Momentum is a funny thing, especially in the NCAA tournament. The games are structured differently—with television timeouts and various breaks that are not normally associated with the college game—that teams can fall in and out of rhythm.
It's easy to see how teams react to the difference in these games by looking at the results. We have seen a team come from 12 points down at the half to win by eight.
And powerhouse schools are no longer dominating the "little" guys.
As we look back at the early results from the NCAA tournament, the winners of these games will keep their momentum going into the Sweet 16.
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East Region: No. 7 Connecticut 77, No. 2 Villanova 65
One of the most notable things about the first weekend of the NCAA tournament has been how irrelevant seeds are. That's not a surprise since the selection committee came under heavy fire for its perceived poor seeding, but to see how poorly they did is remarkable.
For instance, Connecticut is one of the most talented teams in the country, winning 26 games in the regular season and advancing to the American Athletic Conference final before losing to Louisville. The Huskies only earned a No. 7 seed.
Villanova won 28 regular-season games but got blown out twice by Creighton and lost its first Big East conference tournament game to Seton Hall, yet the Wildcats managed to earn a No. 2 seed.
The point is that the Huskies were underrated all season because they played in a new conference, while Villanova got overrated because it played in a conference that retained the name of a former power despite missing teams like Syracuse, Louisville, Connecticut and Pittsburgh.
So this result isn't so much a surprise in terms of the outcome but rather a wake-up call for the rest of the country to realize that Connecticut isn't a typical No. 7 seed. Head coach Kevin Ollie has done a fantastic job of keeping the program at such a high level after the Jim Calhoun mess prevented the school from playing in the tournament last year.
Shabazz Napier is starting to earn more of those long-talked-about comparisons to another former Huskies point guard who shined in March, Kemba Walker.
Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com wrote about Napier's evolution as a player and leader for the Huskies before the conference tournaments started:
There wasn't an "a-ha moment" or even a hard sitdown with Calhoun. There was a slow and steady realization from Napier that he could be better and do more.
He turned to the same sort of self-reflection he uses to break down his game to break down his leadership skills and figured out pretty quickly what the trouble was.
In doing so, Napier has given Connecticut all it needs to make another serious run in the NCAA tournament. Not bad for a No. 7 seed.
Midwest Region: No. 2 Michigan 79, No. 7 Texas 65
Which team had the most impressive win?
That Michigan was able to beat Texas isn't the surprise; the Wolverines established themselves as one of the best teams in the country as the season went on.
It's a testament to the job that John Beilein has done that his team could lose last year's tournament star Mitch McGary, as well as Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA, and still be as good as it was during the regular season.
The one knock against this year's Michigan team is defense. The Wolverines were 133rd in defensive efficiency, allowing 102.4 points per 100 possessions, so how would they react against quality competition in the tournament?
After disposing of Wofford in the second round, Michigan's defense proved its moxie against an outstanding, albeit young Texas team. The Longhorns shot just 37.1 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range.
Michigan did get schooled on the glass, allowing Texas to collect 21 offensive rebounds, but even with all those second-chance opportunities, the Longhorns couldn't do anything.
Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press gave the credit for the win where it belonged: Beilein's coaching. Here's what Seidel wrote after Stanford cut the deficit to six points in the second half: "Then, Beilein made another adjustment, the adjustment that would win the game. He switched back to his man-to-man offense. Suddenly, that offense started cranking again, and those three-pointers started dropping again."
Great coaching tends to get overlooked in March because all the focus is on what the players are doing, but Beilein knows how to exploit another team's weakness as well as anyone in the country.
If he keeps doing that, Michigan will be on its way to another national championship game.
South Region: No. 10 Stanford 60, No. 2 Kansas 57
Kansas' exit from the 2014 NCAA tournament is going to be one of those "what if..." scenarios that gets talked about for a long time. Joel Embiid's absence changed the way Kansas played, especially against Stanford, because it didn't have the size inside to mash with the Cardinal.
But don't sell Johnny Dawkins' team short. Stanford played a fantastic game, showing a 2-3 zone defense that would make Jim Boeheim jealous and frustrating Kansas' best players all game long.
The Jayhawks shot the lights out in the regular season at 49.5 percent from the field (sixth in the country) but managed just 32.8 percent against Stanford. Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden combined to make two more field goals in the game than I did.
With a date against No. 11 Dayton waiting in the Sweet 16, Stanford is set up to win at least one more game.
That's no disrespect to the Flyers, who have beaten two excellent defensive teams in the tournament, but the Cardinal have an outstanding, lockdown defense with the shooters to put up points in short bursts.
All stats courtesy of SportsReference.com unless otherwise noted.
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