Ten questions ahead of Saturday's action with teams vying for Sweet 16
First, the winners after two full days of the NCAA tournament ...
The ACC went 6-0. The state of Ohio went 5-0. The Pac-12 went 4-0. The Big Ten got five teams through.
Next, the losers ...
Underdog lovers. Despite two quick 14-3 seed upsets early Thursday, the form chart ended up as reliable as the tide tables. The higher-seeded team won 27 of the 32 games in the second round. The dramatic finishes stopped, too. Only two of Friday’s 16 contests were decided by under five points, and nine by double figures.
The Big 12. Only two of the top 20 seeded teams were gone by Saturday. Guess which league they were both from?
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|Bracket: Interactive Printable|
Ten questions for the next two days as the Sweet 16 gets filled.
1. Who’s king of the Sunflower State?
Lawrence and Wichita are barely 150 miles apart, but they might as well be in different galaxies, as infrequently as Kansas and Wichita State have played. They meet Sunday in Omaha. The Jayhawks’ brass apparently would rather kiss a rattlesnake than schedule the Shockers, so they haven’t played since 1993 when Kansas rolled 103-54. But in the 1981 regional, Wichita State won 66-65, and that one might have more legs in state memories.
Wichita State continues its Blueblood Tour after drawing an NCAA tournament assignment against Kentucky last March, Indiana Friday and now Kansas.
"I guess we could play the Lakers and Celtics after that,’’ coach Gregg Marshall said.
2. How will Kentucky get along with its neighbor?
The Ohio River forms the watery border between Cincinnati and the Big Blue Nation. John Calipari ventured north to throw out the first pitch at a Reds game a few years ago, and there apparently was a smattering of boos from Great American Ball Park.
"By the way, I threw a BB that day," Calipari said. "I don’t think the fans of Cincinnati are going to cheer when I walk in the building, nor will the fans of Louisville."
Meanwhile, all the Bearcats need to do is cross the bridge south to go to the movies to be in hostile Kentucky territory. "They don’t ever really say nothing bad to us or anything," Cincinnati’s Troy Caupain said. But that might be different Saturday when they play in Louisville.
The two haven’t met for 10 years. Everyone wants to be the team to derail Kentucky, but imagine the satisfaction for someone just next door, having had a front row seat for Wildcat mania all winter?
"They got a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country,’’ Calipari said. "I would imagine they’re dreaming about it, thinking about it, having people in the stands. 'Make sure you take video of this, because I want my grandkids to see it.' And I don’t blame them.’’
3. Who’s going to be Indiana state champion?
Butler and Notre Dame are the last two teams standing from their state, and they play Saturday in Pittsburgh. They have met 103 times, but only once in 20 years and that was back in 2006.
Since then, the Bulldogs have become darlings of March. The Irish have not been to the Sweet 16 in 12 years, having lost to three No. 10 seeds and two No. 11s. Those hurt. Losing to Butler wouldn’t feel all that good either.
"It certainly drives me to want to make a run in this thing,’’ Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of the recent disappointing months of March. "Our program is amazingly respected, but it’s unfinished business, I think.’’
4. Is there a Cinderella still out there?
We’re pretty much down to two candidates. You can have the Ron and R.J. Hunter father and son show at Georgia State against Xavier Saturday in Jacksonville. Or UAB, a school trying to ease the pain of losing its football program. Both are No. 14 seeds.
UAB must get through UCLA on Saturday in a rematch. They met in the Battle 4 Atlantis in November and the Bruins won 88-76. But this isn’t the Bahamas.
Meanwhile, who doesn’t love the Georgia State story? From R.J.’s winning long range missile against Baylor, to Ron dissing on President Obama for picking against his team in the White House bracket, and doing a swan dive out of his chair with excitement after his son’s game winner. He cracked the cast on his injured Achilles tendon in his glee.
So now he’s famous. Or not.
"I’m still trying to get fame in my own house. My daughter is here. She’s getting married in a few weeks and we had breakfast this morning and all she asked was for another check to write out for this wedding thing,’’ Hunter said at his Friday press conference. "My son is not listening to me. My wife is doing interviews."
Any response from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue about his Obama comment?
"I’m nervous. I’m thinking my taxes are going to get something,’’ Hunter said. "I’m not getting money back anyway but I think I’m going to owe more money, and I’m looking for Secret Service guys coming to get me.’’
5. Will Mike Krzyzewski be excited when he finds out he’s the youngest head coach on the floor when Duke plays San Diego State Sunday in Charlotte?
Krzyzewski turned 68 last month. San Diego State’s Steve Fisher turns 70 next week. It’s the AARP game of the tournament. Also the third-highest scoring offense in the nation against the second-lowest scoring defense.
6. How good are the Virginia Cavaliers’ memories?
One year ago, they were booted out of the East Regional by Michigan State. They’ll see the Spartans again Sunday in Charlotte.
"I remember in the locker room everybody just said remember how this feels," Virginia’s Anthony Gill said. "I think this isn’t going to be a revenge game, just us going out there and do what we do.’’
7. Is it Gonzaga’s time?
The Zags haven’t been in the Sweet 16 in six years. Iowa is in the way.
8. Does Dayton have one more push from the home crowd?
The Flyers were able to play Boise State on their own floor in the First Four. They owned most of the crowd Friday 80 miles away in Columbus when they beat Providence, shooting 30 free throws to the Friars’ seven. "Neutral site," Providence head coach Ed Cooley answered to that, but he might have been a wee bit sarcastic. Oklahoma is Dayton’s next opponent in the friendly confines. It’ll be the sixth game in 10 days for the Flyers, who only have six scholarship players.
"It’s powerful. I think our fans continue to be on front and center stage right now,’’ coach Archie Miller said. His team is 5-1 the past two years in the NCAA tournament -- all as a No. 11 seed.
9. Who wins the clash of buddies in Portland?
Thad Matta and Sean Miller once shared the same office as Miami (Ohio) assistants. Later, Miller worked for Matta at Xavier. Now, Matta coaches Ohio State, Miller coaches Arizona, and they meet for the third time in the NCAA tournament. Matta won the first two, barely. The first in overtime in 2007 when Miller was at Xavier. The other in 2013 by three points when he had moved to Arizona. This time, Miller is the higher seed.
10. When do the buzzer-beaters start?
There haven’t been many yet, which is one reason for so few upsets. Northeastern, Valparaiso and UC Irvine all had the ball in the final seconds with a chance to tie or win against Notre Dame, Maryland and Louisville, respectively. SportsCenter and YouTube awaited a great play to show. Instead, none of the three even got off a shot.
So, all is orderly and calm as the weekend begins. But that can always change.