The Newnan Times-Herald

Sports

The Big Dance's first four full days


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Mar. 16, 2017 - 2:59 AM

March Madness abounds on Thursday and Friday as the 64 remaining teams in the field are reduced by half.

Saturday and Sunday is a repeat of that process until we have 16 teams left. Two of those 32 games in the next two days involve a higher-seeded team being favored to win.

They are No. 9-seeded Vanderbilt over 8th-seeded Northwestern and 10th-seeded Wichita State over 7th-seeded Dayton.

Seven other games during Thursday and Friday feature the higher seeded school being a slight favorite – and also highly susceptible to being an upset victim.

Those matches are Minnesota-Middle Tennessee, Maryland-Xavier, Michigan-Oklahoma State, Arkansas-Seton Hall, Creighton-Rhode Island, Miami-Michigan State and South Carolina-Marquette.

Not mentioned above but drawing a lot of interest is the Sunshine State battle in Orlando between FSU of the ACC and Florida Gulf Coast (aka Dunk City).

The Seminoles are solid favorites, but FGC is a popular upset pick.

Weekend games are speculative at this point, but several potential matchups stand out.

Defending champion and top overall seed Villanova should not be faced with a team as dangerous as Wisconsin, but they probably will be.

Despite finishing in a tie for second in the Big Ten, the Badgers were downgraded to an No. 8 seed because of their comparatively weak non-conference schedule.

The East Region should also showcase second round games between Florida and Virginia as well as Baylor and SMU.

If Marquette were to beat South Carolina, they would play Duke, and that would entail, in a battle of nicknames, Coach K competing against Wojo, his former point guard.

The commentary about the South Region primarily involves the powerhouse schools at the top - North Carolina, Kentucky, and UCLA would be in most people's top five programs of all time.

However, before the Wildcats and Bruins prepare for the rematch of the December game won by UCLA in Lexington, they will need to get past – I'm guessing – Wichita State and Cincinnati, respectively.

The Miami-Michigan State winner gets to play Midwest top seed Kansas. KU would be favored over either team, but many are hoping for a Bill Self-Tom Izzo confrontation. Possible meetings of Purdue-Iowa State and Louisville-Michigan would be interesting, and I think Rhode Island would be a worthy challenge for an Oregon team playing without their best big man.

Top seed in the West Region, Gonzaga, should move on to the Sweet Sixteen without too much trouble, but the potential ⅘ seeded contest between West Virginia and Notre Dame should be excellent. Arizona, which is hoping to qualify for the Final Four played in their state, should advance, as should FSU.

I suspect most of the top 16 teams will move on to the third round, but there will, undoubtedly, be several surprises along the way. We'll consider the third and fourth rounds next time, but I hope, if only for the next three weeks, you'll focus on college hoops and enjoy the madness.

(Chuck Cleveland is a guest columnist for the Newnan Times-Herald who writes about college basketball.)