Chalky First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament Sees Most Top Seeds Advance
It's a funny thing about the NCAA Tournament - we know how the seeds tell us it is all supposed to turn out, but then we feel frustrated when it turns out that way. This is an incredibly chalky edition of the NCAA tournament - about as chalky as we could ever expect it to be. All four No. 1 seeds are through to the Sweet 16. So are all four No. 2 seeds. And all of the threes. The only mild upsets came in the realm of the No. 4 teams, but even those hardly rocked the world - Auburn is the SEC champion, and Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament, so neither team is exactly another Loyola. There have been some close calls, and some excitement along the way, but things have been very straightforward so far - boringly so. Our job here today is to look at the top eight seeds in the tournament to see how they have looked so far and what we might expect going forward.
The No. 1 Seeds
Duke: Here's the issue - Aubrey Dawkins scored 32 points, Tacko Fell was impressive and would have been the difference if he had not fouled out, and UCF really should have won that game. UCF wanted it more, and they were able to overcome a massive deficit in talent. With each passing round, the difference in talent will get smaller - Duke still will have a big edge, but not as much as they did in that UCF game. They have been relying on Zion and skill up to this point. They need to get tougher in a hurry or they'll be heading to the draft sooner than anyone planned.
Virginia: The first half of their opener was terrifying. For their second straight tournament game, they were getting outplayed by a No. 16 team that had no business being on the same court. Things could have really turned out awfully, but the team finally made the needed adjustments, remembered who they were, and have played three solid halves since. I still have concerns about this team going forward, but at least they should be closer to their capacity now.
North Carolina: Like Virginia, the Tar Heels got a bit of a scare in the first half of their game against Iona - by far the best of the No. 16 seeds. But they flipped a switch, dominated the second half, and totally overwhelmed Washington. Like the Cavaliers, I have issues with North Carolina going forward, but at least it appears we can trust their effort for now.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have been the best top seed in the tournament so far. They made a mockery of their opener. They crushed Baylor in the first half of their second-round game, and then cruised through the second half. They have done everything asked of them. If you liked them coming in, then you have to like them now.
The No. 2 Seeds
Tennessee: The Volunteers let Colgate hang around in their opener. And they blew a 25-point lead against a very ordinary Iowa team in the second round. They have the most manageable region in the bracket. That's obviously an asset. But I am not inspired by what we have seen so far, and I would feel very uneasy if I had invested a lot of faith in this team coming into the tournament.
Kentucky: I'm not that concerned that Wofford played Kentucky tight - the Terriers are a good team. What I like, though, is that the Wildcats were able to render Wofford's big weapon, record setting three-point shooter Fletcher Magee, totally irrelevant. He went 0-for-12 from deep, and Kentucky being deep inside his head was a big reason for that. It was impressive for a Kentucky team that hasn't always felt coachable. Kentucky has been close to the best version of what we thought they could be so far.
Michigan State: They probably had more issues with Bradley in their opener than they should have. But then they completely overwhelmed Minnesota - a team that had already played the Spartans and knew what to expect. It's hard to draw too many conclusions from a rematch in this tournament, but what we have seen so far has met expectations.
Michigan: Their opener against Montana was every bit as boring as it was last year when they met, but it was never close. The Wolverines embarrassed their opponent. And they did it again in the Florida game - especially in the second half. The offense hasn't been nearly as efficient as it can be, or it needs to be, and that is a concern against Texas Tech's potent defense. But their defense is dialed in, and they adjust very well at half time, so they are as dangerous now as they were heading into the tournament - whatever that means for you.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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