Top seeds dominate opening weekend

Christopher Bean, Assistant Sports Editor

Just because we didn’t see many upsets, doesn’t mean we haven’t seen madness. Fifteen of the top 16 teams are moving on to the Sweet 16, which is still incredible because it’s very rare to see that many top seeds moving on. However, No. 12 seed Oregon has moved on and is the biggest underdog left in the tourney. Let’s take a look at every matchup heading into the second weekend.

The West Region will start off the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Anaheim, Calif., when No. 1 seed Gonzaga Zags will go up against the No. 4 seed Florida State Seminoles. FSU defeated Gonzaga in last year’s Sweet 16, 75-60. Over a year later, both these teams will square up again to have a chance to play in the Elite Eight. The Zags have a record of 32-3 and their success has come from their deep lineup, including junior forward Killian Tillie, who’s only played 13 games due to injury. Tillie scored 17 points against Dickinson in only 18 minuets. The Seminoles come in with a 29-7 record. They are led by senior guard Terrance Mann who scored 18 in lasts year’s win.

The second match up in the West will be between the No. 2 seed Michigan Wolverines and No. 3 seed Texas Tech Red Raiders. Both of these teams will be playing for their second straight Elite Eight appearance. If you love defense, this will be your favorite game of the year. These are two of the best defensive teams that the tournament has to offer this year, and they have been fun to watch. If both defenses are at their best and lack the inconsistency in their offense, this game could be in the 40’s. However, just because they’re inconsistent doesn’t mean they don’t have any offensive firepower. The Red Raiders are led by sophomore Jarrett Culver who averages 18.8 points a game and is potentially a lottery pick in the NBA Draft. The Wolverines have a freshman Ignas Brazdeikis who averages 14.8 points a game. I think the team that limits each team’s star player will come up on top.

The South Region will also start Thursday and will be held in Louisville, Ky. The first match up is between the No. 2 seed Tennessee Volunteers and No. 3 seed Purdue Boilermakers. The Volunteers had great starts to both of their games to start the tourney but gave up double digit leads in the second half. They escaped an upset from Colgate and won in OT to beat Iowa after blowing a 25-point lead. Head coach Rick Barnes has now taken three different teams to the Sweet 16 and is looking for his second Final Four, after he took Texas back in 2002-03. But, they will have to go through Matt Painter’s Boilermakers first. This is his fifth Sweet 16 appearance but is 0-4 in those games. If they want to win, they will need another big performance from Carsen Edwards who has been carrying them the whole year. Edwards scored 42 against Villanova, which is a tournament high in 2019. If Tennessee can slow him down and be able to play the full 40 minutes, I don’t see them losing this game.

The winner will be either the No. 1 seed Virgina Cavaliers or the No. 12 seed Oregon Ducks. Like I said before, Oregon is the highest seed remaining, and they will try and continue to bust people’s brackets. But first, they have to go through Virgina, who is looking for their first Final Four appearance under Tony Bennett. They have had great teams under him but haven’t gotten over the hump. The Cavaliers year in and year out have one of the best defenses, but their offense has disappointed them in their early exits. This year Bennett has his offense playing at a high level to get them far in the tourney. On the other hand, the Ducks under Dana Altman have been to the Final Four and look to make it two out of three years. This year, they have played the role of the underdog. They had to win the Pac 12 conference to get here, but will certainly have their toughest test yet, when they go up against the hungry Cavaliers.

On Friday the East Region starts and will take place at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans will go up against the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers. MSU is led by the Big Ten Player of the Year and arguably the best player in the country, Cassius Winston. The Spartans are back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015, after losing in the first weekend three years in-a-row. LSU is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since they went to the Final Four in 2006. LSU continues to be without Head Coach Will Wade after he allegedly told a player he would pay him if he came to LSU. Both teams won their respective regular season conference, and MSU also won their tournament conference. MSU has been plagued with injuries, but that hasn’t stopped them from getting better. As long as Winston continues to carry his team, I don’t see them losing to LSU.

In the other game from the East it is the No. 1 seed Duke Blue Devils playing conference rival the No. 4 seed Virgina Tech Hookies. There’s no doubt Duke is the favorite to win it all, it’s been that way since day one because of Zion Williamson. Williamson is a sensational talent and there is no doubt he’ll be the number one overall player in the NBA Draft. However, that doesn’t mean Duke is unbeatable. They survived a 77-76 win against UCF in the best game of the tourney so far. Duke trailed by three in the final 20 seconds when Williamson went to the rim to get an And-One. RJ Barrett got the offensive rebound and put it back up to give Duke the lead with 11 seconds left. After UCF called a timeout, they had two great looks including the put back, but somehow someway it didn’t go in. Back on Feb. 26, the Hookies defeated Duke 77-72, but that was without Williamson. If the Hookies want to defeat them for the second time this year, they will need to find a way to slow down Williamson.

In the fourth and final region, we have the Midwest Region that will take place in Kansas City, Mo. In the first match up we will see the No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels taking on the No. 5 seed Auburn Tigers. The Tigers barely survived their first game 78-77 after giving New Mexico State every opportunity to beat them in the final seconds. They took care of business in the next round, beating Kansas by 14 to move onto the Sweet 16. The Tar Heels cruised to the Sweet 16, winning both games by double digits. Expect this game to be high scoring. Auburn shoots a lot of threes and UNC loves pushing the ball down floor. At the end of the day, I like Carolina in this one because they have 6-7 players who can score a basket whenever they need to.

In the second matchup we have the No. 2 seed Kentucky Wildcats going up against the No. 3 seed Houston Cougars. If you love the underdog, Houston is also a good team to root for. Yes, they are a No. 3 seed, but this is their first time back to the Sweet 16 since 1984, when they lost to Georgetown in the National Championship game. Head coach Kelvin Sampson has now led four different schools to the Sweet 16. This could be his best team yet with a 33-3 record. He will have to coach against John Calipari whose led the Wildcats to eight Sweet 16s in his tenure. They have come a long way since losing to Duke by 34 on opening night of the season. A big reason for their success this year is forward PJ Washington. He averages 14.8 points a game, shooting the ball over 51 percent. However, Washington is hurt and his return is unsure. This game could come down to if he plays or not. If he plays I like Kentucky. If he doesn’t give me Houston.

It’s the year of the top dog in college basketball, and we’re about to find out who’s the best in the country. Just because we don’t have many upsets, doesn’t mean we won’t see madness in the last two weeks of college hoops.