What we learned?
The East had the least amount of upsets in the first two rounds with the better seed winning 11 of the 12 games. Syracuse was able to overcome the absence of center Fab Melo and the scare of the 16 seed UNC-Asheville to make it to the tournament’s second weekend. The Big Ten held serve in the East with both Ohio State and Wisconsin making it back to the Sweet 16.
Syracuse was able to survive the first two games without its seven-foot center Melo. Now, the question becomes whether they can continue to the run to New Orleans against better competition. Early in the season, Ohio State looked like a sure fire Final Four team with convincing wins against Duke and Florida.
After capturing a share of the Big Ten regular season title, the Buckeyes reached the conference tournament game in Indianapolis and now are two games away from Ohio State’s first Final Four since 2008.
In a region that hasn’t had a ton of standout performances, Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor edges out Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. Yes, Thomas scored 31 points in the Buckeye’s win against Loyola Marymount in the round of 64 with Jared Sullinger battling foul trouble.
But from a clutch standpoint the nod goes to Taylor, whose three-pointer with the shot clock buzzer winding down against Vanderbilt proved to the be the game winner. In the first round against Montana, Taylor’s line of 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers showed that he might be the best point guard left in the tournament.
Most impressive team?
It’s pretty remarkable that the two teams that brought a black scar to college basketball this season with their brawl Dec. 10 are playing in the Sweet 16. The brawl seemed to turn Cincinnati’s season around after losing to Presbyterian earlier in the season.
The Bearcats made a run to the Big East Championship game while beating a Syracuse team that was at full strength. With the win against Florida State, Cincinnati now gets an in state match-up with Ohio State as the Buckeye state leads all states with four teams in the Sweet 16.
Vanderbilt entered the tournament fresh off an SEC Tournament championship and gave Kentucky just its second loss of the season. Once Melo was ruled out for Syracuse, many pundits believed the Commodores ability to shoot the three-pointer would carry them through the top half of the East region.
This wasn’t the case against the Badgers defense, as Vanderbilt shot just 5-of-19 from 3-point land. In the most important game of the season, Commodores center Festus Ezieli was not in the starting lineup (deemed a coaches decision) yet scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 27 minutes.
What we learned?
Unlike the East bracket, the Midwest was filled with upsets during the first two rounds. In the first round four double-digit seeds pulled off upsets and No. 11 North Carolina State and No. 13 Ohio carried that momentum into the Sweet 16.
Purdue gave No. 2 seed Kansas everything it could handle in the round of 32, and major question marks surround the top two seeds in the Midwest region heading into the Sweet 16.
What’s on deck?
How North Carolina will recover without star point guard Kendall Marshall is the major question as the tournament heads into the second weekend. Marshall’s ability to distribute the ball to the various future lottery picks is the main reasons why the Tar Heels were many people’s pick to cut down the nets in New Orleans.
The bracket has opened up for the Tar Heels to advance even if they aren’t at full strength, but it remains to be seen if they have the backcourt depth to play on the first Monday in April.
— In leading the only true mid-major left in the tournament, Ohio guard D.J. Cooper is becoming a household name around the college basketball world. Two years ago when Ohio beat Georgetown in the opening round as a No. 14 seed, Cooper played a secondary role to guard Armon Bassett (former Indiana player). Now, as a junior, Cooper has taken the lead guard role, and a matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels awaits the Bobcats.
Most impressive team?
North Carolina State has the talent of a Sweet 16 this year, but all through the final month of the season it remained to be seen whether it would get a chance to prove that. First-year coach Mark Gottfried struggled all season long to get consistent play from his team, and a last second loss to North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tourney seemed to the be the final pop of the Wolfpack’s bubble.
However, they were the last team called on Selection Sunday and took full advantage, downing San Diego State and Georgetown to make the Sweet 16 as an 11 seed for the second time in school history.
The Michigan Wolverines were one of three teams that shared the Big Ten regular season title. However, that success did not continue in the postseason. The Wolverines needed overtime to beat Minnesota in the Big Ten quarterfinal and then were run off the court by Ohio State the next day.
Despite the loss, Michigan still earned a No. 4 seed for the NCAA Tournament but was upset in the opening round by Ohio. Help is on the way for the Wolverines with next year’s recruiting class, but John Beilein’s squad seemed prime to make a run to the Sweet 16 this season.
East and Midwest regions of 2012 NCAA Tournament differ in amount of upsets, successful top seeds