Instant Reactions: Sweet Sixteen Day 1
Day 1 of the Sweet Sixteen definitely did not disappoint. Three of the four match-ups were decided by three points or less. We saw the first major upset of the weekend, coming from a team no one pick to make the Elite Eight. We learned that the difference between victory and defeat is less than an inch, and defense wins championships.
The magic driving Michigan on an unbelievable run through the Big Ten tournament and to the Sweet Sixteen finally ran out on a missed game-winner vs. Oregon. Derrick Walton Jr. has been nothing but phenomenal on their big run and he did just about everything he could to push his team past the Ducks, but on a last second three-pointer, they came up just a little short. Oregon advances to the Elite Eight behind superior play from Tyler Dorsey (20 points) and Jordan Bell (16 points).
It what may have been the most physical game of the year (also the most fouls of the tournament) the Zags proved that you can infect power your way past "Press Virginia." The Mountaineers gave the Zags the most brutal game they have played in a few years, but it wasn't enough to slow the Bulldogs. West Virginia played them close and even lead in the final minutes, but the Zags execution in the last couple minutes of the game made the difference, propelling them to the Elite Eight.
The Jayhawks are the real deal. There were many doubters of the ability of Kansas to make a statement in the NCAA Tournament after their early exit from their conference tournament. Message received. The Boilermakers were absolutely steamrolled in the second half by the Jayhawks speed and outside shooting getting outscored 51-26. They simply outplayed Purdue in every facet of the game and Purdue will head home without their lunch money. The Jayhawks will face the Ducks on Saturday in a very interesting match-up that should be very face-paced and high-scoring.
Xavier, the only double-digit team to make it to the second weekend of tournament play, may be one of the most surprising teams in the tournament. In a very close game, that Xavier lead for large portions of, Arizona came up big in the second half hitting back-to-back threes to regain the lead. Xavier chipped away at Arizona's biggest lead of the game (10) and tied it up with just under 2 minutes to play. A key turn-over gave Xavier the ball and a go-ahead basket with 50 seconds on the clock. A last second missed three-pointer sealed the victory for the Musketeers, who ended the game on a 12-2 run. They will face Gonzaga on Saturday.