To say the 2018 NCAA tournament is dramatic doesn’t do it justice. Through the first weekend, we’ve witnessed the first 16 seed to ever defeat a one seed, a 22-point comeback, buzzer beaters and more.
The best part about this? We still have two more weekends.
As people make their predictions for this weekend’s games, it’s important to reflect on what we learned from the first weekend. Teams will tune things up and coaches will have more preparation to come up with an effective gameplan in hopes of giving their teams an edge.
The city of Cincinnati is cursed
Down by 22 in the second half, Nevada’s hopes of reaching the Sweet 16 were slim. Then, a historic collapse happened. Cincinnati squandered its big lead and found themselves on the wrong end of a major story. What was a golden opportunity to reach the Elite 8 and potentially meet Kentucky is now gone, and Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin might not have a lot of time left before Cincinnati decides it’s time to move on.
As a No. 1 seed, the Xavier Musketeers were considered by many to be a sleeper pick to win the tournament. As Xavier held a 12-point lead over Florida State on Sunday, another Cincinnati-style collapse occurred and the second No. 1 seed fell in the tournament.
Duke is hitting fine form at the right time
There aren’t many coaches that get their team better prepared for the NCAA Tournament than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Freshman forward Marvin Bagley III and freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. are hitting their strides so far and everyone knows Duke has other weapons capable of taking over games.
What resonates the most about Duke’s first two games is not only did the Blue Devils handle Iona, they tore apart a dangerous Rhode Island team. Duke now has a date with Syracuse, in which the winner will face Kansas or Clemson. The Blue Devils control their own destiny, and if they keep flying they could find themselves playing for it all.
Syracuse is doing it again
In 2016, Syracuse controversially was included in the NCAA tournament. The Orange made it all the way to the Final Four, including a dramatic takedown of the then No. 1 seed Virginia. It’s 2018, and Jim Boeheim’s men are at it again.
After finishing the season 8-10 in ACC play, almost everybody had Syracuse on the outside looking in. To the shock of many, they were included in the tournament’s field of 68. The Orange got past Arizona State, TCU and then eked out a 55-53 over the No. 3 seed Michigan State. ‘Cuse will face maybe the hottest team in the country, Duke, and if history says anything, it’s that Blue Devil fans might be in for a wild ride.
Don’t ever doubt Kentucky in March
No matter how the team does in the regular season, it’s very rare that John Calipari can’t get his team ready to make a run in March. Sure, the Wildcats of Kentucky haven’t won a National Championship since 2012, but it seems every season that people write off Kentucky they make a run. In 2014, the Wildcats were an eight seed but managed to find their way to the Championship game.
Freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was on fire against Buffalo, shooting 10-for-12 and scoring 22 points. Sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel added 16 points and 12 rebounds off the bench in UK’s win, which was when freshman forward Kevin Knox’s minutes were cut due to foul trouble.
The road also couldn’t be better for Kentucky, which is ironic considering Calipari was critical of the tournament committee’s placement of his team. With the one, two, three and four seeds all eliminated, the Wildcats are now the favorites to take the region. If the Cats can get solid minutes from Gabriel and other bench players, they’re set to go to San Antonio.
March is a beautiful time of the year. That is until your team loses. The first weekend of the NCAA tournament shaped up to be historic and thrilling, so let’s see if the second weekend can live up to the standard set.