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Mr. Kesterson has the March Madness Bracket across the board in his room.

Ryan Kemper

Mr. Kesterson has the March Madness Bracket across the board in his room.

Ryan Kemper, Sports Writer

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Madness has arrived.  Over the weekend of March 16th to the 18th, the NCAA Tournament began, and those three days will forever be marked with some of the most memorable tournament games of all time.  Headlines worldwide flew as sports fans were shocked by the upset of a lifetime, 16 seed University of Maryland Baltimore County delivered a beatdown of number one overall seed Virginia, 74-54.  Never before in men’s tournament history had a 16 seed beaten a number one seed, and a victory by this margin almost seemed inconceivable to ever occur. This was just the beginning of the craziness, however.  Fellow number 1 seed Xavier lost to 9 seed Florida State on Sunday night. Syracuse, an 11 seed that barely made the tournament, beat a strong 3 seed in Michigan State, who many had picked as a sleeper team to win the tournament.  13 seed Buffalo crushed 4 seed Arizona in similar fashion, 7 seed Nevada beat 2 seed Cincinnati. 7 seed Texas A&M beat defending champs UNC handily and 11 seed University of Loyola-Chicago has pulled off an unthinkable run to the Sweet 16.

Now looking ahead to this weekend, as sixteen teams will become four by Sunday, the big question is will the madness continue, or will we finally see the true contenders step up and cement themselves as favorites for the title.

South Region:  The South Region was where most of the craziness happened, as the highest seed remaining in the field is 5 seed Kentucky.  It may seem that they have the easiest path to the Final Four, with a roster that is beginning to hit its stride after underperforming for much of the season, but after what we have seen already in the region, it would not be a surprise for any of the four teams remaining to be heading to the Final Four.  The Loyola-Chicago and Nevada game provides an interesting matchup of upset minded teams, as Loyola does not want to end its Cinderella run, but Nevada is riding high off a massive comeback and victory over 2 seed Cincinnati. If Kentucky stays at the level that they have played at recently, look for them to advance.  If not, anything could happen in a region that is making history.

 

Midwest Region:  The Midwest Region also provides two intriguing matchups, as a red-hot Clemson team takes on 1 seed Kansas.  The Jayhawks have made it this far, but have not looked convincing by any means, and Clemson is coming off of a drubbing of 4 seed Auburn, where the Tigers led by upwards of 30 points for most of the game. If Clemson plays at the caliber they did this weekend, look for them to pull off the upset. The matchup on the bottom half of the bracket – 2 seed Duke versus 11 seed Syracuse – also raises some questions.  The Blue Devils have looked like one of the most convincing teams in the tournament so far, winning by 20+ points in both of their first weekend games, but Syracuse has beaten good TCU and Michigan State teams. In an ACC rematch, look for Duke to prevail and head to the Elite 8 based on their frontcourt strength and hot shooting guards. In an all-ACC Elite 8 matchup, look for Duke to advance to the Final Four if they remain as locked in as they have been this tournament.

 

West Region:  Another region where a lot of the upsets occurred, both the number 1 and number 2 seed in this region have been eliminated in the first weekend.  The first matchup, 9 seed Florida State and 4 seed Gonzaga, should go to the Bulldogs. They are the more complete team, and Florida State has not convincingly strung good wins together all season.  The bottom matchup, 3 seed Michigan versus 7 seed Texas A&M, is one of the most intriguing matchups remaining. A&M manhandled 2 seed UNC this past weekend, and if they turn in another performance like they did, they could definitely pull off the upset.  I see Gonzaga as the most likely team to advance to the Final Four from this region, but don’t be surprised to see either Michigan or Texas A&M emerge victorious as well.

 

East Region:  This is the by far the calmest region remaining, as very few massive upsets have occurred.  Villanova is now the favorite to win the tournament, and look for them to use their balanced offensive attack to break West Virginia’s press defense.  Texas Tech escaped in both of their matchups and play an incomplete Purdue team that has lost their star big man Isaac Haas. Either team really could win the matchup, but I see Villanova being the team advancing to the final weekend regardless.

 

Final Four Picks:  Duke, Villanova, Gonzaga, Kentucky

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NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight Preview