Heavyweights, Cinderellas line the Sweet 16

In this, the craziest of college basketball seasons, some of us were expecting March to be a little more mad. This year’s tournament has produced its share of certifiable insanity (Wichita State!!!) (La Salle!!!!) (Florida Gulf Coast!!!!!!!!), but it’s also still chock-full with bluebloods and heavyweights and the teams we thought could win it all all year long.

Sherwood Brown and FGCU became the first 15-seed ever to crash the Sweet 16. (USA Today Sports)

Sherwood Brown and FGCU became the first 15-seed ever to crash the Sweet 16. (USA Today Sports)

This was supposed to be the year when anything could happen: New Mexico could make a run to the Final Four. Saint Louis could join them there. A big-name No. 1 seed (not Gonzaga) could be gone by the first weekend. It set up like another 2011, where none of the No.1 seeds made the Final Four but  VCU and Butler did.

But besides Florida Gulf Coast (how awesome are the Eagles??), the NCAA Tournament has been about the heavyweights. Just take a look at the remaining Sweet 16 teams.

We have 11 heavyweight favorites still playing:

Louisville–Destroyed North Carolina A&T and then completely outclassed Colorado State.

Michigan State–The Spartans proved vastly superior to both Valparaiso and Memphis.

Duke–Hounded Albany, then suffocated Creighton with great defense.

Ohio State–Beat up on Iona then snuck past an up-and-coming and game Iowa State team at the buzzer.

Arizona–They cruised past upset-minded Belmont then rudely ended Harvard’s Cinderella run.

Kansas–Struggled with Western Kentucky then ran over North Carolina in the Round of 32.

Michigan–Pushed past South Dakota State, then clocked upset-minded VCU.

Florida–Ran right past Northwestern State and then outlasted Minnesota.

Indiana–Cruised past James Madison and got a few breaks along the way to survive Temple’s upset bid.

Syracuse–Dump-trucked Montana, and then won a closer-than-expected game with Cal.

Miami (FL)–Hammered Pacific and then survived a game Illinois squad.

If you want to throw Marquette in there, you can. The Golden Eagles won their two games by a combined three points. The point is, every one of the above teams proved vastly superior to their opponents.

Now, there are a few reasons for this. Although the overall level of play in college basketball is down, it’s down everywhere. It’s not that everyone can play with everyone. It’s just that while the teams at the top have flaws, we’ve seen that the ones at the bottom have Lindsay Lohan-level flaws. (That is, except for Florida Gulf Coast). Sure, we thought the first two rounds would be Dennis Rodman-nuts. But now, we’re set up for an epic Sweet 16, one that will include these matchups: Kansas-Michigan, Indiana-Syracuse, Duke-Michigan State, and Arizona-Ohio State. All of those are worthy of the tournament’s second weekend.

Of course, the Sweet 16 is made even sweeter by the Cinderellas. 9th-seeded Wichita State shocked the top-seeded Zags, La Salle continued its amazing run from the First Four to the Sweet 16 (much like VCU did in ’11), and FLORIDA GULF COAST–man, what can we say about FGCU that hasn’t already been said.

It’s going to be a great Sweet 16, with Cinderellas and heavyweights galore. One of them is guaranteed a spot in the Elite Eight (WSU and La Salle will play each other in the regional semis). Florida Gulf Coast will have to take out in-state rival Florida in order to keep its magical ride going. While it might be stretch to think that they can, I’m not betting against Sherwood Brown.


Maybe there weren’t any great teams this season. There certainly weren’t any juggernauts. But save for the remarkable performance of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, we’ve figured out that the best teams in the nation this season really were the best.

We’ve got Cinderella. We’ve got Muhammad Ali.

It’s a perfect setup for the Sweet 16.

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