No Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament this season? No problem! There is plenty to keep us intrigued as the Sweet Sixteen approaches. Here are five storylines to watch for as the tournament inches closer to the Final Four.
1. The Darlings of the Coast- This is what the NCAA tournament is all about; a 15 seed that few people have ever heard of had a solid season (defeating Miami, hanging with Duke) but flew under the radar. The head coach is a self-made millionaire that worked on Wall Street, gave up his job to coach basketball and just happens to be married to her. This team defeated #2 Georgetown and then #7 San Diego State en route to becoming the highest seeded team to ever crash the Sweet Sixteen. And here is the icing on the cake: This team is actually very good. What Florida Gulf Coast is doing is not a fluke. Sherwood Brown and Brett Comer are willing their team to win with stellar play and leadership. Brown is averaging 20.5 points in the tournament and Comer is averaging 12 assists. They are playing smart, exciting basketball that has captivated the nation and made them the darlings of the tournament.
The story gets even sweeter as the Eagles of FGCU will take on instate powerhouse Florida. After the victory over the Aztecs, FGCU coach Andy Enfield said that he tried to scrimmage the Gators before the season started but Billy Donovan was having none of it. Now, they get their chance.
And with exciting plays like this, the Eagles vs. the Gators will be must see TV.
2. Can the Big 10 Maintain Big Presence?- The Big 10 started out with seven teams in the Big Dance. They have four remaining, comprising one eighth of the field in the Sweet Sixteen, which is actually pretty good. The Big East had eight teams enter the field and have only three remaining, basically flopping as usual. The Big 10 has a legitimate chance of getting four teams into the Elite Eight. Michigan State has to beat Duke, Indiana has to beat Syracuse, Michigan has to beat Kansas and Ohio State has to beat Arizona. Out of those four teams I think Michigan State has the toughest assignment while Michigan has the easiest. Kansas has not looked like a dominating number one seed while Michigan has romped its way to the Sweet 16. Michigan State has also looked impressive, but Duke’s combination of veteran/savvy guards and quality big men could spell trouble for the Spartans.
Indiana should have lost to Temple, but thanks to lopsided foul shots and Victor Oladipo waking up during the final two minutes, the Hoosiers have to take on the Syracuse Orange and their two-three zone. IU could shred the zone with the three-point shooting of Jordy Hulls and Christian Watford, but both players have proven inconsistent during the tournament thus far. The Hoosiers also despise physical play while the Orange hail from the Big East, a conference known for basketball that resembles football.
Ohio State needed the last second heroics of Aaron Craft to avoid an Iowa State upset. The Cyclones tested the Buckeyes with knock down three-point shooters combined with athletic wing play. OSU will have an even more difficult match up with the extremely athletic and dangerous Arizona Wildcats.
Will the Big 10 see four teams enter the Elite Eight? I would say that it’s more possible that they see only one.