The NCAA tournament AKA March Madness has weeded out enough teams that post-game coverage can be steered more towards analysis rather than just recapping the round’s events. And, in the Sweet 16, there were plenty of points to be made.
It’s Just a Little History Repeatin’
Connecticut won the tournament last year as they carried over momentum from an impressive Big East tournament run in which they won five games in five days to take the title. Their championship proved to be the only real highlight in an otherwise horrendous showing by the Big East in the big dance.
Don’t look now, but Louisville is gunning to do the same this year. Granted, they only won FOUR games in FOUR days at the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden, the Cardinals can still draw several parallels to the Huskies from a year ago.
Now, they will face Florida in the Elite Eight. If they win that game, they will be through to the Final Four where they could face Kentucky who UConn beat in the Final Four LAST year. Deja vu all over again? It very well could be.
The backend of the comparison, however, is also similar. Louisville is one of only two Big East teams to make it to the Elite Eight out of nine total teams that received invites to the tournament(and a tenth, Seton Hall, could’ve realistically made the tournament, as well). Overall, the Big East performance this year has not been as bad as last year’s, but there were still some ugly moments like Georgetown losing to N.C. State, Notre Dame losing to Xavier, West Virginia getting clobbered by Gonzaga, and let’s not forget Syracuse almost became the first #1 seed EVER to lose to a #16 seed.
Of course, time will only tell just how similar Connecticut and Louisville’s stories end up. But, so far, Louisville has played almost like a fifth #1 seed; which makes a lot of sense because they just took out Michigan State.
There’s no other way to say it: Syracuse didn’t only DESERVE to lose to UNC-Asheville in the first round, they would’ve lost if it wasn’t for a couple of blown calls. After that game, everyone, myself included, figured the Orangemen were a ticking upset time bomb. Well, the Elite Eight is here and ‘Cuse is still kicking.
After that UNC-Asheville game, Syracuse beat a talented Kansas State team by a comfortable margin. But the real test of both skill AND will came against Wisconsin. Unlike the Big East, the Big Ten proved they are a tournament tour de force and Wisconsin was one of its best bids. The Orangemen dug out a nail-biter of a game to advance to the Elite Eight where they face ANOTHER Big Ten team, Ohio State. As long as Syracuse doesn’t get absolutely clobbered by the Buckeyes, they will have lived up to tournament expectations in my book. I mean, let’s not forget they ARE doing all this WITHOUT Fab Melo.
The Craziness Calmeth Down
There’s a reason why it’s called March Madness and the first week of the tournament was proof-positive of that. Not one but TWO #2 seeds fell in the round of 64 and there were plenty of other upsets to compliment them.
However, now things have settled down and the teams that SHOULD be winning are. Xavier, Ohio, and N.C. State all had their Cinderella runs come to an end in the Sweet Sixteen. Now the lowest-seeded team still alive is a Florida squad that hadn’t had to beat anyone significant before they upset Marquette. After them it’s the #4 Louisville Cardinals. I’m sorry to say it doesn’t appear as though there will be a Mid-Major in the Final Four this year as all eight of the teams remaining are from power conferences (2 SEC, 2 Big 12, 2 Big East, 1 ACC, 1 Big Ten).
They Might Be Giants
You know who hasn’t made any headlines this tournament? The Kentucky Wildcats. Why? Because their dominance over their opponents thus far in the tournament has been nothing to write home about. Beating their opponents by a combined 43 points over the course of only three games, Kentucky just took the only team to beat them in the regular season (Indiana) to school and put up 102 points IN regulation on the Hoosiers.
With the way they have been playing, the Wildcats shouldn’t just be the top #1 seed, they should have an entirely different seed. Aside from Florida, all the teams left are Top-4 seeds and they all appear to be heavy underdogs to a Kentucky team that is firing on all cylinders.
If Kentucky wins the national championship, most will look back and probably say losing to Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship is the best thing that could have ever happened to the Wildcats. Calipari’s trophy-less team is playing with a hunger and a tenacity that the other seven teams still alive simply haven’t shown thus far.
NOTE: This article was originally published on SportsHead. To read this story and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t watching men “dance”, he is on twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!