After four days of upsets, buzzer-beaters, crushing wins and losses, the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament pared its field down to the Sweet 16. The bracket holds three double-digit seeds — Cornell, #12; Washington, #11, and St. Mary’s, #10. The Sweet 16 bracket also holds the best borderline team in the country, Northern Iowa (#9 seed), who knocked off #1 Kansas over the weekend. Although some are claiming that Northern Iowa can’t really be considered a Cinderella (five appearances in the NCAA Tournament in seven years), some believe that knocking off the #1 team in the country (and the tournament) counts. But the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 bracket isn’t all Cinderella stories…
Three of the #1 regional seeds are still in the running for the championship — Kentucky, Duke, and Syracuse. Three of the #2 seeds are also still in the bracket race — West Virginia, Kansas St., and Ohio St. Only one #3, Baylor, and #4, Purdue, made it through. Two #5 seeds, Butler and Michigan St. are still reaching for the Elite 8, as are two #6 seeds — Tennessee and Xavier.
Sixteen teams — only eight slots to fill. But will any of them be the Cinderellas?
There’s a good chance that all four of the teams in the lower seeds could advance. St. Mary’s is in the South regional bracket and will take on Baylor. Baylor is a scoring machine but St. Mary’s is solid, led by Omar Samhan, who is averaging over 30 points in the NCAA Tournament thus far.
Washington hasn’t lost in their last nine games. They’re hot, peaking at just the right time. But to beat West Virginia in the East bracket, they’re going to have to figure out how to play everything just right — AND score the most points. Many consider West Virginia the best team in the nation — except in scoring, which can be problematic at the end of a game. But the Mountaineers have been keeping their last five opponents below 60 points (their last eight below 70 points) and are on an 8-game tear themselves.
Northern Iowa’s chances of continuing got even better when Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas, two-time All Big Ten Player of theYear, got hurt in Sunday’s game, perhaps tearing an Achilles tendon. But Northern Iowa only lost four games this season, so they know how to win. They may have the best chance of all the lower seeded teams to advance to the Elite 8.
The most iffy game of the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 bracket might be the Cornell – Kentucky match-up. Although many considered Kentucky the best young team in the nation (and only second to the Kansas Jayhawks overall), Cornell has quietly emerged out of the Ivy League with only four losses. In the tournament, they’ve beaten their opponents, #5 Temple and #4 Wisconsin, by an average of15.5 points.
So are there any Cinderella stories that won’t see their clock strike midnight in the Sweet 16? Perhaps. But they’ve got those stories to write. None of their opponents are going to sentimentally had over the pen and allow them a blank page to do as they please.
Viewable 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket.