March Madness hasn’t been all that amazing. The games have been kinda boring. There have been no buzzer beaters. And we haven’t seen any crazy upsets or cinderella teams. That being said, this sweet 16 seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun. But as I look at the games, I find myself just staring at the East region and saying, “what the fuck happened and what the fuck will happen?”
Wisconsin, Florida, Baylor, and South Carolina have made it to the sweet 16 in the East. Now, I didn’t have any of these teams in the sweet 16. I had Florida winning one game then going down to the UNC Wilmington Seahawks. I had the Badgers losing to Nova because, well, the Wildcats were really, really good. I had Baylor going down to the Mustangs of SMU, who failed to make it out of the round of 64. And I had the Gamecocks going down to a scolding hot Duke team (like the majority of America).
So your first thought should be, “Mark, you’re an idiot for missing on every single sweet 16 team in a region.” To that, my response would be, “Quack.” Conversation, over.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can get down to a breakdown of the teams in the East region, how we ended up in this position, and what we have to look forward to.
First up, Wisconsin. Yes, they were underseeded. I’m going to hear how screwed the Wildcats were from every Nova fan. I somewhat agree, but this isn’t about Nova, it’s about the Badgers. And the Badgers took care of business in a huge way. The Wildcats were the most complete team in the tournament. They could score inside and out. They had experience, talent, and good coaching (with great style, what a combo). But the Badgers found a way to win behind Nigel Hayes and his absolutely nasty bucket in crunch time. They took out the best team in the tournament, and with their mix of talent on the perimeter and in the paint, we are looking at a very dangerous Wisconsin team.
Wisconsin’s opponent, Florida, is a team that I didn’t think would be capable of making a run. After the thrashing of Virginia, I have no idea what to expect out of the Gators. They lost a key player in John Egbunu, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing some great basketball in the tournament. I’m not going to act like holding Virginia to 39 points is that impressive because frankly, Virginia’s offense sucks. That’s like bragging about acing a first grade spelling test as the current version of yourself. However, beating down on Virginia by 26 is impressive because they can defend. The Gators have a lot of upperclassmen, and experience can be lethal in the tournament. Never rule out a team that has a player with an underhand free throw shot and is hitting their stride late in the season.
Baylor is an interesting team. They looked unstoppable early in the season with an absolute ass-blast of Oregon (without star Duck, Dillon Brooks) and a win against Louisville. However, they have stalled in the later part of the season, which is the wrong time to be on the decline. That being said, they have all the pieces to make a run. They have a poised veteran wing in Ish Wainright, a heady point guard in Manu Lecomte, and great interior play with Johnathan Motley. If Baylor can return to peak performance then they could make a run to Arizona.
The Gamecocks are fun. They also have the best name in college basketball with Sindarius Thornwell. He sounds like a player from that one Key & Peele skit. And, he is an absolute weapon on the basketball court. The kid can score inside and out. He can rebound with bigs and post up on guards. And he’s not alone. PJ Dozier is a long, athletic combo guard that can get to the bucket and has a sweet middle game. This team relied on Thornwell and Dozier all year, but last round against Duke, the team around the two stars stepped up. Chris Silva gave the Gamecocks 17 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Rakym Felder even came in off the bench and played a hell of a game. He didn’t turn the ball over and had 15 points, including 9/10 from the charity stripe. He was a big part of holding onto the lead against the Blue Devils and he showed some balls at the end of that game. This team is really fun to watch, but they’ve had these games on home soil in Greenville, SC. It’ll be interesting to see the team travel to New York for the rest of the East region play, but from what we saw in their first two games, we have a very fun team in the Gamecocks.
These four teams are clearly not what I expected and I don’t think many people have this combo in their sweet 16. If you did then props to you, but without any implications on my bracket, I am looking forward to 4 teams that are seemingly figuring it out at the right time battling it out in the East. Sindarius and PJ vs. Baylor’s athletic squad. The veteran Badgers vs. the also experienced Gators. Those are match ups I can get behind in the Sweet 16.