2014 NCAA Tournament Recap — 5 Things We Learned From The First Weekend
After four exciting days of college basketball, the 68-team field of the 2014 NCAA men's basketball tournament has been reduced to just 16 schools, and my bracket has been reduced to rubble. Oh, well, can't win 'um all. In re-cap, here are five things I learned from the tournament's first weekend:
Wichita State's Streak Is Over; Florida's Streak Is Not
Just two days after becoming the first NCAA Division I men's basketball team to win 35 consecutive games in a single season, Wichita State's historic run ended on Sunday thanks to a spirited effort by Kentucky. The eighth-seeded Wildcats edged the top-seeded Shockers, 78-76, in the Midwest Region in St. Louis. Kentucky moved on to face in-state rival Louisville in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Indianapolis.
Top-ranked Florida won its 28th consecutive game by trouncing Pitt, 61-45, on Saturday in the South Region in Orlando, Fla. The top-seeded Gators advanced to their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 berth. Florida will face fourth-seeded UCLA on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn. The Bruins beat upstart Stephen F. Austin, 77-60, on Sunday in San Diego.
Three Cinderellas Are Still Dancing
Three double-digit seeds remained alive after the tournament's first weekend: Stanford, Dayton and Tennessee. The Cardinal and the Flyers were the 10th- and 11th-seeded teams in the South Region. Each advanced to the Sweet 16 by knocking off high-profile opponents: Stanford beat seventh-seeded New Mexico and second-seeded Kansas; Dayton upset sixth-seeded Ohio State and third-seeded Syracuse. The University of Tennessee needed to beat Iowa on Wednesday to claim the 11th seed in the Midwest Region. The Volunteers then routed sixth-seeded Massachusetts and 14th-seeded Mercer over the weekend in Raleigh, N.C. to advance.
Stanford will play Dayton on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn. for the right to advance to the South Region final. Tennessee will face second-seeded Michigan in Indianapolis on Friday.
Number One Seeds Played Well; Number Five Seeds Did Not
Wichita State was the only top regional seed to lose during the first weekend of the 2014 NCAA tournament. Florida (South), Virginia (East) and Arizona (West) all cruised into the Sweet 16 via lopsided victories in their first two games. Each top team must now get past the fourth seed in their region to advance to the Elite Eight.
Fifth-seeded teams went a woeful 1-4 in the NCAA tourney. Only Saint Louis managed to top N.C. State in the Midwest Region, and that victory came in overtime after a late Wolfpack collapse. The Billikens then lost on Saturday to fourth-seeded Louisville. Elsewhere, Cincinnati lost to 12th-seeded Harvard in the East; Oklahoma fell to North Dakota State in the West and VCU dropped their game to Stephen F. Austin in the South.
The Southeastern Conference Is Good At Basketball, Too
Long known for its many national-title winning football programs, the Southeastern Conference showed it can produce great basketball teams, too. Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee have a perfect 7-0 record in the 2014 NCAA tournament. If the Wildcats and Volunteers can win their respective games on Friday in Indianapolis, an all-SEC Midwest Region final on Sunday will guarantee the conference at least one Final Four entrant.
Doug McDermott Played His Last NCAA Game On Sunday
When sixth-seeded Baylor crushed third-seeded Creighton, 85-55, in the West Region in San Antonio on Sunday, the Bears ended more than the national title hopes of the Bluejays. Creighton's Doug McDermott, the nation's leading scorer, played his last college game in the loss. His 15 points were nearly 12 points off his per game average this season. Almost certain to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, McDermott must now wait until the pros to show off the shooting skills that allowed him to tally 3,150 points — the fifth highest total in NCAA history.