|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
Now that we have cut the field of 68 down to 16, here are some thoughts about what we've seen so far:
The Big Ten has proved itself, as it has all season. I disagreed with the idea that the Mountain West was a stronger league, which was stated based on the RPI. No disrespect to the league, but in the tourney New Mexico lost to Harvard, UNLV was beaten by California, Boise State fell to LaSalle in a First Four matchup, and Colorado State fell in its second game, against Louisville. San Diego State was upset by Florida Gulf Coast.
Michigan and Michigan State made the Sweet 16 in the same season for the first time ever. Indiana and Ohio State also advanced as the Big Ten leads all conferences with four in the Sweet 16. The Big East follows with three (Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette). The Pac-12 (Arizona and Oregon) and the ACC (Duke and Miami) have two each. Overall, nine different conferences have teams in the Sweet 16.
Gonzaga faced Wichita State at the wrong time. The Shockers had the motto of "Play Angry," and they did just that. Gregg Marshall's team rallied from a seven-point deficit to end the Zags' season at 32-3. I felt that physical play was going to be an issue for Gonzaga, just as it was when Butler defeated the Zags in a game I called earlier this season. Give Mark Few's team credit for a good season, but now, fans want instant gratification and put so much emphasis on the tournament. It doesn't always seem fair.
Florida Gulf Coast, a team that played before 2,290 fans at home on average, is the best Cinderella story. Beating Georgetown and San Diego State was impressive. Names like Bernard Thompson, Sherwood Brown and Brett Comer became household names. Andy Enfield is the hottest man in the coaching profession. The Eagles have been all about confidence so far.
How did FGCU lose to Lipscomb (twice), East Tennessee State, Stetson and Maine during the regular season?
While this has been a wacky season, eight of the top 10 in the AP preseason poll are in the Sweet 16 -- Indiana (1), Louisville (2), Ohio State (4), Michigan (5), Kansas (7), Duke (8), Syracuse (9) and Florida (10).
A great group of coaches are still dancing, including six who have won national championships: Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, Bill Self, Billy Donovan and Mike Krzyzewski.
We are down to the Sweet 16 en route to a great Final Four in Atlanta.