*Inhales and exhales deeply* Is there any argument against why we call March Madness, well, March Madness? Odds say no. Did anyone see this year’s results from the first and second rounds coming? If you say yes, then you are either a magician or from the future or both. Now that we have had a day or so to let it sink in, let’s take a deep breath and discuss a few questions as we look ahead to the Sweet 16 later this week.
Is it overrated to be given a #1 seed?
History says no, but this year’s tournament would argue yes. UVA’s absolutely stunning loss to UMBC in the first round marked the first time in March Madness history that a #16 seed defeated a #1. Then, just two days later, fellow #1 seed Xavier lost its second-round matchup to #9 Florida State. A vast majority of experts and fans alike never imagined that we would witness two of the top four teams falling before the Sweet 16. Villanova and Kansas now have the responsibility of upholding the reputation and status that comes with being named a #1 seed. Will they fail to meet expectations? Crazier results have occurred at the NCAA Tournament!
What is next for defending champion North Carolina?
Ahhh, the highs and lows of March Madness… UNC understands this more than most schools. Following last year’s impressive and comprehensive national championship run, the Tar Heels crashed out of the tournament in the second round to the Aggies from Texas A&M. It was certainly not the ending UNC fans expected this year, but there is much to look forward to next year and beyond as the team only loses two seniors to graduation. On the recruiting trail, two 5-star commitments lead the 2018 class with another potentially joining in the fun to give UNC plenty to be excited about as it recharges and prepares for the 2018-19 season. Despite the bitter disappointment of this year’s second round exit, there is no question that the Tar Heels will return with a vengeance. They always do.
Is Loyola Chicago the real deal?
Though a #11 seed is not really considered to be a minnow by NCAA Tournament standards, Loyola Chicago is not the first school that comes to mind when you think of a college basketball powerhouse. However, the Wolves have taken this year’s March Madness by storm on its way to defeating Miami of the ACC and Tennessee of the SEC in back-to-back upsets. Now, the Wolf Pack from Nevada stand in the way of Loyola Chicago’s first Elite 8 appearance since 1963 when the school won its first national title. With the momentum and hype carrying this team through the first two rounds, there is no reason to believe Loyola Chicago cannot advance to face either Kentucky or Kansas State in the South regional finale in Atlanta.
Is Syracuse primed for another deep run this year?
From the risky ‘First Four’ play-in game to its upset of #3 Michigan State, Syracuse has taken its #11 seed in stride on the way to another Sweet 16 appearance this year. Duke now stands in the way of the Orange as it looks to repeat its improbable run to the Final Four from 2016. Michigan State, considered by many to be a favorite to win it all despite its #3 seeding, did not expect to be overwhelmed by Syracuse who is surely full of confidence and eagerness to provide its technically fourth straight upset during this tournament. Stay tuned to see how the Blue Devils cope with the fearless Orange in a few days’ time.
Which schools are the favorite as we move on to the Sweet 16?
This is quite the loaded question. Of course, Villanova and Kansas are expected to contend for the title as the last #1 seeds. Kentucky appears to have the easiest path towards the Final Four out of the South region. Michigan is looking like a team trending higher and higher with each passing round. Duke may already be thinking about its potential Elite 8 showdown with Kansas, but the Blue Devils cannot overlook Syracuse. Few fans could have predicted Loyola Chicago’s run to the Sweet 16 and it will surely have the backing of many viewers versus the red-hot Nevada Wolf Pack. Though there are several matchups with a clear favorite, it would be foolish to make any assumptions after what we witnessed during the first two rounds. Let’s see what happens!