Familiar faces

Ncaa Tournament Sweet 16

March 26, 2009|By Kate Hairopoulos | Kate Hairopoulos,The Dallas Morning News

The Sweet 16 survivors wear jerseys with names long a part of the NCAA tournament mystique, and the seeds played out mostly to form - a subpar development if you like to cheer for the little guys.

But the teams still dancing survived a four-day set of first- and second-round games chock full of compelling and competitive thrillers.

At times, CBS couldn't cut in fast enough to games from Boise to Dayton to Minneapolis simultaneously reaching nerve-wracking conclusions.

The winners set up powerhouse showdowns for the regional semifinals and finals. No. 5 Purdue and No. 12 Arizona are the only seeds below No. 4 still playing.

Arizona is an unexpected story line after it very nearly missed the tournament. But playing in its 25th straight tournament, a Cinderella it's not.

The Big East has lived up to its reputation, qualifying five teams to the regional semifinals, including No. 1 seeds Louisville, Pittsburgh and Connecticut.

The Big 12 brought three teams along in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

No. 2 Memphis and No. 4s Xavier and Gonzaga are the only non-Bowl Championship Series conference representatives, but hardly surprises.

MIDWEST AT INDIANAPOLIS

NO. 1 SEED Louisville:

Terrence Williams helped the tournament's No. 1 overall seed survive a serious challenge from No. 9 seed Siena in the second round. Williams took over at times, totaling 24 points, 15 rebounds and four assists.

NO. 2. SEED Michigan State:

Finally healthy, the Spartans are hoping to reach the almost-at-home Final Four in Detroit. Getting this far is already a habit under coach Tom Izzo, with Michigan State making its eighth appearance in the Sweet 16 in 12 years. Michigan State knows its next opponent already - having defeated Kansas, 75-62, in January in East Lansing. Guard Kalin Lucas scored 22 points in that meeting.

NO. 3. SEED Kansas:

The season opened with modest expectations for the new-look defending champions, but it would have been a disappointment for Jayhawks everywhere to miss their third straight Sweet 16 after facing North Dakota State and Dayton in the opening rounds. Cole Aldrich recorded a rare triple double (13 points, 20 rebounds, 10 blocks) Sunday against the Flyers.

NO. 12. SEED Arizona:

The Wildcats' advancement doesn't change their pre-tournament resume - questioned by many to be worthy of an NCAA bid. But Arizona couldn't care less now. Behind interim coach Russ Pennell and guard Nic Wise, the 'Cats knocked off Utah and No. 13 seed Cleveland State.

And the winner is...:

Louisville:

The Cardinals and Rick Pitino are experienced, tough, tournament-tested and the best-equipped to win in Indy.

EAST AT BOSTON

NO. 1. SEED Pittsburgh:

This is the Panthers' fifth trip to the Sweet 16 in eight years, but they haven't advanced. This time, Pitt, a No. 1 seed for the first time, might finally break the curse. Nail-biters against East Tennessee State and Oklahoma State in the first two rounds proved it won't be easy. Wing Sam Young, who had 32 points, and forward DeJuan Blair (10 points, 12 rebounds) pushed Pitt through against Oklahoma State.

NO 2. SEED Duke:

The Blue Devils' weaknesses, such as their lack of a true inside game and their unusual two-year absence from the Round of 16, were easy to highlight. But coach Mike Krzyzewski's guys are finding their way, hitched to the offense of wing Gerald Henderson and reliant on the composure that held off Texas in the second round and helped Duke win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

NO. 3 SEED Villanova:

The Wildcats weren't always mentioned with the most elite Big East teams. Maybe they should have been. The Wildcats beat Pitt during the regular season and could face it again in the regional final. Led by Dante Cunningham's 18 points in a blowout win over UCLA on Saturday, Villanova is making its fourth trip to the Sweet 16 in five years

NO. 4. SEED Xavier:

The X-men might be overmatched in the East. But, then again, the Musketeers have proven people wrong plenty of times before. The Atlantic 10 regular-season champions are in their second straight Sweet 16 after shutting down Wisconsin and Portland State.

And the winner is...:

Pittsburgh:

Nothing about the Panthers is pretty. But grit is aplenty, and it makes the difference in March.

WEST AT GLENDALE, ARIZ.

NO. 1 SEED Connecticut:

The Huskies, behind guard A.J. Price, forward Jeff Adrien and 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet, could be chugging toward an epic regional final matchup with No. 2 seed Memphis. UConn hasn't yet been tested in all-encompassing victories over Chattanooga and Texas A&M.

NO. 2. SEED Memphis:

Sure, the Tigers lost Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts from last season's national runner-up squad. But here they are anyway, powered by defense, balance, freshman guard Tyreke Evans and coach John Calipari's aplomb. The Tigers are in their fourth straight Sweet 16.

NO 3. SEED Missouri:

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