Sunday marked the end of the round of 32 in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, meaning that the Sweet 16 is now set. Before we break down the matchups that will determine who moves onto the Elite Eight and inevitably to the Final 4, let’s take a look back at the round of 32.
First things first, how in the world did Northern Iowa lose this game last night?
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2016
No. 11 seed Northern Iowa was up 12 points, that’s right, 12 points, with 35 seconds left in the game against No. 3 Texas AM, yet somehow found a way to lose. Most people tuning into some late-night college basketball action on Sunday flipped over to the Wisconsin/Xavier game once UNI went up by double digits in the final minute on Texas AM. Bronson Koenig drilled a three-point buzzer beater to send No. 7 Wisconsin to the Sweet 16 and No. 2 Xavier to the golf course, and obviously, everybody assumed that that was going to be the craziness tournament moment of the night.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2016
Poor Bill Murray:
— BlackSportsOnline (@BSO) March 21, 2016
With the Wisconsin game over, most fans were probably shocked to hear that Northern Iowa blew the 12-point lead against AM in the final minute and the game was heading into overtime, where the Aggies pulled it out 92-88. A devastating and shocking loss for Northern Iowa, their fans, and any poor schmuck who had the Panthers in the Sweet 16 in their bracket pool.
Northern Iowa wasn’t the only Cinderella-team to have its season end in heartbreak on Sunday, as No. 14 Stephen F. Austin fell 76-75 to No. 6 Notre Dame on a buzzer-beating layup by Rex Pflueger with 1.4 seconds remaining, sending the Irish to Philly for a Sweet 16 matchup against Wisconsin.
Breaking Down The Remaining Field:
With Stephen F. Austin, Northern Iowa, and Middle-Tennessee State all now out, there really is no “Cinderella” left in this year’s tournament. Sure, No. 11 Gonzaga and No. 10 Syracuse were able to crack the Sweet 16 as double-digit seeds, but to consider the Bulldogs or Orange as “underdogs” or Cinderellas would be downright blasphemous. Gonzaga and Syracuse are always making deep tournament runs, and just because they were able to do it as a double-digit seed does not mean that they are therefore in any way a Cinderella. The Zags and ‘Cuse will face off against one another in Chicago on Friday, where the winner will have the chance to play for a trip to the Final Four on Sunday against the winner of No. 4 Iowa State and No. 1 Virginia, where London Perrantes and Georges Niang should be seeing a lot of one another.
No. 1 North Carolina will face off against No. 5 Indiana in a battle of two teams who play very different styles of basketball. The matchup between Carolina’s Marcus Paige and IU’s Yogi Ferrell should be extremely entertaining. Indiana got past No. 4 Kentucky in the round of 32 while North Carolina steamrolled No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast in the opening round and blew out No. 8 Providence late in the round of 32. The Tar Heels are obviously going to be favored but do not be surprised if Indiana gives them a game or strings together an upset. The other Sweet 16 matchup in the East is between Wisconsin and Notre Dame. After making it all the way to the National Championship Game in 2015, the Badgers were anything but pretty throughout the entire 2015-2016 season after an opening night loss to Western Illinois and head coach Bo Ryan stepping down mid-season. Yet, somehow, the Badgers still found a way to get themselves back to the Sweet 16 with an ugly victory against No. 10 Pittsburgh in the opening round followed by Koenig’s buzzer beater against Xavier in round two. The Badgers will face a veteran group in Notre Dame that is no stranger to making long tournament runs as the Irish fell to No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the Elite Eight in 2015. The Irish’s Zach Auguste, Steve Vasturia, and Demetrius Jackson have proved time after time to be clutch in big games and are ready to redeem themselves for last season’s Elite Eight loss. Expect this ND/Wisco game to be a war down in the paint.
No. 1 overall seed Kansas will take on Melo Trimble and the No. 5 Maryland Terrapins in Louisville on Thursday while No. 2 Villanova will take on Angel Rodriguez and the No. 3 Miami Hurricanes. Each team in this region has their star: Perry Ellis (KU), Trimble (MD), Josh Hart (Villanova), and Rodriguez (Miami). The size matchup between Kansas and Maryland should be something special while the versatility and three-point shooting of both Villanova and Miami will be on full display when the Canes and Wildcats do battle. This is the type of region that just feels like anybody is capable of beating anybody with the talent each of the four teams have in all areas of the court. Whoever makes it out of the South Region will have to knock down three-pointers, dominate the paint, and play exceptional defense.
The country will get their wish when No. 1 Oregon takes on No. 4 Duke in Anaheim on Thursday night. The Blue Devils have gotten a pretty favorable draw so far in the tournament with No. 13 North Carolina-Wilmington and No. 12 Yale, but that is about to change with this matchup against Dillon Brooks and the Ducks. Grayson Allen is going to have to play out of his mind for the Dukies to get out of California still alive in this tournament as the Ducks have played absolutely exceptional over the last month. The other matchup out west is Buddy Hield’s No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners against the No. 3 Texas AM Aggies. The matchup between Texas AM’s size and the speed and versatility of Buddy Hield should be interesting, to say the least. A Buddy Hield vs. Dillon Brooks/Grayson Allen matchup in the Elite Eight would be must-watch entertainment.