For the most part, Cinderella won’t be dancing in Newark in Friday’s portion of the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.
The selection committee seeded the East bracket just right. Three of the bracket’s top four seeds made it through, with No. 1-seeded Ohio State facing No. 4 Kentucky. No. 2 North Carolina will play the winner of No. 11 Marquette and third-seeded Syracuse, who played late Sunday.
Ohio State, the top seed overall, showed why it deserved the honor by taking a 26-point lead over a George Mason squad that once knew the ecstasy of a Cinderella season. In 2006, the Patriots made the Final Four. But Ohio State stomped out hopes of another magical run by the new set of Patriots by jumping out to a 52-26 halftime lead and stretching it to the 98-66 final behind terrific shooting behind the arc. Paced by the 7-of-7 3-point shooting of David Lighty (25 points), the Buckeyes hit a school-tournament-record 16 treys.
With Jared Sullinger (18 points) inside, the Buckeyes will represent a double-edged challenge for Kentucky.
North Carolina went down to the wire before beating Washington 86-83 win in one of the day’s most interesting contests. The Tar Heels, 102-87 victors over LIU on Friday, rallied from five points down to go ahead as Harrison Barnes (22 points) hit a 3-pointer with 4:09 remaining. Carolina never did stretch out the advantage, however, and needed two free throws from Dexter Strickland and two defensive stops down the stretch to get the win.
Kentucky punched its ticket to the Prudential Center Saturday with a scintillating 71-63 victory over West Virginia on the strength of freshman guard Brandon Knight’s 30 points. Those came just 48 hours after his only basket won their second-round matchup with Princeton, to keep the Wildcats in position.
No. 1-seeded Duke used a 40-minute pressure defense against Michigan to advance in the West bracket 73-71 as Mike Krzyzewski won his 900th career game. It appeared the Blue Devils were going to blow the game open midway through the second half, but Michigan fought back and hit a big hoop with just seconds to go. The Wolverines had a last chance with 8.9 seconds to go after Nolan Smith missed his last of two free throws, but Darius Morris’ shot went awry to give Duke the win.