A field of 68 men’s college basketball teams has been narrowed down to 16. The first week of March Madness saw top-seeded Villanova fall to Wisconsin, Duke lose to South Carolina and Michigan, whose players and coaches survived a plane crash prior to the Big Ten Tournament, defeat second-seeded Louisville.
There’s potential for even more fun this weekend.
1. GONZAGA GOING DOWN
This has been the story of the Bulldogs for years now: earn a high seed (Gonzaga is a No. 1 seed), make it to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to a lower-seeded team. Thursday’s matchup against fourth-seeded West Virginia will provide a similar outcome. Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers have wins over Baylor, Kansas and Iowa State this season; they know how to win tough games. Gonzaga? Well, the Bulldogs lost their one close game this year to BYU.
2. MICHIGAN WILL KEEP RIDING HIGH
Every March, there seems to be a “team of destiny.” Given their plane crash a few weeks ago, a subsequent Big Ten Tournament title and run to the Sweet Sixteen, there is no reason to doubt the seven-seed Wolverines. Michigan faces third-seeded Oregon Thursday, who is without shot blocker Chris Boucher. Mark it down: the Wolverines will be playing Saturday in the Elite Eight against Kansas (see No. 4).
3. BEST GAME: KENTUCKY VS. UCLA
Talk about a Friday evening treat. Second-seeded Kentucky features a pair of superstar freshmen guards in Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox; both are projected to be drafted in the first few picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Third-seeded UCLA counters with sensational freshman point guard Lonzo Ball and his pick-and-roll counterpart T.J. Leaf. There will be plenty of points scored in this one, as UCLA averaged a nation-best 90.4 points per game in the regular season. Kentucky ranked fifth with 85.9 points per game. I think the Wildcats win, but it will be close.
4. KANSAS WILL FALL TO MICHIGAN IN THE ELITE EIGHT
No. 1 seed Kansas will cruise past No. 4 seed Purdue on Thursday night. Michigan will defeat Oregon. That sets the pair up for a matchup Saturday to advance to the Final Four. Kansas is great and has one of the best players in the nation in Frank Mason III. But there’s just something about this Michigan team. Plus, other than 2008 when the Jayhawks won the national title, Bill Self’s teams have had their share of tournament flops.
5. NO NO. 1 SEEDS WILL MAKE IT TO THE FINAL FOUR
West Virginia will defeat Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen, Kansas will lose to Michigan in the Elite Eight, and No. 1 seed North Carolina will lose to Kentucky in the Elite Eight. With Villanova already out, 2017 will be the first tournament since 2011 without a No. 1 seed in the Final Four.
▪ Michigan vs. Oregon, 5:09 p.m., CBS
▪ West Virginia vs. Gonzaga, 5:39 p.m., TBS
▪ Purdue vs. Kansas, 7:39 p.m., CBS
▪ Xavier vs. Arizona, 8:09 p.m., TBS
▪ Butler vs. North Carolina, 5:09 p.m., CBS
▪ South Carolina vs. Baylor, 5:29 p.m., TBS
▪ UCLA vs. Kentucky, 7:39 p.m., CBS
▪ Wisconsin vs. Florida, 7:59 p.m., TBS