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Monday, March 25, 2013

2013 NCAA Sweet Sixteen: Florida Gulf Coast U Cinderella No More

The second round of the NCAA tournament is officially over, and it is now on to the Sweet Sixteen.

A few observations regarding this past weekend's games as we look forward to Thursday:

Florida Gulf Coast University can no longer be considered a Cinderella story.

The Eagles, a 15 seed in the South region, had already pulled off the improbable victory when they beat the Georgetown Hoyas on Friday.

But last night's game against San Diego State was supposed to be harder. The Eagles were supposed to be tired and emotionally drained from Friday's upset. Yet it appears someone forgot to tell the kids from Fort Myers, Florida, that they were tired. In fact, as the game's end drew near, it appeared that the Aztecs were the ones who had tired legs.

The Florida Gators better not underestimate this team or they will become its next victim.

Ironic thing is their star player, guard Sherwood Brown, started as an unknown walk-on freshman. Now it's safe to say the senior might be more popular than Johnny Manziel.

The University of Michigan Wolverines might be playing the best basketball of anyone in the tournament so far.

That had to be said, even if it pains me to say that as an Ohio State fan.

What's worse is that I have to admit that even though I didn't give the Wolverines much of a chance entering the tournament. I figured the way they ended the regular season--losing 5 of their last 11 games--would surely mean an early exit.

Yet John Beilein has been able to get his charge to believe in one another and step up when it matters. In Saturday's win versus VCU, four Wolverines scored double digits--led by the freshman center Mitch McGary.

What's ironic is that a coworker asked me today who I thought was the best team after two rounds and I answered Arizona. If the U of M keeps shooting like it has been, I may have to change my answer.

The Pac-12 is the surprise conference of the tournament so far.

I'll be honest, I didn't give any team from the Pac-12 much of a chance to make it beyond the first round in 2013. Mostly because I believed that after UCLA, the conference was really weak.

Boy, was I wrong. Turns out the only Pac-12 team that was weak this year was UCLA.

Oregon and Arizona, the two remaining teams from the Pac-12 in the Sweet Sixteen should give Louisville and Ohio State, their two respective opponents, all they can handle.

The Big Ten is the best conference in the tournament in 2013. Period.

Charles Barkley's claims that the Big Ten is overrated nothwithstanding, this conference has four teams in the Sweet Sixteen (more than any other conference), and has a cumulative record to date of 10-3.

Not only that, but it boasts names such as Thomas, Craft, Oladipo, Zeller, Payne, Appling, Burke, and Hardaway just to mention a few.

And speaking of Charles Barkley, I'd like to briefly address the exchange that occurred following the Ohio State-Iowa State game yesterday afternoon. Many people think I have a problem with the fact that he disagreed with a charge that Aaron Craft took late in that game. Not at all. What I have a problem with is the fact that he trivialized an otherwise classic showdown by saying the refs cost Iowa State the game.

Fact of the matter is, the call(one subject to split second human error, and no video replay) didn't determine the outcome of the game. The Cyclones had their chances, both on offense, and defense, in the final minute of that game. Barkley's insistence on being bull-headed might work with the NBA crowd, but it is obvious he doesn't understand the college basketball audience.

Finally, the West Region might be harder to navigate than it looks, even with four of the five top seeds falling by Sunday.

Ohio State, the lone top seed remaining, needed some last minute heroics from point guard Aaron Craft to escape from Dayton as 78-75 winners over Iowa State.

Arizona, the Buckeyes' opponent on Thursday night, doesn't appear to be any easier. The Wildcats appeared to be hitting on all cylinders this past Saturday while dispatching of Harvard 74-51. And Sean Miller, former pupil of Ohio State coach Thad Matta, is certain to game plan for the Buckeyes.

It's March. And it's Madness. Indeed.

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