NCAA tournament falls to 16 teams

Courtesy of NYU Athletics

In what felt like a matter of seconds, the NCAA tournament field was whittled down from 64 teams to 16, concluding some of the most exciting days on the sports calendar. What is left is a combination of players and coaches with just the amount of talent and luck that allowed them to reach the benchmark that is the Sweet 16.

Let’s start with Thursday, where the day began quietly, the only near-upset being third-seeded Marquette barely escaping Davidson. Had it not been for Vander Blue’s layup with one second to play, Marquette would have gone home early. Gonzaga followed suit, allowing No. 16 seed Southern to stick around for far too long, leading fans to wonder if the ever-imminent No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed will actually ever happen. These turned out to be just appetizers for the action that would occur later that evening. The classic No. 12 seed over No. 5 seed upset occurred twice, with University of California, Berkeley and the severely under-seeded Oregon Ducks both beating University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Oklahoma State, respectively. Harvard, though, would provide the biggest upset of the day a few hours later, beating the over-seeded No. 3 New Mexico Lobos.

Friday was even better — not only did another No. 12 beat a No. 5 seed with the University of Mississippi over Wisconsin, but for only the seventh time in history, a No. 15 seed toppled a No. 2 seed, as Florida Gulf Coast took care of Georgetown. Minnesota also won over University of California, Los Angeles, concluding their disappointing season.

In what had been a wild two days, of constant channel-changing, continual excitement and of course upsets, the field was down to 32.

Saturday and Sunday saw some of the perennial favorites flex their muscles as Michigan State, University of Michigan, Louisville, Duke and Florida all cruised to victories. Not surprisingly, the No. 1 seed went down, as Gonzaga, who hadn’t beaten a ranked team in 2013, lost to Wichita State. Florida Gulf Coast was able to continue their magical run as well, becoming the first No. 15 seed to ever make it to the Sweet 16. And thus, the field was set –with a group that almost no one could have predicted, yet at the same time was intriguing and exciting.

The best of these matchups is the battle for Florida between the Florida Gators and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Though the Gators are currently 13-point favorites, the Eagles have proven themselves in just two tournament games. The other great matchup is between two of the best coaches in the game today. Michigan State and its March magician Tom Izzo will take on the always prepared and talented Duke Blue Devils, led by none other than Mike Krzyzewski. This highlights the extremely difficult Midwest region, which also houses the overall number one seed Louisville Cardinals and a very solid Oregon Ducks squad.

The tournament moves from an exciting first weekend filled with surprise to a second weekend filled with more talented basketball. The matchups will be better, the stars will shine and the field will get smaller, once again.

A version of this article appeared in Tuesday, March 26 print edition. Sam Barder is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]