SportsPulse: The Zion vs. Tacko duel lived up to the hype in the most exciting game of the tournament. USA TODAY’s Scott Gleeson breaks down how Duke was able to avoid a historic upset.
The first weekend of the NCAA tournament is in the books, with hardly any brackets busted.
That’s because this year’s March Madness has experienced a nearly unprecedented lack up upsets.
For just the second time ever, the top three seeds in every single region advanced to the Sweet 16, and they were joined by two other No. 4 seeds. Only Oregon (No. 12 in the South) and Auburn (No. 5 in the Midwest) prevented the entire first weekend from going chalk.
Seeds were first introduced to the NCAA tournament in 1979, and the field expanded to 64 in 1985. Since then, 2009 is the only other year that the top three seeds in every region advanced. That year also featured the lowest seed total – the sum of the remaining seeds in the tournament – at 49.
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Oregon’s win over No. 13 UC Irvine ensured that this year’s tournament would match that record-low seed total. And while Oregon is the tournament’s lone double-digit seed remaining, the Ducks are hardly traditional underdogs — they are a member of a power conference, after all, and won the Pac-12 tournament title.
Last year, the NCAA tournament saw six of the top 12 overall seeds eliminated before the Sweet 16. The most memorable upset among that group was UMBC’s takedown of Virginia, which was the first time a No. 1 lost to No. 16.
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This year has been quite different with a complete lack of earth-shattering upsets – though Central Florida came close in the second round against Duke. While the lack of upsets was probably a negative for many watching this weekend, the chalk nature of this Sweet 16 produces great on-paper matchups.
In the East, No. 1 Duke will face No. 4 Virginia Tech – the ACC-rival Hokies beat the Zion Williamson-less Blue Devils last month – while No. 3 LSU faces off with No. 2 Michigan State.
In the West, No. 1 Gonzaga faces No. 4 Florida State in a rematch of a 2018 Sweet 16 game (won by FSU), while No. 2 Michigan goes against No. 3 Texas Tech.
In the South, No. 12 Oregon faces No. 1 Virginia, while No. 2 Tennessee goes against No. 3 Purdue.
Finally, the Midwest sees No. 1 North Carolina take on No. 5 Auburn, while No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 Houston square off.