It's a shame we have to move forward after one of the most exciting opening weekends in NCAA Tournament history. But here are a few parting shots from some exciting times.
Unexpected Sweet 16 Participant
This one is easy. How many people had the Ohio Bobcats in the Sweet 16? Granted the Bobcats faced No. 12 South Florida instead of fifth-seeded Temple in the second round, but you have to be impressed with John Groce’s crew.
Advancing in the NCAA Tournament is nothing new for the No. 13 Bobcats (29-7), who beat Georgetown in an opening round game two years ago. Groce took a different approach after the win this time, however, and ordered all of his players to turn in their cell phones.
Two years ago he felt his squad got a little too full of themselves after they beat the Hoyas. He was right, because the Bobcats got trounced, 83-68, by Tennessee in the next round.
“Two years ago, I really felt like after the first-round win, I didn’t do a very good job of helping them avoid distractions,” Groce told reporters after beating South Florida. “That was my fault. I learned from that experience.”
Ohio gets top-seed North Carolina in a Midwest Regional semifinal on Friday. Ohio is the first 13 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 since Bradley in 2006.
Resurrecting A Reputation
In the weeks following Xavier’s brawl with Cincinnati, there were some who thought Tu Holloway’s career was circling the drain. The word thug was attached to him and continued to follow him. Well, so much for predicting gloom and doom for the Hempstead High School graduate. Xavier is in the Sweet 16 again.
Holloway had 21 points in Xavier’s 70-58 win over No. 15 Lehigh in a third-round game on Sunday in Greensboro. Holloway had 25 points for the 10th-seeded Musketeers in a 67-63 win over Notre Dame on Friday. It’s the fourth Sweet 16 appearance in five years for Xavier.
End of a Solid Career
The run was long for Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, five years to be exact. The senior forward had 26 points and nine rebounds and a chance to send the Boilermakers to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years.
Hummel, who had come back from two ACL tears in his right knee had a chance to secure that trip to the Sweet 16, but missed on a three with less than five seconds left that would’ve given the Boilermakers the win.
The Mid-Major Fade
After one of the most exciting second-round days in NCAA Tournament history, the buzz of Cinderella seems to have quickly worn out. To 15 seeds, Lehigh and Norfolk State, a No. 13 (Ohio), No. 8 Creighton, 13th-seeded Ohio, No. 7 Gonzaga, and fifth-seeded New Mexico all one their opening-round games. (We won’t count the A-10, because they don’t consider themselves a mid-major conference).
Unfortunately, Ohio is the last of the mid-majors to remain. This doesn’t take away from the marvelous season the mid-majors had nor should it diminish the joy they bought the first week of tournament play.