory two years ago, but he didn’t score in the game.
Duke should meet Gonzaga in Sunday’s Elite Eight game and advance to the Final Four.
The West Regional is the only other Sweet 16 site that will feature the two top-seeded teams. No. 1 Wisconsin clashes with fourth-seeded North Carolina Thursday at 6:47 p.m. followed by No. 2 Arizona locking horns with sixth-seeded Xavier at 9:17 p.m. Both games will be televised by TBS.
The other regional to play Thursday will be No. 3 Notre Dame vs. seventh-seeded Wichita State at 6:15 followed by No. 1 Kentucky taking on No. 5 West Virginia at 8:45 p.m. Both games can be seen on CBS.
The East Regional, which lost its top two seeds to upsets, will have No. 4 Louisville meeting No. 8 North Carolina State Friday at 6:37 p.m. followed by No. 3 Oklahoma clashing with seventh-seeded Michigan State at 9:07 p.m. Both games can be seen on TBS.
Thursday’s winners will play in the Elite Eight on Saturday with Friday’s winners meeting on Sunday.
I look for the Final Four to be No. 1 seeds Kentucky and Duke, No. 2 Arizona and my Upset Special Michigan State.
KWICKIES…It seems quite strange that there was not one word about the results of the Lamar Cardinals’ weekend baseball series at New Orleans by their hometown newspaper in which the Redbirds swept the Privateers 8-1, 5-4 and 17-2. Maybe the sports department of the paper gave up of the Lamar baseball team after it started Southland Conference play at 0-6. The weekend sweep upped the Cards’ season record to 11-12 and 3-6 in the SLC.
And while on the subject of SLC weekend sweeps by Lamar, the Lady Cards completed their third straight series sweep Sunday by winning a doubleheader from Incarnate Word 11-7 and 4-3 upping their perfect SLC record to 9-0 and 16-11 overall. The Lady Cards will have to keep the streak alive when the Northwestern State Lady Demons come to town this weekend boasting and equally-impressive 8-0 SLC record.
Matt Every sunk an 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to claim a one-shot victory over Henrik Stenson Sunday to successfully defend the title he won last year in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando. Every posted rounds of 68-66-69-66—269 to overtake Stenson, who was the third-round leader. This marked the ninth straight PGA tournament in which the 54-hole leader failed to win.
The Pittsburgh Steelers believe in having players on their active roster who are almost ready to collect their Social Security after re-signing 36-year-old linebacker James Harrison to a two-year contract last weekend. The five-time Pro Bowler will be starting his 13th NFL season.
After leading his team to a thrilling 67-64 victory over Butler, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey had to make plans to bury his mother, who died Saturday just before her son’s team took the floor for its NCAA Tournament second-round game. His mother, Betty Brey, an Olympic swimmer, died of a heart attack. She was 84.
JUST BETWEEN US…It’s amazing how the rain probability percentage can influence what you do or don’t do. Wife Susan and I took a quickie two-day trip to a resort in Marksville, La. where I had a golfing tee-off time for noon last Wednesday. But the weather forecast called for 90 per cent chance of rain and the entire morning was dreary with threatening skies, so I canceled my golf. Of course it never rained a drop and the sun came out in the late afternoon. The same thing happened in reverse here in Orange Saturday when all of the television weather gurus said to do whatever was planned in the morning, because the rain wouldn’t arrive until late afternoon or early evening. We played two holes in the MGA scramble at Sunset Grove that morning when the lightning flashed, the thunder rumbled before 9:30 a.m. and the rain came down and didn’t stop until the area had measured five to six inches of rain.