Now that we've had our opening-weekend fun—channel-scrambling through upsets, Cinderellas, close calls and the like—it's time to confront the more serious business of determining a national champion.
Thursday's opening games featured a game-winning three-pointer, an upset of a No. 1 seed and a surprising blowout of a tournament favorite. Can day two of Sweet 16 action top Thursday's feast?
On paper, Friday's matchups are even more intriguing, especially in the Midwest region, where three of the top four teams are still dancing.
We have previews and predictions for the full slate of Friday's contests as well as up-to-the-minute reactions for all of day seven's games.
Let's get to the results.
Note: All advanced statistics courtesy of KenPom.com.
The Oregon Ducks got blitzed early by Louisville’s pressure and never quite recovered in a 77-69 Cardinals victory that wasn't quite as close as the score. A wealth of easy shots—many off fast-break opportunities—allowed Louisville to shoot an eye-opening 53.8 percent from the floor in the win.
Top Performers: Russ Smith stole the show again for the Cards, scoring a game-high 31 points. Arsalan Kazemi helped the Ducks put up a fight, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
X-Factor: Defensive ace Gorgui Dieng turned in a rare offensive showcase for Louisville, scoring 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with his nine boards and four blocks.
Next Round: The Cardinals’ win earns them a date with the Duke-Michigan State winner. Either foe will provide the most formidable opposition (by far) that Rick Pitino’s squad has faced in this postseason, with the Blue Devils having already beaten the Cardinals on a neutral court in the Bahamas in November.
Trey Burke put the Michigan Wolverines on his back, forcing OT with a clutch three-pointer and carrying his team to an 87-85 win over Kansas. Burke and freshman center Mitch McGary combined for 48 of the Wolverines’ 87 points in the win.
Top Performers: Burke, who led the desperate comeback to send the game into overtime, finished with 23 points and 10 assists, while McGary added 25 points, 14 boards and a surprising three steals. Ben McLemore had his first big offensive game of the tournament with 20 points for Kansas, while Jeff Withey shined in his final collegiate game, piling up 12 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.
X-Factor: Against the No. 1 field-goal defense in college basketball, Michigan used great passing and timely offensive rebounds to shoot an astounding 49.3 percent on the night.
Next Round: The Wolverines’ win sets up a track meet with the winner of Florida and Florida Gulf Coast. Having already downed high-scoring South Dakota State and Virginia Commonwealth, Michigan has to like its chances against either up-tempo foe with the momentum of what could become a season-defining win over KU still running high.
Duke’s always-impressive offense took a backseat to its D as the Blue Devils battled past Michigan State, 71-61. The Spartans shot just 3-for-12 from beyond the arc and needed a hot second half to get up to 40 percent shooting from the field.
Top Performers: Seth Curry came close to producing half of Duke’s points by himself, scoring 29 on 8-for-17 shooting. Spartan big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix combined for 23 points and 19 boards in the defeat.
X-Factor: Duke turned the Michigan State offense into a protracted game of one-on-one, holding the Spartans to all of six assists for the night.
Next Round: The Blue Devils’ reward for this win is a date with the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, the Louisville Cardinals. Even Duke’s magnificent three-point shooting may not be enough to overcome the speed and defense of the Cardinals. Louisville was without center Gorgui Dieng when it lost to Coach K’s team in the Bahamas earlier in the year.
The Florida Gators reminded the country why they’re ranked third nationally in scoring defense, locking down Florida Gulf Coast in a 62-50 victory. Dunk City committed 20 turnovers against the Gators’ smothering pressure.
Top Performers: Mike Rosario led a scattershot Florida offense with 15 points, while Will Yeguete keyed the defense with four steals and two blocks. Eagle star Sherwood Brown racked up 14 points and six boards in the losing effort.
X-Factor: Even with terrible free-throw shooting (14-for-23), Florida hit more free throws than the Eagles attempted (11).
Next Round: The Florida defense will get a very different test from the three-point gunners of the Michigan Wolverines in the Elite Eight. Although Florida is the higher seed, Michigan comes in with the psychological edge after winning an overtime thriller over top-seeded Kansas.
Marquette needed no last-second heroics this time, as the Golden Eagles pounded Miami, 71-61, in Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup.
The Golden Eagles helped on ball screens, rotated to perfection and protected the paint, in total limiting Miami to just 35.5 percent shooting (22-of-62). More importantly, the Eagles swarmed Shane Larkin with occasional double-teams, holding him to just 14 points—the majority of which came in the second half when the game was already out of hand.
Top Performers: Playing against a Reggie Johnson-less Hurricanes frontcourt, 6’7’’ Jamil Wilson was assertive on the glass and was outstanding from the perimeter. He was 3-of-4 from three-point range, snared eight rebounds and played suffocating defense in the post, despite the size disadvantage.
X-Factor: By taking Larkin out of the equation, coach Buzz Williams forced Miami’s other three-point threats to beat them. That didn’t happen, as the Hurricanes shot just 8-of-27 from beyond the arc.
Next Round: Marquette advances to the Elite Eight, the furthest it's been since the 2003 Final Four run led by Dwyane Wade. It will play No. 4 Syracuse in an all-Big East battle. In the teams' only prior meeting this season, the Golden Eagles won 74-71 at home.
LaQuinton Ross hit a deep three-pointer with two seconds remaining, which broke a tie and gave Ohio State a thrilling 73-70 win over Arizona on Thursday.
Aside from Deshaun Thomas’ consistent shooting, Ohio State got major contributions from a strong supporting cast. Coming off the bench, Ross scored 17 points, including a personal 9-0 run in the second half. The Buckeyes also got great energy and rebounding from Amir Williams to help offset the Wildcats’ size advantage.
Top Performers: Thomas finished with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting. More importantly, he carried the Ohio State offense when others were saddled with foul trouble, knocking down three three-pointers. Wildcat forward Solomon Hill shouldered the Arizona offense in the second half with a run of nine straight points by himself as part of a 16-point effort.
Mark Lyons attacked the paint relentlessly, finishing with 23 points and 9-of-10 conversions from the free-throw line.
X-Factor: The Buckeyes started the second half on a 16-4 spurt, boosted by aggressive play and efficient free-throw shooting. In total, Ohio State knocked down 22-of-26 from the line.
Next Round: The Buckeyes advance to their second consecutive Elite Eight and will take on No. 9 Wichita State. Both teams are gritty and physical on defense. Expect a grueling battle for one of the Final Four spots.
Syracuse suffocated Indiana’s offense, holding the Hoosiers to just 34 percent shooting as the Orange advanced to the Elite Eight with a 61-50 win Thursday night in the nation's capital.
The Orange’s length frustrated Indiana, which couldn’t find the weak spots and shot just 3-of-15 from three-point range. Syracuse forced 17 turnovers and swatted 11 shots (three from Baye Keita and two each from James Southerland, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant), essentially rendering Cody Zeller harmless in the post.
Top Performers: Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams was devastating, but instead of engineering the offense as he usually does, it was the 6’6’’ point guard who was producing it.
Carter-Williams set a career high with 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting. He knocked down three three-pointers but routinely drove the lane and found clever ways to finish over Indiana’s big men. Even more impressive is that the majority of his scoring came with Victor Oladipo blanketing him.
X-Factor: The Orange’s inside presence severely hampered Zeller’s game, but it was their length on the perimeter which negated any outside shooting strengths. Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey were a combined 2-of-13 from beyond the arc.
Next Round: The Orange advance to the Elite Eight, where they’ll face a familiar foe in Big East rival Marquette. The Golden Eagles won the teams' only matchup this season, 74-71, behind 26 points from big man Davante Gardner.
Size beat speed in Wichita State’s dominating 72-58 win over La Salle in Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup.
The lopsided rebounding disparity (44-23) was indicative of just how much the Shockers physically overwhelmed La Salle’s four-guard set.
Specifically, forward Carl Hall had his way in the post, scoring 10 of Wichita State’s first 14 points as the Shockers built an early 14-2 lead. Ron Baker and Malcolm Armstead each hit two three-pointers to balance the post game.
Top Performers: Hall set the tone with eight rebounds (three offensive) and the rest of the Shockers followed suit. Every starter had at least four boards and center Ehimen Orukpe came off the bench with nine rebounds as well. La Salle star Ramon Galloway finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, but he sunk just 4-of-15 shots and often settled for jumpers instead of attacking the lane.
X-Factor: Wichita State dominated in the paint and on the glass because of its size. The Shockers finished with 15 offensive rebounds—eight less rebounds than the Explorers had in total.
Next Round: The Shockers will face No. 2 Ohio State in the Elite Eight but will actually match up fairly well against the Buckeyes. Wichita State’s size is easily its biggest strength, and interior play is where the Buckeyes are most vulnerable.