Sweet Sixteen Surprises
by Jay Horne - 03/24/2009
The NCAA Tournament has not disappointed for those that love upsets and emerging underdogs. Every year there is a team that becomes a fan favorite for defying the odds and making runs in their respected regions. However, the biggest surprise to date in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament this year was that there were not any major upset stories for the Sweet 16. The only game in the second round where a higher-rated seed did not win was the game involving No. 5 Purdue and No. 4 Washington. The Boilermakers advanced and are the lowest rated seed outside of no. 12 Arizona left in the tournament, making it safe to say that Cinderella might not be making an appearance in 2009. Then again, the Sweet 16 may be ready to implode with many unpredictable outcomes.
The sweetest Sweet 16 story has to be Arizona out of the Midwest bracket, which many considered the toughest bracket in the tournament heading into the tourney. The NCAA Selection Committee, entering Selection Sunday, heavily scrutinized the Wildcats. Arizona lost five of their last six games to close the season, but still received a bid to the Big Dance, which pissed off many fans of teams thought more deserving. The criticism might have sparked the Wildcats to flourish out of the gates, as they have looked great in their first to games. Their odds to win the National Championship stood at 40/1 before the second round and are now are even higher at 50/1 despite earning a trip to the Sweet 16. The reason the odds have went up is because the Wildcats will take on Louisville, the overall No. 1 seed of the tournament, in their Sweet 16 matchup. Only one team as a No. 12 seed in NCAA history has ever made it out of the Sweet 16 and Arizona could silence their critics for good if they can manage to knock off the Cardinals this Friday.
Although nearly every top seed won in the second round there are plenty of interesting matchups that could shake up the brackets in the Sweet 16. One particular team in the East that may be poised to surprise everyone and possibly take down two of the most popular teams in the tournament is the Villanova Wildcats. The No. 3 seed will square off with no. 2 seed Duke in a much-anticipated battle. Villanova may be the type of team to really give the Blue Devils a tough time. The Wildcats are a smaller team, like Duke, that sets screens and rolls off the ball very well. Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds penetrate to the basket well, which could present problems for the potent Blue Devils defense. If Villanova could manage to knock off Duke, they would likely get top-seeded Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats handed Pittsburgh their biggest loss of the regular season when they took down the Panthers, 67-57, back in late January. If these scenarios were to play out, Villanova could shock the basketball world and represent the East Region in the Final Four.
The heralded Big East Conference could have one of the final surprises of the NCAA Tournament. The Big East has headlined the college basketball season all year with their terrific group of talented teams. The conference broke an NCAA record earlier this season when they placed nine teams inside the Top 25 in what could be the best-ever group of teams top to bottom to come out of a single conference. The Big East still has five teams left standing strong in the Sweet 16 and at least one team in every bracket. The five remaining teams will have the chance to make up at least half of the Elite Eight, if not five of the final 8 teams in the Tournament. The only team that will be an underdog in the Sweet 16 from the Big East will be Villanova, and only by only 2.5 points. Also looking ahead, the Big East has the opportunity given everything plays out perfectly to be the first school to ever place four schools from the same conference in the Final Four. If that unbelievable scenario were to play out, it could possibly rank as one of the biggest surprise of any NCAA Tournament in history.