More than three-quarters of the 68-team field has been eliminated, and the NCAA tournament is reaching the turn for home with just 16 teams remaining.
The top-seeded Villanova Wildcats have been eliminated, but the other three No. 1 seeds in the Kansas Jayhawks, North Carolina Tar Heels and the Gonzaga Bulldogs made it through the first weekend of the competition.
Kansas may have been the most impressive team in the round of 32, as the Jayhawks asserted themselves with a 90-70 victory over the Michigan State Spartans.
The Spartans were game and kept things close well into the second half, but head coach Bill Self's Jayhawks ran their offense with speed, efficiency and effectiveness, ultimately taking apart Michigan State.
Freshman Josh Jackson played superbly, scoring 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting. He had plenty of support from senior guard Frank Mason III, who had 20 points and handed out five assists.
Jackson hails from Detroit, and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo was impressed with his game.
"Josh is a hell of a player," Izzo said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "... We wanted to beat his brains in today. I'm sure the feeling was mutual. But there's respect, and respect means there will be a friendship when it's over."
|NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16|
|March 23||Michigan (7) vs. Oregon (3)||Midwest||CBS||Michigan|
|March 23||West Virginia (4) vs. Gonzaga (1)||West||TBS||Gonzaga|
|March 23||Purdue (4) vs. Kansas (1)||Midwest||CBS||Kansas|
|March 23||Xavier (11) vs. Arizona (2)||West||TBS||Xavier|
|March 24||Butler (4) vs. North Carolina (1)||South||CBS||North Carolina|
|March 24||South Carolina (7) vs. Baylor (3)||East||TBS||Baylor|
|March 24||UCLA (3) vs. Kentucky (2)||South||CBS||UCLA|
|March 24||Wisconsin (8) vs. Florida (4)||East||TBS||Wisconsin|
|ESPN.com; Matt Norlander; Silverman selections|
(1) Kansas vs. (4) Purdue
The Jayhawks will take on another Big Ten team in Purdue Boilermakers when they meet in their Sweet 16 game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, Thursday.
The Boilermakers won the Big Ten regular-season title, and they have advanced with victories over Vermont Catamounts and Iowa State Cyclones.
Purdue is led by power forward Caleb Swanigan, who has been the Boilermakers' dominant scorer and rebounder this season. Swanigan is averaging 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game, and he has recorded 28 double-doubles. Swanigan has also been nominated as the National College Player of the Year.
He gets plenty of support from Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas, who are averaging 12.7 and 12.6 points per game, respectively.
Purdue will almost certainly try to slow the game down and keep the athletic Jayhawks from running up and down the court the way they did against Michigan State. Purdue has plenty of strength and is a more physical team than the Spartans, so it should be able to slow Kansas down to a degree.
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
Down to four. The Naismith Trophy finalists have been announced: https://t.co/qe6qhH8XhN https://t.co/FDdmo8Vmyx3/19/2017, 3:31:04 PM
Prediction: Purdue should be able to keep this game close, but it's too much to think it can contain the Jayhawks for 40 minutes.
Unless Purdue is able to build a sizable lead from the start, the talent of Jackson and Mason will eventually take over. Look for Kansas to do the better job of executing down the stretch, and that should be enough to propel it to victory and a spot in the Elite Eight.
(1) North Carolina vs. (4) Butler
The Butler Bulldogs will meet the Tar Heels at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee, Friday, and North Carolina knows it will have to clean up some lapses if it is going to live up to its No. 1 seed.
The Tar Heels built up a 17-point lead over Arkansas Sunday, but the Razorbacks clawed their way back into the game and took a late lead before North Carolina closed the game on a 12-0 run and recorded a 72-65 victory.
TAR HEELS HOLD ON! No. 1 seed UNC survives No. 8 seed Arkansas in a thriller, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season. https://t.co/nUaNq7BjJn3/20/2017, 12:17:31 AM
The good news for North Carolina is that Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks were able to respond in the tightest moments, but the bad news was the team's 38.1 shooting percentage. That was their worst shooting percentage in a North Carolina NCAA tournament victory since 1967.
"I don't mind saying I feel a little lucky," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "Every now and then, I knock in a long putt, too."
Butler is a smart, well-schooled team that can take an advantage of an elite team when it is not hitting on all cylinders.
The Bulldogs earned their spot in the Sweet 16 with wins over the Winthrop Eagles and Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, and those were comfortable victories recorded by 12 and nine points, respectively.
Junior forward Kelan Martin is averaging 16.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for Butler, and senior forward Andrew Chrabascz is second on the team with 11.1 points per game.
The Bulldogs are going to have to be at their best defensively to take down the Tar Heels, who appear to have too much firepower for their opponents.
Junior forward Justin Jackson leads North Carolina with 18.1 points per game, while Joel Berry II is second with 14.5 points per night. Meeks and Hicks are also averaging in double figures.
Prediction: North Carolina got a huge scare from Arkansas, and Williams will use that as motivation for the team in practice this week. He wants to see a much sharper effort from his team against Butler, and he should get it.
The Tar Heels have survived the first weekend of the tournament, and they should only get stronger from here.
Look for North Carolina to roll to a double-digit win.
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