One of the wildest first weekends in NCAA tournament history is still fresh in our minds, but now attention must be turned to the next round of games. Thursday begins the second weekend with the Sweet 16, then on Saturday and Sunday, the Elite Eight will determine which schools earn a bid to the Final Four.
Here's how the bracket looks entering the Sweet 16:
The matchups and TV schedule is set for the Thursday and Friday, while the Elite Eight times listed below are approximate and will be finalized after the last Sweet 16 game.
|Thursday, March 22 Schedule|
|No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago||South||7:07 p.m.||CBS||Atlanta, Ga.||Loyola-Chicago|
|No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M||West||7:37 p.m.||TBS||Los Angeles, Calif.||Texas A&M|
|No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State||South||9:37 p.m.||CBS||Atlanta, Ga.||Kentucky|
|No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State||West||10:07 p.m.||TBS||Los Angeles, Calif.||Gonzaga|
|Friday, March 23 Schedule|
|No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson||Midwest||7:07 p.m.||CBS||Omaha, Neb.||Kansas|
|No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia||East||7:27 p.m.||TBS||Boston, Mass.||Villanova|
|No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 Syracuse||Midwest||9:37 p.m.||CBS||Omaha, Neb.||Duke|
|No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech||East||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Boston, Mass.||Texas Tech|
|Saturday, March 24 Schedule|
|Sunday, March 25|
Cinderellas Still Dancing
In a completely chalk NCAA tournament without any upsets, the total number of all the seeds left in the field should add up to 40 at this point. That never happens, but it's usually not twice that number.
All told, the seed numbers of the 16 remaining teams add up to 85, which is the second highest number in NCAA history. The most was 89, in 1986.
Nowhere was there more chaos than in the South Region, where No. 5 Kentucky is now the top remaining seed after No. 4 Arizona and No. 1 Virginia went out in the first round—Virginia's loss to UMBC marked the first time a No. 16 seed has triumphed over a No. 1—and then No. 2 Xavier and No. 3 Tennessee went down in the second round. That's never happened before, according to NCAA's David Worlock:
David Worlock @DavidWorlock
In the history of the tournament, there has never (I repeat NEVER) been a region that has featured none of the top 4 seeds in the Sweet 16. Until now. The South Region in Atlanta will feature (5) Kentucky, (11) Loyola Chicago, (7) Nevada and either (9) Kansas St. or (16) UMBC.
The West Region also doesn't have its top-two seeds, instead No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 9 Florida State crashed the party, while the Midwest Region has a familiar interloper in No. 11 Syracuse. The Orange are the latest team to go from the First Four to the Sweet 16, making a run similar to in 2016 when they reached the Final Four as a No. 10 seed.
Villanova, Duke Among Favorites Playing Best
Getting to the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed is supposed to be standard, yet with all of the upsets in the 2018 NCAA tournament, any that managed to get this far should be commended for avoiding the disaster that befell others.
Villanova and Duke haven't just won their games to this point, they've dominated. East Region No. 1 seed Villanova beat No. 16 Radford by 26 and then steamrolled ninth-seeded Alabama by 23, while South No. 2 Duke beat No. 15 Iona by 22 and then crushed 10th-seeded Rhode Island by 25.
The only other team left in the field that has won its first two games by an average of 20 points is No. 5 West Virginia, Villanova's Sweet 16 opponent.
Wooden Award Showdowns
All but one of the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, given to college basketball's top player, were included in the NCAA tournament. Only seven are still active in the competition, and they all happen to be on teams in the East and Midwest regions.
That means the Sweet 16 matchups—and possibly those in the Elite Eight—will feature some terrific one-on-one battles between the best players in the country.
Villanova sports two Wooden finalists in junior guards Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson, with that duo facing off against West Virginia and senior guard Jevon Carter in an East Region semifinal. The other East Region semi will pit Purdue and sophomore guard Carsen Edwards against Texas Tech and senior guard Keenan Evans.
The South Region includes senior guard Devonte' Graham of Kansas and freshman forward Marvin Bagley III of Duke. They could meet Sunday with a Final Four berth on the line.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.