All the talk before the NCAA tournament began was how wide open it was, how all kinds of craziness could ensue.
No one, though, imagined THIS.
Top-seeded Wichita State is history, as is its undefeated season. Three double-digit seeds are on their way to the Sweet Sixteen while two No. 2s are back home, moping on the couch. Duke went down, and the entire country fell in love with North Dakota State, Mercer and THE University of Dayton.
And there's still two more weeks to come.
2014 TOURNAMENT: Bracket Hub
"It's tournament time and no one wants to go home," Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky said after the Badgers overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to beat Oregon and reach the Sweet Sixteen on Saturday night.
"You're doing whatever you can to stay in."
Though the biggest takeaway from the first weekend was a raucous reminder that, when it comes to the NCAA tournament, nothing is guaranteed — except Warren Buffett keeping his $1 billion — here are a few other lessons learned:
MATCHUPS MATTER MORE THAN SEED
Not to take anything away from Dayton, but it got an assist from the selection committee with both of its upsets. Ohio State was seeded sixth, five spots ahead of the Flyers, but limped into the tournament with three losses in its last six games — two of which were really, really bad. Syracuse was a No. 3 seed, but it, too, was playing on borrowed time after losing five of its last seven in the regular season.
It's far better to draw a higher seed if that team is struggling than a lower-seeded team that's playing out of its mind. Case in point: Kentucky. The Wildcats are an eighth seed – don't get coach John Calipari going on that one – but they're playing as well as anyone right now, and finally look worthy of the No. 1 ranking they had in the preseason.
"This was an Elite Eight (game) that the winner should have gone to the Final Four," Calipari said after Kentucky ended Wichita State's season Sunday. "That's how good they are, and how good we're playing right now."
VIDEO: What to watch for in the Sweet 16
DEFENSE IS KEY, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS OFFENSE
If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times: Defense wins championships. But at this time of year, everyone has good D. You need to score, and preferably have a few folks who can do it.
Take Wisconsin's comeback win over Oregon. Yes, the Badgers put the brakes on Oregon's fast break in the second half. But Wisconsin is moving on because it finally found a way to penetrate inside and got some clutch threes.
So if you want to predict who might end up in Dallas, look for teams with a dependable – and varied – offense.
"A lack of offense keeps you from winning a championship," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who knows a thing or two about titles. "You've got to have great offense to win, and you've got to really execute and make free throws, do smart things."
COACH K SHOULD STICK TO WORRYING ABOUT DUKE
Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski sounded like a crank when he bashed the Atlantic-10 – "I mean, they're good, but put them in our conference and go through the meat grinder that our conference has to go through" – and his criticism looks even more ridiculous now that the A-10 and ACC have the same number of teams (one) in the Sweet 16.
Yes, the majority of the teams advancing to the regional semifinals are from the so-called "power conferences." But this year's tournament is further proof that men's basketball has more parity than any other college sport. The teams that reached the third round came from more than a dozen conferences, including the Atlantic Sun, Summit League and Ivy League.
"It's not like it used to be," Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. "Used to be power conferences, the lower-level teams were a lot better than teams in lower leagues. But that's not the case any more."
MORE MERCER: Tennessee ends Cinderella run
As for Coach K, perhaps he should worry more about his own team than comparing the merits of the A-10 and the ACC. Duke got dumped by Mercer on Friday, the second time in three years the Blue Devils were beaten in the opener by a team seeded 14th or worse.
PRACTICE YOUR MOVES
No, not jump shots and layups. Your dancing. The only thing better than all the upsets and down-to-the-wire games is the dancing afterward. Mercer and North Dakota State, you are welcome in March any time with moves like that.
For those teams still alive, it's worth the time to choreograph a routine that can be busted out after the next big win. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking like Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, who offered a pre-emptive apology to his daughter after he danced in the locker room. (Shuffled awkwardly is more like it.).
THERE STILL IS NO CLEAR FAVORITE FOR THE TITLE
All of the surviving top seeds had issues in the early rounds, as did the other trendy picks – Louisville, Michigan State, Wisconsin. While it's true a tough game can make a team better, all it's done this March is create confusion.
But that's OK. If confusion gives us two more weekends like the one we just had, no one will complain.
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