2 is the magic number for the Big East
The reigning National Champions are gone, but the Big East Conference is sending two teams to the Sweet 16. The 11-seeded Xavier Musketeers and 4-seeded Butler Bulldogs got the job done, and as a result the X-Men will are bound for San Jose while the ‘Dawgs will be trekking down to Memphis. It’s (obviously) the most teams that the conference has sent to the second weekend since its reformatting and while ‘Nova’s exit may leave a bitter taste in mouths on the Main Line and elsewhere, Butler and Xavier are fine representatives for the conference and each have the potential to keep making noise.
No back-to-back champ again
As mentioned, the Wildcats were hit with a dismissal as they fell to the 8-seeded Wisconsin Badgers in Buffalo. The Florida Gators of 05-06 and 06-07 continue to be the measuring stick as they remain the last team to go back-to-back in the NCAA Tournament. With the drought stretching to ten years, it truly shows how difficult a task it is to get that job done as if it weren’t already apparent.
The West Regional is set
We know the Xavier Musketeers will be heading to San Jose, but who’s joining them? The Arizona Wildcats, West Virginia Mountaineers and Gonzaga Bulldogs, that’s who. ‘Zona and the Zags each fended off tough tests issued out by St. Mary’s and Northwestern but got out of Salt Lake City unscathed. The Mountaineers meanwhile took down Notre Dame almost effortlessly in the first game of the day. With Sean Miller, Bob Huggins, Mark Few and Chris Mack at the helm, this is a loaded regional as far as teams go and coaches go. You’re gonna have to earn every bit of it out west, that much is certain.
Florida is back in the second weekend
It seems crazy to think about, but the Gators hadn’t made the second weekend of the tourney since 2014. Florida had been a staple of it, having gotten there four years in a row. There was a point where an entire four-year cycle was spent in the Elite Eight or better, but they entered an albeit brief period of struggle. Now though, under the direction of Mike White, the Gators are back in the Sweet 16 after they crushed Virginia in Orlando.
Purdue survived a meltdown of epic proportions
The last game of the day was one of the most dramatic. The Purdue Boilermakers and Iowa State Cyclones duked it out in Milwaukee and, for a while, it looked like the Boilermakers were going to cruise to Kansas City. Iowa State, led by Monte Morris and Deonte Burton, surged back from down 19 and eventually did seize control of the lead. But, thanks to Vince Edwards and Caleb Swanigan, Purdue is back in the Sweet 16. It was as wild a finish as we’ve seen in some time, but credit to both teams for making things interesting and credit to Purdue for picking up the pieces despite things looking disastrous.
What to watch for on Sunday
- The ACC is suddenly down to three teams. Luckily, they’re Louisville, Duke and UNC. Can they each get to the second weekend?
- Will Michigan’s surge continue? They’ll have their hands full with the Cards, but they’ve looked more than capable in the past few weeks of getting things done.
- The Pac-12 is 6-0 with USC, Oregon and UCLA on deck. Is a perfect weekend in reach?
- Two more 11 seeds are in action with Rhode Island and the aforementioned Trojans. We saw Xavier got to the second weekend. Will the Rams and USC join them?
- Tom Izzo vs. Bill Self? Sure. Let’s get that going in Tulsa please.
- Wichita State vs. Kentucky II? Yes. Let’s do that in Indy also.