NCAA Tournament: Ohio State Is the Most Vulnerable No. 1 Seed in the Sweet 16
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Post-Sweet 16 Update: I failed to predict Arizona's upset of Duke, but Kentucky came through with a big win over Ohio State. With Wisconsin's loss to Butler on Thursday, all Big Ten teams are now out of the tournament.
After the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, three No. 1 seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. I predict only two will make it to the Elite Eight. Which No. 1 seed is most likely to fall?
The only No. 1 seed to lose in the opening weekend, Pittsburgh lost to No. 8 seed Butler on Saturday in a wild thriller which featured three lead changes in the final seconds.
Butler is hoping to rekindle its tournament magic of a year ago, when it reached the championship game before falling to Duke.
No. 1 seed Duke survived a scare of its own against Michigan on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Devils led by as many as 15 in the second half, but Michigan clawed back into the game and had a chance to win it with a last-second three-pointer.
Meanwhile, fellow top seeds Ohio State and Kansas easily advanced, blowing out overmatched opponents in each of their first two tournament games.
Which remaining No. 1 seed is most likely to go down in its Sweet 16 matchup? Let's break down the games one by one.
Which No. 1 seed is most likely to lose in the Sweet 16?
Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 12 Richmond Spiders
The Jayhawks appear to have by far the easiest matchup of the remaining No. 1 seeds in the Sweet 16. Then again, this is March Madness, where anything can happen.
Almost no one thought Richmond would make it to the Sweet 16. Even those who picked the Spiders to upset No. 5 Vanderbilt in their first game (including yours truly) had them losing their next game to Louisville.
But the Cardinals fell to Morehead State in a Thursday buzzer-beating shocker. That left Richmond and Morehead State to play for the chance to advance to the Sweet 16, and Richmond won the game convincingly.
Now the Spiders look to continue their Cinderella run against Kansas, the top seed in the Southwest region. Kansas has showed no signs of weakness so far, and Richmond will be hard-pressed to hang with the Jayhawks for 40 minutes.
Led by twins Marcus and Markieff Morris, the Jayhawks lead the country with a .514 field-goal percentage. They rank fifth nationally in points per game and second in assists.
The Spiders have been an intriguing team to watch so far this tournament, but they lack the talent to pull off an upset against Kansas.
The Morris twins will be too much for the Spiders to handle, and Kansas will take care of Richmond without too much trouble, bringing the Spiders' improbable tournament run will come to an end.
Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 5 Arizona Wildcats
Duke struggled against Michigan, but they have as much talent as anyone.
Freshman phenom Kyrie Irving, sidelined for three months with a toe injury, returned to the Blue Devils lineup game against Hampton and scored 14 points.
Senior Kyle Singler is skilled and savvy and has as much experience as anyone in the tournament.
Arizona comes into the game riding an emotional whirlwind after edging Memphis 77-75 in a comeback win. They played well against Texas but the game came down to a controversial call by the officials.
Forward Derrick Williams is one of the country's top players and put up 39 points in Arizona's two wins.
In the end, this game will be decided by the superiority of Duke's overall quality of play and their poise under pressure.
The defending national champions will not allow Williams to have a huge game, and Arizona's other players will struggle to pick up the slack.
Which team will win the NCAA tournament?
If Williams becomes frustrated after missing some tough shots, this game could be decided midway through the second half.
Then again, Arizona has shown a penchant for big second-half comebacks, so stay tuned until the end. This one could get interesting, but Duke should find a way to hold off the Wildcats and move to the Elite Eight.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats
The Buckeyes are the top seed in the whole tournament, and so far they have played like it.
Combining senior leadership with the skills of freshman Player of the Year candidate Jared Sullinger, they brushed UTSA aside in their first game.
In their next game, the Buckeyes dismantled George Mason 98-66 in possibly the most dominating performance of the tournament.
However, Sullinger hasn't been as spectacular in recent months as he was at the beginning of the season. Ohio State has had some recent close calls against mediocre teams such as Michigan and Northwestern.
Kentucky will be their first true test in the tournament, and if they don't come out of the gate strong, they could fall behind early and never hit their stride.
Will remaining No. 1 seed Kansas win the tournament?
Kentucky is an excellent team with a brilliant coach in John Calipari. Many observers were surprised they didn't receive a higher seed on Selection Sunday.
The Wildcats won the SEC tournament title in convincing fashion over Florida and haven't slowed down in the NCAA tournament.
After a first-round scare against an unexpectedly potent Princeton squad, Kentucky looked sharp while taking down West Virginia by a score of 71-63.
Kentucky has the talent and the momentum of eight straight victories to pull off the upset. Ohio State is in dangerous territory after two easy wins to start the tournament.
Don't be surprised if the Wildcats pull off the upset and send the Buckeyes on an early trip home.
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