It had the country screaming “Ali Farouck,” the Bluegrass yelling “Go Big Blue,” and Syracuse fans thinking “Onuakwho?”
What a memorable weekend for college basketball.
Northern Iowa pulled off perhaps the most shocking upset in NCAA history, the PAC 10 and WCC shocked the country and Cornell became the first Ivy League school to make the Sweet 16 since 1979.
So what should we expect come round two?
Let’s take a look.
Favorite: The Blue Devils have underachieved in previous years, but this team seems to have the toughness that Coach K’s recent squads have lacked. If Duke can’t get over the hump and make it to the Final Four this year, I’ll start to think they never will.
What to watch for: If both favorites advance to Sunday’s elite eight game, Duke will have to deal with a pro Baylor crowd playing close to home in Houston. The Bears have the size to give Duke problems inside with Udoh, Jones and Lomers.
But while Baylor has the talent to beat anyone in the country, they have failed to finish against the best, losing to Kansas and Kansas State (twice) by a combined 15 points this season.
Cinderella: After scoring only 11 points in the first half of the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota, everyone was ready to write off the Boilermakers.
No one can question the toughness and grit of this basketball team. If Purdue can find a way to scrap through two more games and reach Indianapolis after losing Robbie Hummel, it will be one of the more defying runs in recent memory.
Most intriguing match-up: I’m excited to see how Omar Samhan will be able to compete against future first rounder Ekpe Udoh down on the blocks.
It will be tough for Saint Mary’s to get the ball inside against Baylor’s 2-3 zone, but if Samhan can continue to be a force on the blocks it’ll definitely force NBA scouts to re-evaluate the big man’s draft stock.
Favorite: With Kansas and Georgetown already bounced from the tourney, and Kalin Lucas’ injury, Ohio State is the most fortunate team in the country.
Sometimes it’s not who you have beat but who you don’t. If the Buckeyes can avoid an off night from Evan Turner, they should end up cutting down the nets in St. Louis.
Cinderella: Northern Iowa ruined most of the countries brackets, playing with what I like to call the “Boise State mentality," proving yet again just how advantageous playing with nothing to lose can be.
UNI is an experienced, good-shooting half-court team with size inside AND plays solid defense. So can you tell me why the Panthers couldn’t keep winning?
What to watch for:
What will happen to the tickets Kansas’ supporters grabbed after the brackets were announced on Selection Sunday?
Think scalping tickets will be tough this weekend in St. Louis?
Will Ohio State fans invade the Midwest sensing an easy road to the Final Four, or will locals fill the gym to root for the underdog Panthers?
It will be interesting to see the make-up of the crowd at the Edwards Jones Dome.