Talk about March Madness: it is doubtful that there is a single person on the planet whose NCAA men’s tournament brackets are still intact. Upsets in the second and third round have sent not one, not two, but thee double-digit lower seeded teams to the Sweet Sixteen as Oregon, LaSalle and little known Florida Gulf Coast have moved on.
Oregon’s move to the Sweet Sixteen came by way of two big wins against supposedly better opponents. In its first game, the Ducks regained their composure after early turnovers to take an 11-point halftime lead against Oklahoma State, before cruising to a 68-55 victory. On Saturday night the Ducks pounded St. Louis 74-57 behind 23 points from freshman guard Damyean Dotson.
The Oregon Ducks face overall number one seed Louisville on Friday evening. That contest may prove to be the best matchup of the eight regional semifinal games this weekend.
La Salle Explorers
LaSalle’s tournament run has included an extra game as the Explorers had to play and beat Boise State for the right to play in the round of 64. After dispatching with the Broncos on Wed., the Explorers surprised everyone by taking an 18-point lead into the locker room on Fri. against Kansas State. And despite scoring just 19 points in the second half and 20 percent from the field, LaSalle held off the Wildcats for the opportunity to take on Ole Miss next.
Against Mississippi the Explorers rallied late, clinching the win on the strength of a Tyrone Garland layup. On Thurs., the Explorers take on another surprise team, the Wichita State Shockers. Thus, a lower-seeded team will get to play for the West region final, facing off against the winner of the Arizona-Ohio State contest on Saturday.
The biggest surprise this year is Florida Gulf Coast University, a Fort Myers, Fla. institution that began holding its first classes in 1997. The basketball team plays in the Atlantic Sun Conference and is in just its second year of Division 1 play. The Eagles have two 10-point tournament wins under their belt, beating No. 2 Georgetown 78-68 and following up with an 81-71 win over No. 7 San Diego State on Sunday.
The Eagles are the first No. 15 seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. They’ve also had fun along the way, hooting and laughing as they’ve made dunks and layups. They’ll face off against Florida on Friday night in Dallas, the flagship university in the 12-member state university system both institutions are part of.
Remaining Match Ups
The other semifinal contests have Michigan State battling Duke in the Midwest, Kansas taking on Michigan in the South, while Indiana faces off against Syracuse and Marquette and Miami clash in the East. Twice in this tournament Marquette has grabbed victory from the mouth of defeat and will need to bring its A-game against the Hurricanes. The remaining games each feature key match ups, but No. 1 Gonzaga won’t be among them, having gotten bounced by Wichita State in the Round of 32.
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