March Madness: Top 10 Takeaways from Round of 64

March Madness: Top 10 Takeaways from Round of 64

With overtimes galore, boneheaded fouls, buzzer-beaters, and stunning upsets, the Round of 64 more than lived up to its annual billing. Here are the top 10 takeaways going into the Round of 32, which begins around noon EST on Saturday (TV schedule for Saturday’s games below). 

1. Midwest: Wichita State Will May Have to Go Through Louisville, Kentucky

Wichita State, which set an NCAA record in getting to 35-0, will face the preseason No. 1 team in Kentucky, which struggled this year with inconsistent play while losing ten games, in the Round of 32 in a matchup that CBS seems to have badly wanted. Hopefully a Wichita State walk-on will not dunk in the warmups or violate any other obscure rule. The winner will potentially face Louisville in the Sweet 16. Louisville was dubbed the hottest team entering the tournament, but struggled mightily against Manhattan (Manhattan was coached by a Rick Pitino protege that ran the same plays as Louisville, so that could have explained some of the struggles.). But Louisville did not look invincible at all, and Wichita State is more seasoned and better than the team that gave the Cardinals all they could handle in last year’s Final Four. 

Even though they played the worst team in Cal Poly, Wichita State was the most dominant No. 1 seed, routing Cal Poly and holding them to a measly 37 points. The Shockers look like a team full of veteran pitchers who know how to pitch playing against a Kentucky team full of young hurlers who may be more talented but are still throwers instead of pitchers. 

2.  South: Can Florida Handle Syracuse’s Zone if They Meet?

If Florida meets Syracuse for a trip to the Final Four, can the Gators handle Syracuse’s patented match-up 2-3 zone? Florida lacks solid shooters, which are needed against Syracuse’s zone, and it showed as they struggled against Albany, and they will only have one day to prepare for Syracuse’s puzzle if they make it to the Elite Eight. Florida has to get by a tough and physical Pittsburgh team first on Saturday while Syracuse may face a full-strength Kansas team in an Elite Eight showdown. 

3.  East: Sparty Most Likely Through to Final Four After Cincy Loss

Cincinnati was the one team that could have given Michigan State fits, because they had the physical talent inside to matchup with Michigan State’s inside presence. Harvard, though, by winning its second tourney game in two years as a double-digit seed after not having made the tournament in over 40 years prior to that, may have taken care of Michigan State’s biggest road block. Virginia almost lost to No. 16 Coastal Carolina before finally pulling away, and hardly looks like an intimidating one-seed.

4.  West: Arizona Sees Biggest Roadblock to Texas Removed

Though Arizona looked sluggish in its early morning game against No. 16 Weber State, Oklahoma State was probably Arizona’s toughest roadblock in the West Regional, which has the weakest No. 2, 3, and 4 seeds in Wisconsin, Creighton, and San Diego State, respectively.  

5.  Don’t Underestimate the Atlantic Sun Conference

Mercer, which won the regular season last year before losing to “Dunk City,” beat Florida Gulf Coast in the for the tournament title, and shocked Duke, which wasn’t much of a shocker to those who have followed the team from Georgia. Mercer now faces a Tennessee team that they defeated last year at Tennessee in the NIT and may have a chance to make a run to the Sweet 16 like Florida Gulf Coast did last year. Mercer is America’s team for the weekend.  

6. Stephen F. Austin

The Lumberjacks won their first tournament game and their 29th straight game after tying the game against VCY in regulation on a 4-point play with 3 second remaining. A potential blockbuster matchup between UCLA’s Steve Alford and VCU’s Shaka Smart was no longer possible while Americans everywhere were trying to find where Nacogdoches, Texas was on their maps. 

7. Iowa State’s Chances for Final Four Run Likely Dashed by Georges Niang Injury

The third-seeded Cyclones were a sleeper pick to make a run to the Final Four, and they looked every bit like they could by pummeling an extremely talented No. 14 seed in North Carolina Central (compare to Duke’s losing to No. 14 Mercer). But those hopes may have been dashed when Iowa State lost their star player Georges Niang, the versatile big man, to a fractured foot. Niang is out for the rest of the tournament and Iowa State may soon join him. 

8. UCLA, Oregon Peaking 

All the talk was about how hot Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, and even Kentucky were entering the tournament. But Oregon and UCLA may be peaking at just the right time. The Ducks are a different team Dominic Artis fully in the mix and UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are gelling as well. These two teams are dangerous and could make it to the Elite Eight. 

9. A No. 1 Will Go Down Soon

Pittsburgh and Gonzaga have had close calls in recent years, but this year made me realize a top-seed will go down soon. Weber State gave No. 1 Arizona fits while Albany frustrated No. 1 Florida, even though both teams were outmatched in terms of talent. Coastal Carolina led at halftime and had a ten-point lead over Virginia in the first half. There is more parity in college basketball. Perhaps next year a one-seed from the east will play a late game on the west coast that got extended because of multiple overtimes in previous games. Or a one-seed from the west will get caught sleeping in an early game on the east coast. Or Perhaps a veteran team like a Mercer will get mis-seeded and placed in the No. 16 slot against a mid-major No. 1 or a team like Virginia that got the top-ranking by default. Regardless, there are some No. 16 v. No. 1 games that resemble a No. 3 versus No. 14 matchups instead of a No. 1 vs. No. 16, and the Round of 64 this year showed that a No. 1 seed is going to fall in this tournament sooner rather than later and finally give the Stanford women’s team some company.

10. No Perfect Brackets. 

The one thing that is predictable about March — and what makes it great — is truly anything can happen. Nearly 11 million brackets were entered into ESPN’s tournament challenge. After just one round, there are no perfect brackets. March madness, indeed. 

Saturday’s Schedule: 

12:15 p.m. (1) Florida vs. (9) Pittsburgh, Orlando
CBS Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy

2:45 p.m. (4) Louisville vs. (5) Saint Louis, Orlando
CBS Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy

5:15 p.m. (2) Michigan vs. (7) Texas, Milwaukee
CBS Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Lewis Johnson

6:10 p.m. (4) San Diego State vs. (12) North Dakota State, Spokane
TNT Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb, Jaime Maggio

7:10 p.m. (3) Syracuse vs. (11) Dayton, Buffalo
TBS Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Allie LaForce

7:45 p.m. (2) Wisconsin vs. (7) Oregon, Milwaukee
CBS Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Lewis Johnson

8:40 p.m. (3) Michigan State vs. (12) Harvard, Spokane
TNT Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb, Jaime Maggio

9:40 p.m. (2) Villanova vs. (7) Connecticut, Buffalo
TBS Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Allie LaForce