The first weekend of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is in the books, and the teams in the Sweet 16 are gearing up to continue on in March Madness. Some of the teams were expected to get into the Sweet 16. Others, however, needed some big upsets in order to secure their spot. In case you missed some of the games, here are all the Sweet 16 teams’ tournament recaps through the third round, along with my predictions for the remainder of the tournament.
South Region: Florida, UCLA, Dayton, Stanford
East Region: Virginia, Michigan State, Iowa State, Connecticut
West Region: Arizona, San Diego State, Baylor, Wisconsin
Midwest Region: Kentucky, Louisville, Tennessee, Michigan
As the top overall seed in the tournament, the Gators were expected to make it to the Sweet 16 and beyond with ease. Many people picked them to win the entire tournament. The second round matched up the Gators with the 16 seed Albany Great Danes. The game was fairly close, but Florida pulled away and won by 12, 67-55. In the third round they faced a 9 seed Pittsburgh team that dismantled Colorado in the Second Round 77-48. Florida was too strong for Pitt and they outplayed the Panthers, winning 61-45.
The Bruins were given a 4 seed in the tournament and faced the 13 seed Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the second round. It was clear UCLA was the better team, and they defeated Tulsa 76-59. The Bruins then faced the 12 seed Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks who upset VCU thanks to a four-point play and overtime, 77-75. UCLA led the majority of the game and won by 17 points, again, 77-60.
Arguably the biggest shocker of the tournament so far is the 11 seed Flyers in the Sweet 16. They opened March Madness with a bang, beating 6 seed Ohio State on a last-second shot 60-59. They faced an uphill battle against 3 seed Syracuse, who spent much of the year number one in the rankings and undefeated, but have faltered down the stretch. The Orange took down the 14 seed Western Michigan Broncos with ease, 77-53. The third round game was back and forth the whole time, and Syracuse had a buzzer beater from Tyler Ennis rattle off the rim, sending Dayton into the Sweet 16.
The 10 seed Cardinal will face the 11 seed Flyers in the Sweet 16 thanks to two more upsets. In the second round, Stanford beat the New Mexico Lobos. The game was back and forth and Stanford pulled out the win late, 58-53. In the third round they faced another very talented team, the 2 seed Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas had to play without one of their star players, Joel Embiid, due to a back injury. Kansas edged out the 15 seed Eastern Kentucky Colonels in the second round without Embiid, 80-69. There were rumors Embiid would be available to play after the first weekend, but he won’t get the chance. The game was close the whole way, and Stanford ended up stunning the Jayhawks 60-57 to advance to the Sweet 16.
The top seed in the Midwest Region of the bracket, the Cavaliers had the biggest scare of the tournament in the second round against the 16 seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Coastal Carolina was leading at halftime 35-30, but Virginia fought their way back and won 70-59. The Cavaliers went on to face the 8 seed Memphis Tigers in the third round. Memphis beat the 9 seed George Washington Colonials in the second round in a close game, 71-66. Virginia was able to recover from their stumble in the second round, beating Memphis impressively, 78-60.
Michigan State Spartans
Even as a 4 seed, Michigan State was another popular pick in people’s brackets to win the whole tournament. The second round matched them up against the 13 seed Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. The Spartans breezed through the high scoring affair, winning 93-78. Michigan State played Harvard in the third round. The 12 seed Harvard Crimson was a popular upset pick over Cincinnati, and they came through, winning 61-57. The game between the Spartans and the Crimson was just as close, and Michigan State came through late to win 80-73.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones suffered both a win and loss in their second round game against the 14 seed North Carolina Central Eagles. Iowa State won by 18, 93-75. However, one of their star players, Georges Niang, suffered a foot injury and is unable to play the rest of the tournament. They played on without Niang against the 6 seed North Carolina Tarheels. UNC won a nail biter against the 11 seed Providence Friars, and were up on the Cyclones for most of the game. In a controversial ending, however, Iowa State won the game 85-83. After Iowa State took the lead with 1.6 seconds remaining, then the Tar Heels inbounded the ball, but the clock did not start. Once they had made it down the floor, the clock still had time, but 1.6 seconds had already gone by, thus ending the game and giving Iowa State a berth in the Sweet 16.
The 7 seed Huskies are a bit of an under-the-radar team coming into the tournament, but their play so far has definitely gotten them noticed. They bounced the 10 seed St. Joseph’s Hawks in a close battle, 89-81. They played the 2 seed Villanova Wildcats with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Villanova had no problems against the 15 seed Milwaukee Panthers in a 73-53 win. Connecticut gave Villanova another early exit after they lost to early to in the Big east tournament to Seton Hall, and Connecticut became a team to watch in a 77-65 win.
It was a matchup of the Wildcats when top seed Arizona met 16 seed Weber State. Arizona only won by nine, 68-59 but it was clear they were the better team on the floor. Their third round game pitted them against the 8 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga’s first game against the 9 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys looked more like a free-throw shooting contest than a basketball game. The Zags pulled out a win in a game with 61 fouls, the most in a tournament game in recent memory. Arizona had no problem dispatching the Bulldogs, winning easily 84-61.
San Diego State Aztecs
The 4 seed Aztecs barely made it out of their first game, going into overtime against the 13 seed New Mexico State Aggies, edging out a close win 73-69. In the Third Round, San Diego State met the 12 seed North Dakota State Bison, who upset the 5 seed Oklahoma Sooners in another overtime game, 80-75. The third round game did not need overtime however, as San Diego State cruised to an easy win, 63-44.
The 6 seed Bears were awful in the middle of the season, but they have found their stride of late and are really showing it. Baylor was much better than the 11 seed Nebraska Cornhuskers, winning by 14, 74-60. The Bears’ matchup in the third round was against the 3 seed Creighton Bluejays. Creighton went up against the 14 seed Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. It was a close game, but Creighton was able to pull away and win 76-66, thanks to their Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott. Baylor overpowered Creighton with their size and speed, even beating Creighton on three-pointers, which Creighton is the best in the country at. The Bears crushed the Bluejays by 30 points, 85-55.
In the Badgers’ second round game they were down 19-13 in the first half, but they went on a 62-16 run to end the game and beat 15 seed American University Eagles 75-35. Wisconsin’s next game was against the 7 seed Oregon Ducks. The Ducks easily got by the 10 seed BYU Cougars by 19, 87-68. The game between Wisconsin and Oregon was tight the whole way, but the Badgers managed to pull away at the end and beat the Ducks 85-77.
Kentucky has one of the most talented teams in the country; however, most of its players are very young, many of them freshman, leading to inconsistency throughout the year leading to an 8 seed. Again it was Wildcats meeting in the second round when Kentucky played the 9 seed Kansas State Wildcats. It was a low scoring game as Kentucky won 56-49. The next game matched Kentucky against the top seed in the region, the undefeated Wichita State Shockers. The game was close throughout as Kentucky edged out Wichita State in a thriller. Fred VanVleet of the Shockers rattled a three pointer of the iron as time expired, and the perfect season of Wichita State came to and end, keeping Kentucky’s tourney dreams alive.
The 4 seed Louisville Cardinals had a controversial second round game against the 13 seed Manhattan Jaspers. The coach of Manhattan was an assistant to Rick Pitino, Louisville’s head coach. As a title contender, Louisville nearly faltered in their second round game, but they squeaked out the win in the end 71-64. The third round was Louisville against the 5 seed St. Louis Billikens. The Billikens snuck by NC State 83-80 in overtime in the second round, but they were no match for the powerful Cardinals, who showed their true potential, winning 66-51, moving on to the Sweet 16 in an attempt to repeat as champions.
The 11 seed Volunteers were the only team from the First Four games to win their second game too. They beat the Iowa Hawkeyes 78-65 in overtime to get into the field of 64. Then they showed that they deserved that spot in the tournament by blowing out the 6 seed Massachusetts Minutemen 86-67. Looking to continue their Cinderella run, they faced the 14 seed Mercer Bears in the third round. Mercer shocked the basketball world by beating the powerhouse 3 seed Duke Blue Devils 78-71. The Bears miracle run ran into a wall, however, against Tennessee. The Volunteers won big over Mercer, 83-63.
The 2 seed Michigan had a relatively easy road into the Sweet 16, taking down the 15 seed Wofford Terriers 57-40. The Wolverines continued on to play the 7 seed Texas Longhorns. Texas looked to be going into overtime against the 10 seed Arizona State Sun Devils after missing a three-pointer with 3.7 seconds on the clock, but Texas player Cameron Ridley managed to get an offensive rebound and lay the ball in with only 0.1 seconds remaining, giving the Longhorns a 87-85 win. Michigan didn’t give them a chance to win on a buzzer beater, winning by 14, 79-65.
Sweet 16 Predictions
After breaking down each team’s road through the tournament thus far, I’ll give my predictions of teams that look good, teams that have something to prove, and teams to keep your eye on. I’ll also predict the remainder of the tournament, although judging by the nature of this year’s tourney so far, that bracket will probably get busted too.
Title contenders: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, Michigan
What is there to say? These four teams have looked the best by far in their region of the bracket. The only team that has come close to having an early exit is Michigan State, but I think the game against Harvard was be a wake up call for the Spartans. One would think Florida has an easy path to the Final Four now that they face a 4 seed then either a 10 or 11 seed. Arizona and Michigan still have tough paths to the Final Four, but both have looked superb so far
Teams to watch: Dayton, Connecticut, Baylor, Tennessee
Between the two Cinderella teams in the South, I think the Dayton Flyers are stronger than the Stanford Cardinal, and will upset another higher seed and advance. Connecticut was an under the radar team coming in, but now that they have two wins under their belt, they look poised to make a run akin to their tournament run with Kemba Walker in 2011. Baylor has been on a hot streak, and have blown out both teams they faced thus far. If Brady Heslip heats up from three point land and they win the rebound game, they are all but unstoppable. Tennessee is on a three-game win streak and they don’t look to be slowing down. Michigan has a big challenge waiting for them in the next game against the Volunteers.
Teams that are in trouble: UCLA, Iowa State, Wisconsin
UCLA has arguably had the easiest path to the Sweet 16. They had little to no challenge against either Tulsa or Stephen F. Austin. They are in for a rude awakening in their next game against Florida. Iowa State may have gotten to the Sweet 16 by the skin of their teeth, but playing without Georges Niang is definitely going to challenge the Cyclones. Wisconsin faces the challenge of stopping the red-hot Baylor Bears. If they can get rebounds over Baylor’s big men and stop the Bears from shooting threes, they may just have a shot. Even if they beat Baylor, they’ll most likely have to face the 1 seed, Arizona.
Elite 8: Florida, Dayton, Michigan State, Connecticut, Arizona, Baylor, Louisville, Michigan
Final 4: Florida, Michigan State, Baylor, Michigan
Championship: Florida vs. Michigan
Champion: Florida Gators