Thirteen upsets in the first 4 days of NCAA March Madness produced a Sweet 16 single-elimination play off with this parity-laced lineup: #1 Florida, #1 Arizona, #1 Virginia, #2 Michigan, #2 Wisconsin, #3 Iowa State, #4 Michigan State, #4 Louisville, #4 UCLA, #4 San Diego State, #6 Baylor, #7 Connecticut, #8 Kentucky, #10 Stanford, #11 Tennessee and #11 Dayton.
The match-ups for the Elite 8 include Louisville and Kentucky, Virginia and Michigan State, Florida and UCLA, Arizona and San Diego State, and Michigan and Tennessee—those are some great games on tap. Not to mention #10 Stanford and #11 Dayton, one of which will reach the Elite 8.
Think for a moment about the status of #10 Stanford and #11 Dayton. The victor will be in the Elite 8, which means they are the best among 351 NCAA 1-A teams that are eligible to make the 62-team NCAA tournament. As 1 of the 8 best teams among 351 possibilities, either Stanford or Dayton will be among the Top 2% of major college basketball teams. Not too shabby, as Adam Sandler would say.
Here is how the Sweet 16 got there:
In Round 3, each of the Midwest, West and East Regionals had 1 upset, but the South Regional had 2, guaranteeing a double-digit to make it to the Elite 8. Some highlights:
When the weekend was over, #1 Florida’s 16-point win over #9 Pittsburgh extended the Gators streak of Sweet 16 berths to a nation-best 4, and Kentucky’s win tied Duke with the second-most Sweet 16 berths all time at 23.
The biggest victory was #8 Kentucky taking down #1 Wichita State, 78-76, in the Midwest. Wichita State was unbeaten at 35-0 coming in and ranked as a rarity to arrive at March Madness with a perfect record of 34-0. John Calipari and his 5 freshmen starters had an answer: Guard Andrew Harrison scored 20 points, Guard Aaron Harrison, Andrew’s brother, had 19, and Forward Julius Randle added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Wichita State’s Shockers were in shock.
Kentucky won the National Championship in 2012, and lost in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) last season. The Wildcats are back, and clawing their way through the bracket, leaving Wichita State in their wake.
#10 Stanford sent #2 Kansas packing on the same day. The Cardinal shut down Jayhawk hotshot freshman Andrew Wiggins, who shot 1-for-6 and scored a career-low 4 points when he had been averaging 28 points in his previous 4 games. So, Kentucky’s freshman got after it, and the Kansas freshman did not.
Kansas had played the tournament without its 7-foot freshman, Joel Embiid, who missed his 6th consecutive game with a stress fracture in his lower back.
Another hotshot, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who ranked 5th all-time in NCAA career scoring with 3,150 points, met his match in Baylor’s suffocating defense, which held McDermott to 15 points and only 3 points in the 1st half when Baylor raced to a 20-point lead. Baylor spread the wealth around, with 5 players in double figures and a blistering 64% shooting percentage from the field. Some thought Creighton would go undefeated to the national title; Baylor thought otherwise.
Wichita State, Kansas and Creighton weren’t the only casualties as pesky Iowa State lowered the boom on #6 North Carolina, proving why Iowa State came in ranked as a 3 seed. The Cyclones’ DeAndre Kane led the way with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists, close to a triple-double.
Iowa State forward Georges Niang broke his foot in the preceding game against the North Carolina Central Eagles. Many wrote off the Cyclones due to the loss of Niang, however, despite being undermanned and undersized, the Cyclones had heart and fight, overcoming a 3-point deficit with 56 seconds to play. North Carolina Coach Roy Williams was not happy with his Tar Heels, nor should he have been.
#1 seed Arizona acted like it in crushing #8 Gonzaga by 23 points. Get this: Arizona scored 31 points off 21 Gonzaga turnovers—15 on steals—and never gave the Zags a chance as they raced up and down the court to go up 21 at the half. Gonzaga’s reputation for controlling the game and taking care of the ball during 16 straight NCAA tournament appearances went out the door. Clearly, Gonzaga Coach Mark Few needs better talent.
When Tennessee dominated Mercer by 20 points, it marked only the 4th time in tournament history that a #11 seed (Tennessee) faced off against a #14 seed (Mercer). The Tennessee Volunteers have now won 8 of their last 9 games with an average margin of victory of 20+ points. Against Mercer, the Vols grabbed 41 total rebounds, including 18 offensive boards.
In Round 2, the best place to be was in either the East or West Regionals, where only #12 Harvard upset #5 Cincinnati in the East, and #12 North Dakota State upset #5 Oklahoma in the West.
The next best place was the Midwest Regional, where #11 Tennessee upset #6 Massachusetts (this was no surprise), and #14 Mercer upset Duke (a huge surprise). Duke and Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski, pronounced Sha-shef-skee, and now you know why they call him Coach K) had to be floored. Coach K is the winningest coach in NCAA history (983-306 and a 76% winning percentage), and has 4 National Championships in 38 years, not to mention 45 NBA draft selections and 25 first-round picks.
The worst place to be was the South Regional, where #12 Stephen F. Austin upset #5 Virginia Commonwealth, #11 Dayton upset #6 Ohio State, #10 Stanford upset #7 New Mexico, and #9 Pittsburgh upset #8 Colorado. Normally, a #9 beating a #8 would be no big deal, but Pittsburgh ran over Colorado by 29 points, leaving the Buffaloes as road kill.
The most dominating win in the first two days was Wisconsin over American by 40 points.
Some major highlights in Round 2 were:
#12 North Dakota State played its best game ever, upending #5 Oklahoma, giving the Bison their first ever NCAA March Madness victory. Lawrence Alexander’s 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play sent the game into overtime, and Carlin Dupree came off the bench to score 4 unlikely points in the final 75 seconds to seal the victory.
Coach Saul Phillips ran over to the North Dakota State fan section, threw up his hands and screamed as loud as he could; he was so excited it was a wonder he did not pee in his pants. This is exactly what March Madness is all about—an improbable win, the thrill of victory, the exuberance of achieving the impossible, and a smile so wide it could stretch from Fargo to Bismarck.
Another 12 seed, Harvard, made it a two-peat by upending #5 Cincinnati. Last year Harvard was a 14 seed when the Crimson upset #3 New Mexico in one of the most memorable upsets in tournament history.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State’s 6-foot-10 senior center, proved to be a real pain for #13 Delaware as the Spartans won by 15 points. Payne scored a career-high 41 points, scoring 12 straight points in the 1st half, and setting an NCAA tournament record by making all 17 of his free throws. That’s right, a 6-foot-10 center cans 17 straight free throws. Michigan State advances to the Sweet 16 for the 12th time in 17 years, Coach Tom Izzo is, in fact, that good.
Nik Stauskas sank three 3-pointers to the reach the 1,000-point mark for this career to lead #2 Michigan over #15 Wofford.
What a difference 48 hours makes. After its stunning upset victory Thursday against Oklahoma, the #12 North Dakota State Bison had no answer for the #4 seed San Diego State Aztecs, losing by 19 points. Aztec point guard Xavier Thames lived up to his position, scoring 30 points, while his San Diego State teammates held North Dakota State to a season-low 44 points. Welcome to March Madness, with all of its highs and lows.
#11 Dayton polished off #6 Ohio State on Thursday, and then held off Syracuse on Saturday, beating the Orange, 55-53. Dayton’s combined point margin in the two victories was 3. Syracuse missed 10 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc, and Dayton nailed 7.
Three-pointers can matter. #2 Michigan sank 14 three-pointers in taking down #7 Texas. Nik Stuskas made 4 of Michigan’s 14 three-pointers, scored 17 points overall and matched a career-high with 8 assists. The Wolverines advance to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.
So who will make it to the Elite 8?
Consider these cold hard facts of life in the Annual NCAA March Madness Tournament:
In Round 2, 8 seeds beat 9 seeds only 51% of the time, in other words, these contests are a toss-up, and 7 seeds beat 10 seeds only 60% of the time.
In Round 3, 4 seeds beat 9 seeds only 55% of the time, and 3 seeds beat 10 seeds only 54% of the time.
In the Elite 8 and Beyond, 1 seeds beat 2 seeds only 55% of the time, and 1 seeds beat 4 seeds only 59% of the time.
In the last 10 years, 27 of the 40 Final 4 teams have been Conference Tournament Finalists, and 7 of the 10 National Champions won their Conference Tournament Title on their way to March Madness.
In 11 of the last 15 years the National Champion has been a #1 seed.
To demonstrate how difficult it is to pick all Final 4 teams, last year 8.15 million brackets were filled out in the ESPN Contest, but just 47 entries among the 8,150,000 picked all Final 4 teams correctly. ONLY 47. Suffice to say that it is really RARE to pick all 4 Finalists. One might say, good luck and God speed.
Here is a recap of the 2014 NCAA March Madness Tournament:
National Championship Game to Determine the 2014 NCAA Champion:
Yet to Play
National Semifinals to Determine the Final 4:
Yet to Play
Yet to Play
Yet to Play
Yet to Play
Regional Finals to Determine the Elite 8:
#2 Michigan vs. #11 Tennessee
#4 Louisville vs. #8 Kentucky
#1 Arizona vs. #4 San Diego State
#2 Wisconsin vs. #6 Baylor
#1 Virginia vs. #4 Michigan State
#3 Iowa State vs. #7 Connecticut
#1 Florida vs. #4 UCLA
#10 Stanford vs. #11 Dayton (A Double-Digit Team Will Be in the Elite 8)
2014 NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinals in Round 3 to Determine the Sweet 16:
#1 Wichita State was upset by #8 Kentucky 78-76
#2 Michigan eliminated #7 Texas 79-65
#4 Louisville eliminated #5 Saint Louis 66-51
#11 Tennessee eliminated #14 Mercer 83-63
#1 Arizona eliminated #8 Gonzaga 84-61
#2 Wisconsin eliminated #7 Oregon 85-77
#3 Creighton was upset by #6 Baylor 85-55
#4 San Diego State eliminated #12 North Dakota State 63-44
#1 Virginia eliminated #8 Memphis 78-60
#2 Villanova was upset by #7 Connecticut 77-65
#3 Iowa State eliminated #6 North Carolina 85-83
#4 Michigan State eliminated #12 Harvard 80-73
#1 Florida eliminated #9 Pittsburgh 61-45
#2 Kansas was upset by #10 Stanford 60-57
#3 Syracuse was upset by #11 Dayton 55-53
#4 UCLA eliminated #12 Stephen F. Austin 77-60
2014 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 2 to Determine the 32 Teams Advancing:
#1 Wichita State eliminated #18 Cal Poly 64-37
#2 Michigan eliminated #15 Wofford 57-40
#3 Duke was upset by #14 Mercer 78-71
#4 Louisville eliminated #13 Manhattan 71-64
#5 Saint Louis eliminated #12 North Carolina State 83-76 in Overtime
#6 Massachusetts was upset by #11Tennessee 86-67
#7 Texas eliminated #10 Arizona State 87-85
#8 Kentucky eliminated #9 Kansas State 56-49
#1 Arizona eliminated #16 Weber State 68-59
#2 Wisconsin eliminated #15 American 75-35
#3 Creighton eliminated #14 Louisiana-Lafayette 76-66
#4 San Diego State eliminated #13 New Mexico State 73-69 in Overtime
#5 Oklahoma was upset by #12 North Dakota State 80-75 in Overtime
#6 Baylor eliminated #11 Nebraska 74-60
#7 Oregon eliminated #10 Brigham Young 87-68
#8 Gonzaga eliminated #9 Oklahoma State 85-77
#1 Virginia eliminated #15 Coastal Carolina 70-59
#2 Villanova eliminated #15 Wisconsin-Milwaukee 73-53
#3 Iowa State eliminated #14 North Carolina Central 93-75
#4 Michigan State eliminated #13 Delaware 93-78
#5 Cincinnati was upset by #12 Harvard 61-57
#6 North Carolina eliminated #11 Providence 79-77
#7 Connecticut eliminated #10 Saint Joseph’s 89-81 in Overtime
#8 Memphis eliminated #9 George Washington 71-66
#1 Florida eliminated #16 Albany 67-55
#2 Kansas eliminated #15 Eastern Kentucky 80-69
#3 Syracuse eliminated #14 Western Michigan 77-53
#4 UCLA eliminated #13 Tulsa 76-59
#5 Virginia Commonwealth was upset by upset by #12 Stephen F. Austin 77-75 in Overtime
#6 Ohio State was upset by #11 Dayton 60-59
#7 New Mexico was upset by #10 Stanford 58-53
#8 Colorado was upset by #9 Pittsburgh 77-48
2014 NCAA Tournament Results for the Round 1 Winner Play-In Games to the Field of 64:
#11 Tennessee eliminated #11 Iowa 78-65
#12 North Carolina State eliminated #12 Xavier 74-59
#16 Cal Poly eliminated #16 Texas Southern 81-69
#16 Albany eliminated #16 Mount St. Mary’s 71-64