1. Villanova got the monkey off their back in a big way
The big question going into the NCAA Tournament was, "Can Villanova make the second weekend and put their first and second round woes behind them?"
Well, that question was promptly answered with a bang. 'Nova took down the Iowa Hawkeyes with relative ease in Brooklyn Sunday afternoon, making the Sweet 16 for the first time since their Final Four run back in 2009. A brilliant 3-point shooting performance was on display, as well as a great defensive performance too, as now the Wildcats will turn their attention to Louisville and the Miami Hurricanes in the Sweet 16.
2. Thanks to Oregon, all of the No. 1 seeds advanced to the second weekend
For the first time since 2012, all No. 1 seeds will be sticking around in the Sweet 16 of this year's NCAA Tournament. The Oregon Ducks were able to escape Spokane with a victory over the St. Joseph's Hawks late Sunday night - or right around evening time, depending on your location - thanks to clutch shooting from Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey. The Ducks, North Carolina Tar Heels, Virginia Cavaliers and Kansas Jayhawks will all be vying to get to Houston, and should they all make it, it would mark just the second time in NCAA Tournament history that all No. 1 seeds got to the Final Four. Kansas knows a little something about the last time that happened.
3. Thanks to Oregon, the Pac-12 avoided an epic disaster
The Pac-12 Conference had a rough go in the first weekend of this year's NCAA Tournament. The bad news is that a majority of the teams not only lost, but were promptly spanked. The good news is that their flag bearer, the Oregon Ducks, broke through the pack and will be heading to the Sweet 16 down in Anaheim, California. The Ducks were able to pick up the slack for the rest of the conference and, going forward, have a chance to continue doing that as one of the prime contenders to win it all.
4. No Cinderellas will play in the Sweet 16
Unless you dare call 10-seed Syracuse or 11-seed Gonzaga a 'Cinderella' team, and it's hard to do that for either, there won't be any teams playing that role this year. Thanks to 'Cuse's dismissal of Middle Tennessee and Northern Iowa's epic collapse, plucky mid-major teams are nowhere to be found. You could argue that about Gonzaga, but I find it tough to do that given the players that they possess.
5. Northern Iowa had one of the most shocking collapses of all time
Letting up a 14-2 run in the final 44 seconds of the game is supremely suboptimal. Then going and losing the game is perhaps even worse. The Panthers were on the bad side of history Sunday night in OKC, letting Texas A&M come all the way back and defeat them on their way to the Sweet 16 in Anaheim. Ben Jacobson's aim of making the second Sweet 16 of his coaching career was denied in heartbreaking fashion, and it will be intriguing to see what happens next.
6. Coaching matters
With the exception of Greg Gard, Billy Kennedy and Steve Prohm, every coach in the Sweet 16 currently has either made it to this round or further. Even with the absences of coaches like Bob Huggins, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Gregg Marshall, Chris Mack, Sean Miller and Shaka Smart among others, the Sweet 16 is loaded with top-tier coaches like Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Mike Brey, Coach K, Bill Self, Jay Wright, Lon Kruger among others. Never let anyone tell you that coaching doesn't matter in the NCAA Tournament.
7. Top seeds are not elusive from heartbreak, and Xavier learned that the hard way
The Xavier Musketeers seemed to have it all working for them this year in one of the best seasons in program history. But with the flick of Bronson Koenig's wrist, it all vanished with the burying of a game-winning 3-pointer in St. Louis. Certainly, nothing can be taken away from Xavier's terrific season that featured one of the best starts in program history and one of the best win totals as well. But a bitter defeat left a bad taste in Musketeer fans' mouths everywhere.
8. Mike Brey has revitalized himself and the narrative around Notre Dame
For many years, Notre Dame felt like a stone cold lock to be dismissed in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, prior to last year, the Fighting Irish were taken out before the Sweet 16 in six consecutive trips to the Big Dance. But for two years running now, Mike Brey and ND have brushed through the first weekend and have done so in pretty impressive fashion. There's no telling if Brey's team will capture some of the magic last year's did when they nearly took off then-unbeaten Kentucky in Cleveland, but it's certain that one of the most overlooked and underappreciated coaches in America is finally getting the pendulum to swing his way.
9. This Syracuse team, of all teams, is making the Sweet 16
A Syracuse team that started 25-0 two years ago, one that had a chance of being a Top 2 seed in Buffalo, where they likely wouldn't have had to leave the state of New York before making the Final Four, gets bounced before the first weekend. In 2011, a 'Cuse team that went 25-6 couldn't make the second weekend. But this Orange team, one that lost to Pitt three times, one that lost four of their last five in the regular season, and lost to... BOTH St. John's and Georgetown is the one that breaks through. Go figure, right? The NCAA Tournament is weird and wacky, and this Orange team exemplifies just that.
10. The ACC's having a hell of a showing, while the Big East finds themselves back in a familiar position
The ACC is sending a record six teams to the Sweet 16, busting past the five they sent last year which matched the all-time record set by the Big East back in 2009 when they sent five teams as well. As for the Big East, much like last year, they're sending just one team to the second weekend, a team not many people even expected to make the second weekend despite how talented the Villanova Wildcats are.
But with context applied, it's hard to really feel sour. Butler and Providence were not favored against UVA or UNC, but hung with them the whole way. Villanova body slammed both UNC Asheville and Iowa. The only teams you have to feel bad about are Seton Hall, who had a terrible matchup vs. Gonzaga, and Xavier, who likely had no business losing to Wisconsin. That's the way the cookie crumbles though, but to be honest, it's really tough to feel listless this time around.