Happy Monday, folks. First and foremost, I must apologize to The Wayniac Nation faithful. In my 80 days of blogging (yes, today is day 80) I have not missed a Sunday post. This week was different as we may have just experienced one of the craziest opening weekends of March Madness I can remember. It would have been an injustice to write about it before it was complete, so I waited until today.
We did some serious dancing over the last four days, didn’t we? The Mercer Bears busted a lot of people’s brackets, but I still think they became the most beloved team in the nation by taking down Coach K and his Dookies. Harvard shocked the world and took down a heavily favored Cincinnati club. They then put a huge scare into Michigan State, but inevitably the Spartans were their last waltz. There was little doubt in my mind that UConn was going to upset Nova in Round 2 (I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I’m not changing my stance and calling this Round 3). Shabazz Napier is a total beast and he had a total beast game against Jay Wright and his Wildcats. UNC suffered a controversial loss in one of the most bizarre endings to a tourney game since UNC watched C-Webb call a time-out. I think someone needs to be held accountable and removed from officiating for the rest of the tournament. Although UNC fans, like Wayniac Nation’s own Mike Dunton, have argued that they should’t have let their lead slip away in the first place, to lose the game on an officitaing/score table error is atrocious and unacceptable. But the Dance rolls on. The Dayton Flyers became the scourge of Ohio when they took down the beloved Ohio State in a huge upset. Considering that the only people who are Buckeye fans either live in Columbus or are alumni, most of America became enamored with the Flyers. I was, too… until they beat Syracuse. Now they can go to hell for all I care. What a terrible first weekend for me. My Blue Hens, my Orange, and both of my brackets are in the toilet. Well, that’s not entirely true.
If you remember in my preview, I told you to be weary of the higher seeds, especially the # 1s. That being said, my Final Four is still intact, so despite the whirlwind of upsets I technically have a chance. Before we look at what’s in store for next weekend, let’s have a quick recap of the one through five seeds, since that is essentially your Top 25.
One seeds: Shockers are out — Gators, Arizona, and Cavaliers remain. UVA looks great, but of these three remaining teams, their days are numbered with Michigan State on deck.
Two seeds: Nova and Kansas have gone home (without Joel Embiid, I projected Kansas was not making it out of the first weekend) — Wisconsin and Michigan remain. Considering the Wolverines should have been a one seed, there is no surprise here.
Three seeds: These guys took the biggest hit. In case you forgot, let me remind you that Duke has been eliminated after being knocked out by the 14th seeded Mercer Bears in one of the most exciting games of the tournament thus far. Cuse and Creighton have also been bounced. If Tyler Ennis drove the lane instead of pulling up for a terrible shot, my prediction of a Cuse/ Florida showdown was highly likely. Alas, the Orange suffered another close loss to a team they should have beaten. Iowa State remains, however their days may be numbered without Georges Niang.
Four seeds: All four remain. This is not a surprise at all. These are the strongest seeds in the tourney, and I have Michigan State and Louisville pegged for the Final Four.
Five seeds: Zero remain.
The end result of the opening weekend of the tournament is that only 12 of the Top 25 in the nation remain in the hunt for the 2014 NCAA Championship. That is absolutely insane. The slate of games for the upcoming weekend is titillating, so let’s take a gander at what we have in store. (It’s always exciting to find a use for the word titillating, isn’t it?)
The South: #11 Dayton vs. #10 Stanford is not a match-up anyone had projected and probably had a hand in ending the chances of the billion dollars from Warren Buffet (Well, that and the 1 in 9.4 quintillion chance of predicting a perfect bracket, but I digress). The exciting part of this game is that we know for sure we have a double-digit seed in the Elite 8. I would have to think the Cardinal, coming out of the ultra competitive Pac-12, has the upper hand. Speaking of the Pac-12, the #1 Florida Gators will have their hands full with the #4 UCLA Bruins. I have this slated as the second best game of the Sweet 16. UCLA has already taken down current number one seed Arizona to win the Pac-12 tourney. They aren’t afraid of anyone. Billy Donovan has his Gators looking like the ’06-’07 teams. I think this match-up is going to be great.
I had the #3 Iowa State Cyclones making a deep run in the tourney, but as I said, Georges Niang’s season ending injury puts them up against the wall. Shabazz Napier is playing out of his mind, and he should help #7 UConn eliminate the last three seed standing, but it won’t be easy. The #4 Michigan State Spartans versus #1 UVA Cavaliers game I have pegged as the third best game of the Sweet 16. The Cavaliers’ defense is suffocating and their offense is clicking, but Michigan State is playing some good ball. Yes, they struggled with Harvard, but if you have watched tournaments past, everyone struggles with Ivy League schools, just ask Georgetown (I don’t care if the Orange are in the ACC now, screw the Hoyas). Tom Izzo is poised to add a seventh Final Four appearance to his already impressive resume. Adriean Payne is playing awesome ball right now as well and should lift the Spartans to a match-up with the Huskies.
The Midwest: Athough the actual #1 seeded Wichita State Shockers were bounced, this bracket still has two legit one seeds going in the Sweet 16. The #11 Tennessee Volunteers don’t stand a chance against the #2 Michigan Wolverines. I think the loss to the Spartans and the coinciding loss of a one seed in the Big 10 (That’s Actually 12 but Adding Even More) Tournament has this team playing like last year’s runner-up squad. All eyes will be on the best game of the weekend, however, as The King of the Cheaters and his #8 Kentucky Wildcats take on the #4 Louisville Cardinals. Kentucky is the most inconsistent team in the nation as Julius Randle and the Harrison Wonder Twins should be enough to have gotten them a higher seed. But they don’t always come out and play a solid game from start to finish. Louisville, the AAC Conference and Tournament Champs, still have the nation wondering how they are a four seed. The bottom line is that Kentucky could be an awful, 2-win team but they would still bring everything they have to this huge in-state rivalry. It will be the game of the Sweet 16 and the ensuing Michigan versus Louisville Elite Match-up may be the game of the tournament.
The West: This is a boring bracket. The #2 Wisconsin Badgers seem like they have a big advantage over the #6 Baylor Bears and their crossing guard uniforms. Seriously, they could land a plane with those uniforms. Wisconsin, in my opinion, was ranked way too high, so I could see Baylor pulling off the upset, especially after the way they decimated Creighton and the best player in the nation in Doug McDermott. Everyone says I am nuts for not believing in the #1 Arizona Wildcats. They have yet another tricky match-up versus the #4 San Diego State Aztecs. Arizona looked really good against Gonzaga; however, if you remember from my preview, I had Gonzaga losing to Oklahoma State, so that outcome wasn’t much of a surprise. I think Arizona wins both of their games this weekend and rounds out the Final Four before losing to Louisville.
The greatest thing about this March Madness thus far is everything I just typed is most likely wrong. And in all honesty, I hope it is. My two teams are out and my brackets are weak. What will keep me most interested is a Dayton versus Tennessee Championship Game. Well, that and watching One Shining Moment and getting the chills like I do every year (well, except for that one Jennifer Hudson monstrosity).
Until next time folks, don’t forget Opening Day is just a week away!