March Madness 2017: Duke, Villanova oustedBy Matt Verderame
After everyone complained about the lack of upsets over the first two days in the opening round, they were treated to a plethora of craziness over the weekend.
While the lowest seed to advance out of the first round was the No. 12 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, we did get to see the No. 11 Xavier Musketeers make it to the Sweet 16, giving us a true Cinderella to pull for. While Xavier is in the Big East, it is without its best player after Edmond Sumner was lost for the season with a torn ACL back in late January.
The Musketeers have been rolling throughout, beating up on the Maryland Terrapins before absolutely crushing the third-seeded Florida State Seminoles, 91-65. Xavier advances to take on the Arizona Wildcats, who narrowly escaped the No. 7 St. Mary’s Gaels on Saturday afternoon.
However, the biggest story of the tournament is what is going on in the East Region. When the committee put together the bracket, it had to be thinking about the possibility of the Villanova Wildcats and Duke Blue Devils meeting in the regional final at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Instead, both top seeds were knocked out over the weekend.
First, it was the defending champions going down at the wire to the Wisconsin Badgers. Led by Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin was able to take down both the Virginia Tech Hokies and then Villanova in the stunning upset, propelling the Badgers into the Sweet 16. They will take on the Florida Gators, who held serve through their first two contests.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils suffered a shocking defeat to the South Carolina Gamecocks. Frank Martin has done a tremendous job fixing that program, and now has his capstone accomplishment with the program, beating Duke, 88-81. The Gamecocks will now take on the Baylor Bears, third-seeded and playing well after surviving a tough game against the USC Trojans. Regardless of who comes out of the East, it will be a surprise.
Lastly, don’t forget about the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan can play both size and speed, and it showed in the opening weekend of the tournament. The Wolverines put up 94 points against the Oklahoma State Cowboys before taking on and putting down the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals. Louisville was a considerable favorite going into the game, but could not stop the presence of Moritz Wagner, who scored a career-high 26 points in the victory.
When Michigan takes on the third-seeded Oregon Ducks, we could see another race to 90. Dillon Brooks and Oregon will be waiting, in what could be the best game of the tourney thus far. After seeing Michigan run through the Big Ten Tournament on their way to March Madness, its starting to look like a team with serious staying power … into the Final Four and beyond.