For the second straight year, the NCAA tournament had a wild first weekend filled with upsets, buzzer beaters and virtuoso performances by star players.
And, for the second straight year, people across the country had to rip up their brackets, left with no chance of winning because they didn’t see Morehead State bumping off Louisville, Butler making another run to the round of 16 or any of the other how’d-that-happen games.
Next up are the regionals and there are still plenty of great teams, great players and exciting story lines.
Duke, the defending national champion, is still in the bracket, as are Kansas and Ohio State, two of the other three No. 1 seeds.
Upset specialists Butler, Marquette and Virginia Commonwealth have made it through, setting up another potential mid-major breakthrough. And there’s still plenty of stars, from The Jimmer to King Kemba and D-Will of the desert.
It should be a fun week. Here’s a few things to keep an eye on while you’re planted in that worn down recliner.
Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin. Leuer is a big banger, but also has a deft touch from the perimeter. Taylor is difficult to keep out of the lane, can also shoot outside and has a knack for making big plays. Nice combination.
Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, Duke. Smith became the first player to lead the ACC in scoring and assists, while Singler is as multidimensional as they come. They won a title together.
Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, Butler. Howard is the kind of guy who could get his teeth knocked out and not even slow down. Mack has quietly become one of the best guards in the country. They’re both winners, too, as evidenced by the past two NCAA tournaments.
They’re all marquee at this point, right? Well, some have a little more pizzaz than others. Here’s the ones you need to make sure to at least get the DVR rollin’ for:
Ohio State vs. Kentucky, East Regional, Friday in Newark, N.J. There’s going to be so many athletes on the floor it’s going to look like an All-Star game. Soaring dunks and 3-pointers will be flying in from everywhere. Strap in and enjoy.
Arizona vs. Duke, West Regional, Thursday in Anaheim, Calif. This one’s worth watching just to see what Arizona’s Derrick Williams will do next. Throw in the defending national champions and it’s time to let the couch mold around you for 2 1/2 hours.
BYU vs. Florida, Southeast Regional, Thursday in New Orleans. One word: Jimmer. Well, that and watching to see if CBS announcer Gus Johnson gets fired up when Fredette starts pouring ’em in.
THE OTHER GUYS
Most of the teams left in the tournament have a singular star, such as San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker of Connecticut.
But these teams wouldn’t have gotten here with just a star and a bunch of no-names; Kansas’ Danny Manning and the Miracles or Larry Bird at Indiana State are usually anomalies.
To get this far, even teams with a star need a Robin to pick up the slack when Batman is struggling. Here’s a few of the guys behind the guy:
Jon Diebler, Ohio State. Big freshman Jared Sullinger gets the hoopla, Diebler a lot of the hoops, at least from the outside. Known as “3-bler,” he’s hit 110 3-pointers this season, giving the Buckeyes an impressive inside-outside game. Consider David Lighty, who hit seven 3s against George Mason, Ohio State’s Robin II.
Markieff Morris, Kansas. During their first two years in Lawrence, Marcus was considered the better Morris twin. This season, ‘Kieff has upped his game, giving the Jayhawks not just one banger who can also bang in 3-pointers, but two.
Kendall Marshall, North Carolina. Harrison Barnes was a preseason All-American and started right away, but it was his fellow freshman who helped the Tar Heels make an impressive late-season run. Since Marshall took over as the starting point guard, the Tar Heels have won 16 of 18. He is the wheel that makes the Heels go.
2 – Big East teams remaining out of a record 11 to get in (UConn and Marquette).
3 – Number of ACC teams (Duke, North Carolina, Florida State) in the round of 16, most of any conference.
4.03 – Assist-to-turnover ratio of Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor, best in the nation.
5 – Times Ohio State and Kentucky have met in the NCAA tournament, all won by the Buckeyes.
23 – Years since Richmond reached the NCAA’s round of 16.
27 – Times Kansas has reached the round of 16.
31.5 – Ohio State’s average margin of victory in its first two NCAA tournament games.
33 – Tournament scoring average of BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, who led the nation at 28.3 points per game in the regular season.
191 – Combined points between BYU and Florida in the first round last season. They meet again Thursday in the Big Easy.
There’s only 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament, but still some pretty memorable names around the bracket. Check ’em out:
Buzz Williams, Marquette coach. Has the hair to match.
Shaka Smart, VCU coach. Hard-to-forget name is going to be heard a lot for some of the bigger jobs out there.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU guard. His first name has become a noun, a verb and an adjective.
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State. The player whose first name sounds like a Hawaiian island is a stud.
MoMo Jones, Arizona guard. OK, so his real name is Lamont. We just like saying MoMo.
Now you’re set. Kick back and enjoy. It’s going to be fun – even if your bracket is in pieces.
Copyright Associated Press