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Top dogs in tourney still barking

March 22, 2012
By John Hartsock (jhartsock@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

Notes and observations from a most memorable 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament:

n It's difficult to believe that in the fabulous, venerable, volatile history of March Madness, no top-seeded team has ever lost an opening-round game to a 16th seed.

Ever.

That record remained intact through the first weekend of this year's tournament, which has featured just about everything except that ultimate David-slays-Goliath upset. In fact, each of the four top seeds - Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse and Michigan State - are alive and kicking entering the start of the Sweet 16 round today.

n This year's tournament has been great for the state of Ohio, which has four entries - Cincinnati, Ohio State, Xavier and Ohio University - in the Sweet 16. It's the first time in tournament history that one state has boasted four Sweet 16 teams.

n Just six times in tournament history has a 15th-seeded team knocked out a second seed in the first round. Amazingly, it happened twice within a span of less than 6 hours last Friday. It says here that the biggest upset of the first weekend was Lehigh's ouster of perennial heavyweight Duke, following on the heels of Norfolk State's eye-opening elimination of Missouri.

n Give Iowa State marks for registering one of the most solid performances of the opening weekend, a convincing victory over a talented Connecticut team.

n West Virginia laid the biggest first-weekend egg, getting blown out by Gonzaga at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center in what had essentially amounted to a home game for the Mountaineers. Gonzaga traveled over 2,200 miles to make the trip to Pittsburgh. West Virginia traveled just 75, but appeared to be suffering from jet lag right from the opening tip.

n Fifth-seeded Wichita State, a first-round loser to 12th seed Virginia Commonwealth University, may have been the tourney's most overrated team.

n The parity that has developed in this tournament over the past decade makes for as much excitement as the games themselves. Programs like VCU, Butler, Xavier and George Mason have made as big a name for themselves as the heavyweights like Duke and North Carolina.

n Among the most intriguing matchups this weekend is Kentucky's rematch with Indiana this Friday night in the South Regional semifinals at Atlanta. Indiana used a 3-point buzzer-beater to deal Kentucky (34-2) its only regular-season loss.

John Hartsock can be reached at jhartsock@altoonamirror.com

 
 
 

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