|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
We have gone from 68 teams to the Sweet 16 and there are many interesting storylines.
The bottom line is, this is a tournament where the Goliaths will dominate. I said that before it started, and I still feel that way. You are going to see a number of heavyweight showdowns, Ali vs. Frazier type contests as we head to New Orleans and watch it culminate with the Final Four.
In fact, of the 16 teams still dancing, 10 of them were in the preseason USA Today/ESPN top 15: North Carolina (1), Kentucky (2), Ohio State (3), Syracuse (5), Louisville (8), Florida (10), Baylor (12), Kansas (13), Wisconsin (14) and Xavier (15). A few of those teams had bumpy roads, but they have come through at the right time. Marquette and Cincinnati were also in the top 25 of the preseason poll and remain in the tournament.
There are plenty of shining stars still in the field. Anthony Davis of Kentucky was my choice for Player of the Year. He is a game-changer with his shot-blocking ability and toughness on the glass. Jared Sullinger of Ohio State showed something when he got the ball down the stretch against Gonzaga. Thomas Robinson of Kansas is an All-Rolls Royce performer.
If you don't believe that coaching experience means something, consider this. Nine of the coaches in the Sweet 16 have been in the Final Four before: Tom Crean, John Calipari, Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams, Thad Matta and Bill Self. Six of those nine -- Donovan, Izzo, Pitino, Boeheim, Self and Williams -- have already won national championships.
|D.J. Cooper and the surprising Bobcats are one of a record four Ohio teams in the Sweet 16.|
For those who wondered if the tournament was going to have a lot of mid-major success, think again. The power conferences have the numbers once again. The Big Ten (Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin) and the Big East are tied with four (Syracuse, Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville). The ACC (North Carolina, NC State), the SEC (Kentucky and Florida) and Big 12 (Baylor and Kansas) each have two. The MAC (Ohio U.) and A-10 (Xavier) have one each.
We have a few Cinderella stories. Even though the two 15 seeds that won in the round of 64 lost on Sunday (Norfolk State and Lehigh), Ohio U. is alive as a 13 seed. NC State is around as a 11 seed.
The state of Ohio has four schools in the Sweet 16 -- Ohio State, Xavier, Cincinnati and Ohio U. Imagine if Xavier and Cincinnati meet down the line!
There have been amazing comebacks, like BYU rallying from a 25-point deficit to beat Iona. Western Kentucky was down 16 with five minutes to play and beat Mississippi Valley State.
We will go from the Sweet 16 to the Final Four. It has been exciting already, but the best is yet to come.