Think about this: almost every single match-up in the Sweet Sixteen is primed for an upset both today and tomorrow. Here is how I would rank the probability of the lower seeds continuing the Madness. Not a single underdog is dead in the water.
1. (5) Butler over (1) Syracuse *game in progress
So far, Butler is managing to dictate the pace of the game, and the Bulldogs have led all half. If they can keep forcing turnovers, which they've been great at all year, and maybe make a few threes, this is really Butler's game to lose against a Syracuse squad that may really start missing Arinze Onoaku in an hour or so.
2. (6) Xavier over (2) Kansas State
Jordan Crawford has been one of the best players in the tourney, scoring 55 to match his jersey in the first weekend. His teammates are playing great, too. Xavier was arguably under-seeded as a six.
However, K-State has looked tough and clutch—with quality guard play and guys willing to do the dirty work. Also, Frank Martin is a psycho and this should be a great game.
3. (11) Washington over (2) West Virginia *game in progress
Washington is one of the hottest teams in the field, as Quincy Pontdexter is rock solid (18 points in each of first two) and the Huskies simply owned a quality New Mexico team to advance.
But Da'Sean Butler does not look like he is quite done yet. Still, the Mountaineers lost their starting point guard to injury and backup Joe Mazzulla has a tough defensive assignment in "UDub's" Isiah Thomas.
4. (9) Northern Iowa over (5) Michigan State
Tom Izzo compared his Spartans to a "M.A.S.H. unit" this week. Kalin Lucas is gone. Chris Allen has been hurt, and so has Delvon Roe. How much did the epic battle against Maryland take out of the surviving State players?
On the other hand, the UNI fairy tale has to end sometime. Against a parade of major conference opponents, Faroukhmanesh and Co. have got to stumble somewhere, right?
5. (4) Purdue over (1) Duke
Given how much I dislike these two programs—it is hard to for me to evaluate this game fairly. I will just say, for the first and last time in my life: Go Boilers!
6. (12) Cornell over (1) Kentucky
Like Butler—Cornell is a lower seed that has a shot if it can dictate the pace. Cornell has a lot of veterans and good shooters which means the Big Red should be able to keep pace with the torrid Wildcats. If it comes down to a close, late game—Cornell has a good shot. If not, Kentucky could win by thirty...again.
7. (6) Tennessee over (2) Ohio State
This ought to be an interesting contest. I do not know if Tennessee has enough on the outside to guard all of Ohio State's gunners, but if the Bucks go cold—it could be a slug-fest, which would improve Bruce Pearl's shot at reaching the Elite Eight.
8. (10) St. Mary's over (3) Baylor
Baylor's wealth of big men should provide an answer to the Gael's Omar Samhan. The only way St. Mary's wins is if they shoot the lights out. Baylor is much better than Villanova was, and I just do not see this happening. Which—of course—means it probably will.
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