The first weekend of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship included expected results (such as Indiana, Louisville and Kansas advancing to the Sweet Sixteen) bracket-busting victories (Wichita State over Gonzaga and Harvard over New Mexico to name two) and the making of a couple potential Cinderella storylines (Florida Gulf Coast and LaSalle). ESPN analysts Dick Vitale, Seth Greenberg and Sean Farnham provided their thoughts on the tournament through the early rounds:
On the Tournament:
Vitale: Upsets, Cinderellas and monster matchups in the Sweet 16 – look at these three Michigan St vs. Duke, Kansas vs. Michigan and Indiana vs. Syracuse – is what makes the Tournament the best sporting event from beginning to end. Nothing compares to it.
Greenberg: This year’s NCAA tournament is a reflection of this season. On any given night a team can out-perform or under-achieve in relation to their potential.
On Florida Gulf Coast:
Vitale: This is what March Madness is all about. A team like Florida Gulf Coast has come from nowhere to beat the likes of Georgetown and San Diego State. It will be interesting to see if they can handle the Gators and continue their role as giant killers.
Greenberg: Florida Gulf Coast is a great story. Florida is a very efficient offensive and defensive team. They do a terrific job on executing their ball screen offense and play with great floor balance. I don’t see Florida Gulf Coast getting out in transition against the Gators. I don’t expect to see the “And1 mix tape lobs” from the Eagles in this game.
Farnham: We all love the highlight dunks and free-flowing offense but to me it is the story of a team that plays for each other and their coach. Every coach in the country strives to have their team buy in and play for each other as much as Florida Gulf Coast has in this tournament.
On the Big Ten:
Vitale: The first weekend shows the strength of the Big Ten with four teams in the Sweet 16. Their top four were strong all year and are strong in the Tournament.
Farnham: The Big Ten is who we thought they are – the best conference in the country. With four teams in the Sweet Sixteen and a couple of them playing their best basketball of the season we could see three or four in the Elite Eight.
On Michigan vs. Kansas:
Farnham: Michigan vs. Kansas should be a good matchup, but if I was a Jayhawks fan I would be concerned about how my team performed in the opening weekend. If they shoot and turn over the ball in the first half like they did against North Carolina they will be in trouble against Trey Burke and Michigan.
On LaSalle vs. Wichita State:
Greenberg: LaSalle against Wichita State is intriguing. I’m big on city guards and guard play in the tournament. LaSalle doesn’t only have city guards, they have Philadelphia city guards. They are not afraid of any opponent, atmosphere or stage. I love Wichita State’s theme of playing angry because playing angry means good defense and getting stops.
Vitale: We’ve seen parity in college basketball all season and it’s happening in the Tournament. Wichita State knocked off the one-seeded Gonzaga. And they play LaSalle, another terrific story. We’re going to have a nine or a 13 seed getting into the Elite Eight. It’s awesome.
On Syracuse vs. Indiana:
Greenberg: Syracuse against Indiana will come down to Syracuse’s execution in the half court. If they can execute, they can take Indiana out of transition. The better the offense the better the defense transition becomes.