What will be this year’s big story?
Well that was a fun couple of days, wasn’t it?
After much complaint about the lack of upsets in the first round of the tournament, the second round certainly didn’t disappoint.
Bam! Down goes No. 1 and defending champ Villanova on Saturday, then No. 2 Louisville on Sunday afternoon and to top it all off, fellow No. 2 seed Duke on Sunday night.
Of course, your bracket is still safe if you picked Kansas, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Arizona, UCLA or Kentucky to cut down the nets. But if you had one of the above three that lost, you’re done.
This tournament’s top story is still yet to be written. Last year will be remembered forever for Kris Jenkins’ shot at the buzzer to send ‘Nova to their first crown since 1985.
The likelihood of something like that happening two years in a row is rare, but there are great stories out there just ready to be written. Here could be a few:
Sometimes there is that one player that just captivates a national audience in the tournament, and that player is Ball. He could become a transcendent type talent in the mold of Magic Johnson, or a more modern version like Steph Curry – a player that didn’t take his team to the title (Elite 8) but used the tournament as a springboard to stardom.
Before you go envisioning Ball in a Lakers uniform next season, take time to appreciate what he is doing for UCLA right now. A team that didn’t make the tournament last year, he most likely saved coach Steve Alford’s job, as well as got people talking about basketball on the west coast again.
He would be adored in Westwood forever if he could bring them another championship.
Many people wrote them off at the start of the tournament, predicting failure as soon as the second round. Much like Villanova did last season, however, this could be the team that validates both coach and program.
The Zags captured basketball hearts across the country with their run to the Elite 8 in 1999. But that was 18 years ago and since then, they have become more like a blue blood, minus the hardware.
This could be the year they turn potential into reality and really etch their names among the college basketball elite.
Team of destiny?
Michigan’s trip to the Big Ten tournament was a scary one, as their plane slid off the runway, narrowly avoiding a major catastrophe. Most everyone escaped unharmed, with just a few bumps and bruises] and since then, they have played phenomenal basketball.
They carried their run to the Big Ten tournament title over to the NCAAs, knocking off Oklahoma State and Louisville. A team with NBA talent that underachieved for much of the season, the Wolverines feel like they’re playing with house money right now. It wouldn’t stun me for them to double down and be playing in Phoenix at the Final Four.
Can a true Cinderella make it to Phoenix?
Xavier (11-seed), South Carolina (7-seed) and Butler (4-seed) are given the longest odds by Vegas oddsmakers to win the national championships among the Sweet 16 teams, with Xavier easily the longest at 100-1.
Yet all three are major conference teams, and its hard to call a preseason Top 10 squad like Xavier, or a program like Butler that has been to two national championship games this decade a Cinderella. This is the first Sweet 16 appearance ever for South Carolina, yet they to are from a power conference as well.
Perhaps we’ll have to redefine our definition of Cinderella from ‘mid-major’ to ‘high-major making a run to the Final Four that absolutely no one thought would.’ OK, so I know that’s a little long-winded, but you get my point. The fact of the matter is these weren’t teams many people wrote down more than once in their brackets and it would be exciting if they were able to write their names down a few more times.