NCAA Tournament: What we’ve learned

MercerNothing. That’s what we’ve learned from this season’s NCAA Tournament, nothing.

I couldn’t sit here and write a sentence that would predict what was going to happen next in this mayhem, because everything we’ve expected has basically been false.

I guess instead of telling you what you’re going to see in these next few days, I could go over what to watch. That seems more probable, speaking that the chains have fallen off of the lower seeds and they are 100% viable for winning a national championship. It is hard to call a lot of their wins upsets this year because of how even the playing field is, but some of the victories were extremely unexpected.

In ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, only 3.3 percent had Mercer ousting Duke, a team that 20.9 percent of people had chosen to go to the final four. Oh, and that statistic doesn’t come from just 500 brackets, but 11 million. Dayton also surprised some people with their win over Ohio State, but then really opened the eyes of viewers on Saturday when they sent Syracuse packing.

But why stop there? North Dakota State went on to take down Oklahoma, Stephen F. Austin inched past VCU, and while it was no upset, Gonzaga took down an incredibly competitive Oklahoma State team. Basketball fans have been in heaven this month, basking in overtimes, high-flying dunks and many late game lead changes. Again, it’s no year to expect to win any money in your office pool, but if you enjoy watching the games, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

So, what’s on deck?

Sunday will feature multiple match-ups that could very well send some of the higher seeds back to their respectable campuses. In my mind, this will be the first real test for Wichita State as they take on the young and energetic Wildcats of Kentucky. Kentucky is fifth in the nation in rebounding, so if the Shockers want this game to fall in their favor, they will have to shoot at an extremely high percentage because their opportunities for second change points will be slim to none.

Next, Arizona will really have to flex their defensive muscles if they want to get out of the third round unscathed because of how well the Bulldogs of Gonzaga shoot. This team is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage and has never had a problem putting up huge numbers. But on the opposite end of the ball, Arizona features probably the most deadly duo in Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, who have fed off of each other all year. This game won’t be a walk in the park for the Wildcats.

Three of today’s games I believe are completely up in the air:

North Carolina vs. Iowa State: Without Georges Niang, done for year with fractured foot, who knows if the Cyclones can put together a force down low to stop the Tar Heels.

Mercer vs. Tennessee: Last year we learned what the Atlantic Sun Conference was because of Florida Gulf Coast, and now Mercer is representing just as proudly. Could the Bears continue that conference’s incredible run by stunning the Volunteers?

Baylor vs. Creighton: Yeah, I’ll have one order of McBuckets please. Can one of the most prolific scorers in NCAA history keep his team alive for another game, or will Heslip and the athletic Bears send the father-son duo back home to momma?

No number one seeds are safe anymore in this hectic field, but that’s the fun of it. Every season should end like this one did. Yes, the person you may least expect could win every pool out there, but hey, that’s why it’s called March Madness.

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