With selection Sunday a week away, March Madness and the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament featured some heavyweight battles on Saturday as the regular season winds down and pivots into various conference tournaments. The NCAA Tournament kicks off on March 18 with the championship games set for April 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. If some of Saturday’s games were any indication, there is no question that March Madness is in full fast break mode.
Last year Louisville defeated Michigan 82-76 in a classic battle. Duke and Florida also made the final four.
Here is a rundown of some of the powerhouse games on Saturday.
Number one Florida beat number 25 Kentucky. The Gators shot a hot 60% from the field and became the first team to go 18-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Next up for them is the SEC Tournament. Florida is serving notice that it wants to return to the final four and this time win.
Number two Wichita State easily defeated Missouri State 67-42. The surprising Wichita State Shockers have everyone talking as they are undefeated this year at 33-0.
Number three Arizona, a legitimate contender at 28-3, stumbled to Oregon, losing 64-57. Arizona led by 12 at one point before things turned around. Not a good sign for a team that wants to advance in a tournament. Next up for them is the Pac-12 Tournament.
Number four Duke upended in state rival and perennial powerhouse North Carolina 94-81. The Tar Heels are ranked 14th. Duke has been somewhat erratic this year with a 24-7 record but Duke coach Mike Krzyzekski always gets his team in gear for the tournament.
Virginia is number five at 25-5 and did not play on Saturday as they prepared to clash with Maryland on Sunday.
Number six Villanova, 28-3, defeated Georgetown 77-59. Villanova has 16 Big East wins, the most in school history. Next up is the Big East Tournament.
Number seven Syracuse at 26-4 did not play either as they were readying to play Florida State on Sunday.
Powerhouse Kansas at number eight, 23-8, also stumbled 92-86 to West Virginia despite 41 points from their star Andrew Wiggins. Next up for Kansas is the Big 12 Tournament.
Number nine Wisconsin at 25-5 did not play on Saturday either as they were preparing to play Nebraska on Sunday.
Number 10 San Diego State, 27-3, defeated number 21 New Mexico State 51-48 as they rallied from a 16 point deficit in the second half. Next up for them is the MWC Tournament.
Sports writers are pegging Florida, Arizona, Kansas and Wichita State as the number one seeds going into Selection Sunday and March Madness. Other highly touted teams are Creighton, Michigan, Cincinnati, Iowa State, and Michigan State.
Also on display in the NCAA Tournament will be a number of great players who figure to be top NBA draft choices.
The include Doug McDermott of Creighton, Jabari Parker of Duke, Andrew Wiggans of Kansas, Russ Smith of Louisville, Nick Johnson of Arizona, Shabazz Napier of Connecticut, C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, Nik Stauskas of Michigan, Sean Kilpatrick of Cincinnati, and Casey Prather of Florida.
Who will win the NCAA Tournament?
In January Sports Illustrated said one of these teams would win: Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, Iowa Sate, Michigan, or Syracuse. No one predicted that Wichita State would be in the mix with such a powerful team.
The NCAA tournament usually has it share of upsets and Cinderella teams. Fans are excited, however, as NCAA March Madness gets into fast break mode.
By Jim McCullaugh