March 19, 2012
By Luka Papalko
March Madness started out with a bang. The first weekend of the tournament was one of the most memorable weekends in tournament history with how it played out. The tournament is only about to get better with the Sweet 16 now in place. With that said, here’s a recap of how the first weekend played out.
Upsets – depending on what team you have been rooting for, this could be a bad thing. But in the scheme of things, the amount of upsets only adds to the excitement of the tournament. Lehigh knocking off Duke or Norfolk State knocking off Missouri adds to term “March Madness”. The tournament is more exciting and it’s better TV when there are so many close games. Upsets also cause the tournament to be more wide open with top seeds that were thought to be title contending teams being knocked off. All in all, the upsets are a part of March Madness and the more the merrier.
Mid-West Basketball – there are currently 4 Ohio teams in the Sweet 16, 4 Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16 (almost 5) and there are only two teams West of the Mississippi that made it to the Sweet 16. The talent in the Mid-West has showed up this tournament and is proving they are what the SEC/South is to NCAA Football. While other regions of the country certainly have lots of talent, the Mid-West is proving it’s the best region of talent in the country.
Kendall Marshall’s broken wrist - this has huge implications on the title hopes of many, especially North Carolina. The Tar Heels could sustain John Henson’s lingering injury to an extent but a season ending injury to their point guard and leader could be too much to overcome. While the Tar Heels managed to make it past Creighton and likely have enough talent to get past Ohio to the Elite 8, it’ll be tough road after that. This is also great news for teams in the West and Midwest regions, as one of the best teams in college basketball just suffered a loss that they might not be able to recover from.
Officiating – for the most part the game have been called well but there have been several instances of calls that affected the outcome of the game (i.e. Syracuse, UNC-Asheville). While it’s understandable how tough it has to referee games in this type of environment, the refs need to get the calls right. This is the biggest stage and any call can mean a lot.
Double Digit Seeds Reaching the Sweet 16 – while there is usually one double digit seed that reaches the Sweet 16; there are 3 this year (Xavier, Ohio and NC State). While Ohio might not have the best chances to reach the Elite 8, both Xavier and NC State have legitimate chances at making a deep run. Considering Ohio wasn’t on anyone’s radar to begin the season, how Xavier looked after the Cincinnati fight and how inconsistent NC State looked, it was hard to see this coming. It just goes to show that matchups and who gets hot late are key things in the tourney.
The Mighty That Fell – Duke and Missouri were top-10 teams all year long and were at the top of the list as far as top-tier teams. In fact, Missouri finished 3rd in the final polls even garnering a few 1st place votes in both the media and coaches poll. Michigan and Georgetown were two other teams that fell short of their expectations and didn’t manage to make it to the Sweet 16. Perhaps the biggest disappointments throughout the whole season were Vanderbilt and Connecticut, two teams with loads of talent but never able to fully grasp it.
What to Watch
Guard Play and Matchups – this is the key to watch going forward the rest of the tourney. Guards always are the main cog to any team that makes a deep run in March Madness. Whoever has the best guards usually come out on top. The other thing to watch out for is matchups. What team matchups well with who and who can defeat the other teams scheme (i.e. Syracuse 2-3 zone).