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March Madness 2011: The Most Likely Sweet 16 Upsets

Neri SteinFeatured Columnist IIJune 1, 2016

March Madness 2011: The Most Likely Sweet 16 Upsets

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    There were two things on TV you could have watched this weekend. 

    One was endless NCAA tournament basketball from Thursday all the way through to Sunday night, featuring a number of surprises, nail-biting finishes and some great end-to-end basketball. 

    Or you could have watched ABC Family's monthly Harry Potter movie marathon.

    The first choice featured the second and third rounds (though they didn't seem much different then when they were the first and second rounds) of March Madness, and they brought with them 48 games in just three days. And fortunately for us fans, very few of them were dull and predictable.

    One of the No. 1 seeds didn't make it, and there are several double-digit seeds still hanging around. 

    The Sweet 16 will take place Thursday, March 24 and Friday, March 25, and while everyone is hoping to extend magical runs, there are some teams that should be looking over their shoulders just a bit right now.   

1. Ohio State vs. Kentucky

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Ohio State fans are currently ignoring the ongoing Jim Tressel saga and are instead focusing on how well their basketball Buckeyes are doing. Naismith finalist Jared Sullinger led his team to the tourney's overall No. 1 seed, and they marched through the first two rounds like they did the regular season.

    But they'll meet a real test when they face the Kentucky Wildcats in Newark in the Sweet 16. 

    John Calipari compiled another great freshman class led by Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones. Although they needed a last-second winner in the opener against Princeton and then just squeaked by West Virginia, the Wildcats cannot be overlooked. 

    The Buckeyes may have lit up the scoreboard in their first two games while dominating their opponents on defense, but the SEC champs should be an interesting test for them. 

    The battle between Sullinger and Knight, two star freshmen, will be a great one to watch, and don't count out a shrewd coaching mind like Calipari's. 

    The Buckeyes have looked untouchable almost all year, but Kentucky may be just the kind of team that can rattle them a bit and bring them crashing back down to Earth. 

2. Kansas vs. Richmond

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Richmond Spiders made it to their first Sweet 16 since 1988, and the No. 12 seed did it easily over the No. 13-seed Morehead State.

    Meanwhile, Kansas has spent plenty of years in the Sweet 16 and beyond. The Jayhawks have dominated teams all season long without dominating too many headlines.

    The teams will do battle Friday in San Antonio, and while it looks like an easy win for the No. 1 seed, you can never look over a Cinderella team.

    Against Morehead State, the Spiders showed they can adapt their game plan to turn their opponent's greatest asset into a non-factor and capitalize in a big way (just ask Kenneth Faried).

    But he's just one guy. The Spiders double and triple-teamed Faried to keep him out of the game, so imagine how many guys they'll have to put on the Morris twins.

    To have a shot at the upset, Richmond will have to start each half aggressively and not allow Kansas to take control right from the get go. Morehead State out-rebounded the Spiders. That can't happen if they want any sort of shot against the Jayhawks because the Spiders can't depend on out-shooting their Sweet 16 opponents.   

    If Richmond can pull it off and Virginia Commonwealth can get past Florida State, it'll pit two teams from Richmond, Virginia against each other in the Elite Eight. Not a bad turnout.  

3. UNC vs. Marquette

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    No. 11-seed Marquette got by No. 3-seed Syracuse with a late three-pointer, and the Golden Eagles more than matched their opponents throughout. 

    The Tar Heels meanwhile had to fight back from double-digit deficits and survive some interesting moments in the last minute before they finally defeated Washington to advance to a record 24th Sweet 16. 

    UNC seemed to take control a couple times but let the Huskies claw their way back in. The Tar Heels needed clutch free throws from Dexter Strickland and last-second defending to win it. The UNC players also showed a bit of inexperience by inexplicably giving the ball away in the dying moments.

    You can't gamble like that against a No. 11 seed that is living the high life.

    Marquette also hails from the Big East, which many proclaimed to be the best in the nation, but the teams aren't showing it in the tournament. Pride can be a powerful tool.  

    The Tar Heels are fighting to redeem themselves from last season's embarrassment while Marquette is just playing for itself and enigmatic head coach Brent "Buzz" Williams.

    Which team has more heart?

4. Duke vs. Arizona

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Arizona got to the Sweet 16 thanks to two game-saving, last-second blocks from Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams. He did it against Memphis and then again against Texas, and for good measure, he scored the go-ahead points in the final seconds against Texas as well.

    So be warned Duke. You don't want this game to come down to the last seconds, whether you have the ball or not.

    After steamrolling Hampton in the first round, Duke edged by Michigan to give Coach Mike Krzyzewski his 900th career win, just two behind Bob Knight at the top of the all-time list.

    The Blue Devils played with fire by letting the Wolverines claw back from 15 points down, giving Darius Morris a decent look at sending it into overtime.

    Arizona also had a double-digit lead on Texas that it let come down to the wire, so it'll be a test of which team can keep focus throughout the game. I'd have to put my money on Coach K's guys, but the Pac-10 team certainly shouldn't be underestimated. 

    If the Blue Devils want to keep their title defense alive, they'll need to control Williams in the paint. Much easier said than done, but they do have the fantastic shooting and ball-handling prowess of Nolan Smith to lean on.       

5. Wisconsin vs. Butler

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Butler is the big upset team of the tournament so far after the Bulldogs took down No. 1 Pitt on Saturday. And they did it in frantic fashion.

    Wisconsin played the upset role itself during the season when the Badgers defeated the No. 1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The Badgers did it in football, too. 

    No. 8-seeded Butler managed to take down the Panthers thanks to some mistakes from their opponents in the final seconds. It would be silly to expect that to happen again, but you never know what can happen at the end of a close game. 

    The Bulldogs let Pitt shoot over 56 percent from the floor, but they made up for it by knocking down 12 three-pointers and some clutch free throws. 

    The Badgers probably won't be able to get by with another poor shooting night from their point guard Jordan Taylor, but they'll certainly need his tenacity and assists to get by Butler. 

    Wisconsin tried to slow Kansas State down in its last game and eventually got its way. But if the Bulldogs can put their own stamp on the game, they'll have another upset under their belts on the way to the Elite Eight. 

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