Ranking the Sweet 16's Performances Over First Weekend
Dang . . . just how good was that Kentucky-Wichita State game Sunday afternoon?
We’ll all be quite fortunate if there is anything nearly as entertaining, hard-fought and well-played in the Final Four as there was during the Wildcats’ 78-76 victory over the unbeaten Shockers in St. Louis.
All of those highly touted John Calipari recruits have finally meshed into a terrific team and it was Wichita State’s misfortune to be in the Wildcats’ path.
Will the same thing be said Friday night after defending champion Louisville takes on 8-seed – amazing, isn’t it? – Kentucky in Indianapolis? Remember, the Wildcats already knocked off Louisville, 73-66, when the teams met in Lexington on Dec. 28.Calipari’s team is obviously a whole lot better than it was three days after Christmas. Rick Pitino’s team better me, too, or the Wildcats will be playing against Michigan or Tennessee in the Midwest Regional final Sunday.
Ranking (more-or-less) the Sweet 16, based upon their first-week performances:
1. Kentucky: The Harrison Twins combined for 39 points but every Wildcat player was on his “A” game in the 40 Minutes of Joy (to watch, at least) that was the game with Wichita State Sunday.
2. Florida: The Gators looked every bit the No. 1 overall seed while systematically handling what may have been the second best team from the ACC (Pittsburgh), 61-45.
3. Dayton: The collective margin of victory may have been just three points but wins over 6 seed Ohio State and 3 seed Syracuse provided the most impressive “non-BCS” performance of the first week of the tourney – and mean that there will be two Miller brothers coaching Sweet 16 clubs.
4. Baylor: It’s hard to believe, eh, that this team was once 2-8 in Big 12 play? Stunning. This 6-seed laid a massive beat-down on Nebraska (by 14 points) and Creighton (30) in San Antonio. These Bears will have found memories of the Alamo, indeed.
5. Stanford: Based on what the 10-seed Cardinal demonstrated during wins over 7 (New Mexico) and 2 (Kansas) seeds in St. Louis, one would have never surmised that Johnny Dawkins’ team’s at-large hopes were a bit precarious going into the Pac 12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
6. Arizona: There were some wobbly moments in the second-round tilt vs. No. 16 seed Weber State on Friday. But the Wildcats dropped their myriad of hammers upon Gonzaga Sunday evening in San Diego to reserve another weekend in Southern California.
7. Virginia: The Cavaliers were a tad sluggish in the first half Friday night but looked every bit No. 1 seed-worthy in the second half against Coastal Carolina and for most of 40 minutes against Memphis Sunday in Raleigh.
8. Louisville: The Cardinals were taken to just about the wire by Manhattan Thursday night in Orlando. However, there was a serious 40 minutes of “we fully intend to repeat as national champions”-style play against a solid Saint Louis club less than 48 hours later.
9. Iowa State: The Cyclones suffered the most significant injury of the first week (forward Georges Niang’s broken foot) in win over North Carolina Central but toppled a better team from North Carolina – the Tar Heels – Sunday behind the play of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim.
10. UCLA: The Bruins took care of business against two over-matched opponents (Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin). Their offense is humming along quite nicely since that debacle in Pullman, Washington. Things get a whole lot tougher, though, Thursday night in Memphis against Florida.
11. Connecticut: The Huskies dispensed with a former Big East opponent (Villanova) in nifty fashion, 77-65, Saturday in Buffalo after needing OT to edge Saint Joseph’s Thursday. Madison Square Garden, here we come, baby!
12. Michigan: The Wolverines’ first two tourney foes shot a collective 36 percent from the field. And Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III were pretty good, as well!
13. Michigan State: The Spartans couldn’t shake Harvard until the closing moments. Their half-court defense and offense will each be severely tested Friday night in Madison Square Garden against Virginia.
14. San Diego State: The Aztecs were oh-so-close to suffering a mega-collapse before escaping with an OT win over New Mexico State in Spokane Thursday night. But that vaunted half-court defense was in championship-shape two days later against North Dakota State while dissecting one of the nation’s most efficient offenses.
15. Tennessee: What does it say for the strength of the First Four when the Volunteers’ toughest test during its three games came against Iowa (78-65 in OT) Wednesday night in Dayton?
16. Wisconsin: The Badgers’ D got whacked around for 49 first-half points and Bo Ryan’s team was very close to being one of three 2-seeds to be bounced in the third round before holding off Oregon in Milwaukee.