By Caleb Bailey, Sports Editor
The NCAA Tournament started off with a bang last week and the field has already been cut from 68 down to the final 16 teams and by this time next week, we will know the four teams traveling to Houston, Texas for the Final Four.
There have been a number of upsets along the way to the Sweet Sixteen, which begins Thursday, March 24. In fact, more double-digit seeds won in the Round of 64 than any other NCAA Tournament in history.
However, all four No. 1 seeds have miraculously stuck around and should all be favored in their games this round. Let us take a look at the eight matchups that take place Thursday and Friday and see how the teams got there.
No. 2 Villanova vs No. 3 Miami
Many argue that the Wildcats could have been a No. 1 seed, but after losing in the Big East championship game, they were stuck with the No. 2 seed. This has worked in their favor as they have dominated through the first two rounds and look to get back to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2009.
The Hurricanes struggled with both Buffalo and Wichita State and have looked pretty weak in their run. However, they have found a way to win and look to get to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
No 2. Oklahoma vs No. 3 Texas A&M
Fans did not get to see the Texas A&M/Texas rivalry renewed, but they saw quite possibly the greatest comeback in Tournament history when the Aggies erased a 12-point deficit in the final 44 seconds against Northern Iowa.
They should be able to use that momentum when they face off against the Sooners, who are looking to get back to the Elite Eight for the first time in seven years.
No. 1 Kansas vs No. 5 Maryland
The Jayhawks are unequivocally the favorite to win the national championship and they should be. They have dominated up to this point and have the most complete team with Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr.
The Terrapins have been flying under the radar all year with great talents like Melo Trimble and Rasheed Suliamon. They could be looking for the upset.
No. 1 Oregon vs No. 4 Duke
The reigning national champions have not looked like the same team from last year, but the Blue Devils are poised to continue the defense of that title. They played UNC Wilmington and Yale and struggled with both, but are looking to get things turned around to beat the Ducks.
Oregon is having quite possibly their best season in nearly 80 years. They should be favored in Thursday’s game, but they have to have a big showing from Elgin Cook to get to the Elite Eight.
No. 1 Virginia vs No. 4 Iowa State
Both of these teams are looking to avenge early exits from the Tournament last year and they have both done just that. Right now, the Cyclones look to be the favorite over Virginia with Georges Niang playing lights out.
However, Malcolm Brogdon has played very well so far and he should have a fun time against the Iowa State zone defense.
No 6. Notre Dame vs No. 7 Wisconsin
This matchup will prove to be one of the most entertaining ones as both of these teams love to shoot the three-ball. Nobody expected either of these teams to be lined up for showdown and it should be fun.
Bronson Koenig may have to come through for Wisconsin for another miracle shot to beat the buzzer and send his Badgers back to the Elite Eight.
No. 10 Syracuse vs No. 11 Gonzaga
When you see these two names pop up to face each other, you wouldn’t think they would both be double-digit seeds. Both are Tournament darlings and one will be playing for a spot in the Final Four.
The Orange are playing for Jim Boeheim’s last go as a coach, so this could be the year they get back into the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
No. 1 North Carolina vs No. 5 Indiana
This is a classic matchup of two powerhouse teams that almost seems unfair this early in the Tournament. This is the first time the two teams have met in the Tournament since 1984: Michael Jordan’s final college game before heading to the NBA.
This should be a great game between two teams worthy of the cutting down the nets in April.