The South was the only region to live up to all chalk. Although there was the “upset” of 12-seeded Middle Tennessee over 5-seeded Minnesota, the top four seeds all held their own and advanced to the Sweet 16.
#1 North Carolina (103) vs. #16 Texas Southern (64)
#2 Kentucky (79) vs. #15 Northern Kentucky (70)
#3 UCLA (97) vs. #14 Kent State (80)
#4 Butler (76) vs. #13 Winthrop (64)
#5 Minnesota (72) vs. #12 Middle Tennessee (81)
#6 Cincinnati (75) vs. #11 Kansas State (61)
#7 Dayton (58) vs. #10 Wichita State (64)
#8 Arkansas (77) vs. #9 Seton Hall (71)
Summary: Wichita State and Middle Tennessee were the only lower seeds to win in the first round games, and as it turns out, the entire South Region thus far. The biggest controversy came in the Arkansas win over Seton Hall, when a flagrant foul was called on Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez with just 18.3 seconds left with Arkansas was up just two. They made their two free throws, got the ball back and made two more. Kentucky’s performance against Northern Kentucky was the biggest shock of the region’s first round as the Wildcats seemed flat at times and couldn’t blow Northern Kentucky out of the water. The best performance of the first round belonged to Middle Tennessee’s Reggie Upshaw who dominated the games final 8 minutes and gave the Gophers no chance to comeback.
#1 North Carolina (72) vs. #8 Arkansas (65)
#2 Kentucky (65) vs. #10 Wichita State (62)
#3 UCLA (79) vs. #6 Cincinnati (67)
#4 Butler (74) vs. #12 Middle Tennessee (65)
Summary: Possibly the best game of the tournament thus far was the rematch of the 2014 second round game of Kentucky and Wichita State. It seemed that the Shockers had every opportunity to win this game, but they couldn’t get a shot off in the final 30 seconds, having two big shot attempts swatted away- first by Malik Monk and then by Bam Adebayo, who had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the game.
The biggest surprise was that UCLA was able to get by Cincinnati so easily. The nation’s sixth ranked defense struggled all night long as the Bruins were running early and often and left the Bearcats gassed. Lonzo Ball’s near triple-double helped him take some of the focus off his loud-mouthed father and keep it on the real star of the family.
North Carolina struggled throughout their game as the Razorbacks went on a monster run during the beginning of the second half to actually take the lead, which they held for four minutes until they didn’t score a point in the games final three minutes.
Sweet 16 Preview: Games in Memphis, TN
#1 North Carolina vs. #4 Butler – Friday, 7:09 – CBS
#2 Kentucky vs. #3 UCLA – Friday, 9:39 – CBS
Two good matchups that get the CBS treatment with thanks to the marquee matchup in the nightcap. Three teams located within 800 miles of Elvis’s hometown and then UCLA who again has to make a cross-country trip of nearly 2,000 miles.
#1 North Carolina vs. #4 Butler
North Carolina struggled last round with a good Arkansas team and Butler has quietly looked strong against both of its opponents. This has advantage North Carolina written all over it. Joel Berry, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks are matchup nightmares for the Bulldogs. But with that being said, if North Carolina has a repeat performance of the Arkansas game and Butler can take advantage of a poor-shooting Tar Heel team, this could be a classic. Butler feels like a 15 point underdog heading into this one, even though the line opened at only 8. But Andrew Chrabascz has a chance to cement himself as a Butler legend if his Bulldogs can get through this one. He played well in both wins so far, but he’ll need to play great Friday night to take some pressure of Kelan Martin who will be the primary focus when Butler has the ball. Prediction – North Carolina by 5
#2 Kentucky vs. #3 UCLA
The nation’s two elite freshman, Monk v. Ball, Part II. How lucky are we that we get this game again!? The first one was just too much fun with both teams scoring on what seemed every possession. UCLA ended Kentucky’s 42-game home court win streak in Part I, as the Wildcats were the number one team in the country. Kentucky wants revenge, UCLA wants its first Elite 8 appearance since 2008. Monk vs. Ball will hog all of the attention as the premier matchup to watch, as it should, but another incredible one will be Bam Adebayo against Thomas Welsh and TJ Leaf. Adebayo had to play a near-perfect game for his Wildcats to get past the Shockers and he’ll have to do the same, and stay out of foul trouble, in this matchup. In the first matchup with the Bruins, Adebayo played a key roll in fouling Welsh out and limiting him to just 19 minutes. If he can do that again, I like Kentucky’s chances of using shot fakes late to get the ball inside. I think Ball and Monk both go for 25+ with some exciting dunks and 30 foot three pointers. Let’s hope this one goes all night long.
Prediction – UCLA by 2 in 2 OT.