We're officially through to the Sweet 16 and this first week of action did not disappoint. We saw buzzer-beaters and back-and-forth matchups, while also getting a chance to enjoy some thorough domination by top-flight teams. The final four games of this first weekend were not quite as entertaining as the rest of the weekend with three blowouts, although two of the blowouts were rather unexpected.
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 11 VCU - Purdue was a nine-point favorite against VCU and I expected the Boilermakers to roll the Rams. Boy was I wrong. The Rams trailed 24-23 with 6:05 to play in the first half but they used a 13-0 run to take the lead and control of the game and never looked back. Purdue never cut the lead below eight from then on and VCU thoroughly dominated the Boilermakers en route to a 94-76 victory.
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Marquette - Syracuse was a 4 ½-point favorite against Marquette and I had the Golden Eagles covering and winning. I hit this one on the head as Marquette sprung the upset to advance to the Sweet 16, winning 66-62. Syracuse looked strong early, but Marquette stormed back late in the first half to turn it into a close game. The two teams exchanged leads throughout the second half before Darius Johnson-Odom hit a monster three with 27 seconds left. Syracuse couldn't hit their own three and it was just about over from there.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 9 Illinois - Kansas was an 8 ½-point favorite against Illinois and I had the Jayhawks covering with ease. While Kansas pulled away easily late, the Illini did give them a bit of a fight into the final ten minutes of the game. The Illini hung about four points back and were five back with 6:35 to go. However, Kansas used a 10-0 run to build a sufficient cushion and cruise the rest of the way, winning 73-59.
No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Florida State - Notre Dame was a 5 ½-point favorite against Florida State and I had the Irish covering. Another big time wrong in the vein of VCU-Purdue, although FSU had to work a little bit harder to nail down this win. The Seminoles defeated the Irish 71-57 in a game that was both closer than that and more of a blowout. FSU led big most of the game but Notre Dame made a mini-run late. However, the Seminoles withstood the barrage and pulled away for the victory.
I went 2-2 against the spread and 2-2 straight up as I was able to pick the Marquette upset and the Kansas victory. I did not see the VCU or Florida State victories coming, even after they went by with such ease. We now head into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament with some interesting matchups. Kansas would seem to have a cakewalk into the Final Four, but this weekend has shown us that anything is possible.