#12 seed South Florida, which eliminated #12 California from the Pacific 12, held the Cal Bears to 13 points in the 1st half. The Bulls set a Big East record by giving up less than 57 points a game this season. South Florida went on to upset #5 Temple in the Second Round before losing to #13 seed Ohio in the Third Round. The Bulls biggest problem was no offense—they didn’t have a single player average double figures for the season.
#12 Virginia Commonwealth upset #5 Wichita State in its opening game, but lost to #4 Indiana by a basket. The Rams, last year’s Final Four darlings, led the nation in steals and turnover margin this year. Indiana hit 43% from 3-point range this season, second best in the country.
#8 Iowa State, which eliminated #9 Connecticut in the Second Round, averaged better than 8 baskets a game beyond the perimeter this year. Connecticut did not have an answer, losing by 13 points.
#14 Brigham Young pulled off the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history in its play-in game against #14 Iona, coming from 25 points down to win, 78-72. The Cougars, after making history, then promptly lost to #3 Marquette by 20 points.
Many basketball zealots from #2 Missouri thought the Tigers were shafted when they were not selected as a #1 seed. Missouri had 5 players who had hit 24 or more three-pointers this season. Wonder what those same zealots thought when their Tigers were upset by the #15 Norfolk State Spartans, who became only the fifth #15 seed in history to beat a #2 seed.
Rick Pitino of Louisville has his Cardinals in the Sweet 16 again. Pitino has taken 3 different schools to the Final Four—Providence in 1987, Kentucky in 1993, 1996 and 1997, and Louisville in 2005. He is arguably one of the best coaches in the country. He won the national championship with Kentucky in 1996, was national runner-up in 1997 and also had Kentucky in the Elite 8 in 1992 and 1995. Pitino has had Louisville in the Elite 8 in 2008 and 2009. His career record is 612-227 (73%).
#7 Gonzaga eliminated #10 West Virginia. The game was significant as West Virginia coach Bob Huggins was making his 20th NCAA appearance, and Gonzaga coach Mark Few his 13th consecutive appearance.
#5 Vanderbilt eliminated #12 Harvard, but lost to #4 Wisconsin in its second game. Both Vanderbilt and Harvard earned a ton of publicity coming into the tournament. Vandy upset #1 seed Kentucky for its first SEC title since 1951, and the Harvard Crimson (not to be confused with the Alabama Crimson Tide) were making their first NCAA appearance since 1946, 66 years ago!
The Pacific 12 Conference is absolutely sucking Louisiana pond water. There were no, repeat no, Pac 12 teams in the both the final AP Top 25 and Coaches Top 25 Polls this year. No team in the Pac 12 beat a ranked team ALL season. Only two were selected for the NCAA Tournament–#12 California, which was eliminated by #12 South Florida in a play-in game, and #11 Colorado, which upset #6 UNLV and then promptly lost to #3 Baylor.
The average margin of victory for last year’s #1 seeds in the Round of 64 was 23+ points. This year it was 15+, 8 points less.
The #9 Saint Louis Billikens only lost to #1 seed Michigan State by 4 points in the West Regional. Saint Louis got to the Big Dance by hanging onto the ball on offense on purpose to run time off the game clock. They beat #8 Memphis by holding them to 54 points, 20 points less than Memphis averaged per game. During the season, Saint Louis gave up less than 58 points a game, and 10 times held its opponent to 50 points or less. Michigan State won because they can run the floor, or play a half-court offense. The other reason the Spartans won was Draymond Green, arguably the best all-around big man in the March Madness tournament this year.
In 17 years at Michigan State, Coach Tom Izzo won the National Championship in 2000, was the National Championship Runner-Up in 2009, has taken Michigan State to 7 Final Fours, 10 of the last 15 Sweet 16 fields, has made it to the NCAA Tournament for 15 consecutive years, and won 7 Big Ten Championships. Andy Katz at ESPN has called Michigan State the best college program during the decade of 1998 to 2007.
When #15 seed upset #2 seed Duck behind C. J. McCollum’s 30 points, fans asked, ” C. J. who”? McCollum was not recruited by any big school because he was exactly 5-foot-6 as a junior in high school. Who knew he would grow to 6-foot-3 and become the nation’s 5th-leading scorer? Duke could certainly have used him.
When North Carolina made it to the Sweet 16 this year, it was for a tournament record 25th time. Since the Sweet 16 field expanded in 1985, Duke has been there the most times (20), followed by North Carolina (19), Kansas (18) and Kentucky (17). And you wonder why these are among the best programs in the country.
When the Sweet 16 competition started this year, there were no teams from the Pacific and Mountain time zones present for only the 2nd time since the field expanded to 16 teams in 1951, 61 years ago.
For the record, 4 Big Ten teams made the Sweet 16 this year—Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana. The first time in happened was in 1985 when 4 Big East teams made the Sweet 16.
Twenty-five percent of the teams in the Sweet 16 this year are also from the Big East Conference–#1 Syracuse, #3 Marquette, #4 Louisville and #6 Cincinnati.
Twenty-five percent of the teams in the Sweet 16 this year are from Ohio–#2 Ohio State, #6 Cincinnati, #10 Xavier, and #13 Ohio, and BOTH Cincinnati and Xavier are from the City of Cincinnati.
It should not have been a surprise when #6 Cincinnati knocked off #3 Florida State. Cincy takes good care of the ball and Florida State’s Seminoles averaged 16 turnovers a game during the season. Allowing turnovers is not good, and allowing unforced turnovers is even worse.
#6 Cincinnati’s run to the Sweet 16 brings back memories of the great Oscar Robinson, who led Cincinnati to back-to-back National Championships in 1961 and 1962 against none other than in-state rival Ohio State.
#10 Xavier, lauded as one of the best bets to upset #7 Notre Dame, did exactly that—winning 67-63 against the Fighting Irish. Xavier is no slouch. The Musketeers trip to the Sweet 16 was its 4th Sweet 16 appearance in 4 years! Not many teams can say that.
John Calipari is the only coach to appear in the last 5 Sweet 16 fields. Calipari took Memphis to the Sweet 16 in 2008 and 2009, and has led Kentucky to the Sweet 16 in 2010, 2011 and 2012.