Did we just witness the greatest first two rounds of an NCAA Tournament in history? If you go simply by the level of upsets, the answer almost has to be yes.
There was history made when overall No. 1 seed Virginia, obviously one of the tournament favorites, was stunned as a 21-point favorite by the 16th-seeded University of Maryland-Baltimore County in the first round. That a No. 1 seed finally lost to a No. 16 perhaps wasn’t all that surprising as it had to happen eventually. But by 20 points!?
Virginia was No. 1 in the South, and that region looked like the best at the top with AAC regular-season and tournament champion Cincinnati as the No. 2, SEC regular-season co-champion Tennessee at No. 3, Pac-12 regular-season and tournament champion Arizona at No. 4, and SEC tournament champion Kentucky at No. 5.
Only UK is still standing, the first time since seeding began in 1979 that a region doesn’t have a single top-four seed in the Sweet 16.
The updated favorite on the odds to win the NCAA tournament at the Alamodome on the first Monday of April is West No. 2 Duke at +325. From purely a talent standpoint, the Blue Devils do have the most in the field. They also have been dominant in their two wins over No. 15 Iona and No. 7 Rhode Island.
Duke gets ACC rival and No. 11 Syracuse (+6000 title long shot), which knocked off another pre-tournament favorite in No. 3 Michigan State in the Round of 32. If form holds, it would be No. 2 Duke vs. No. 1 Kansas in the Elite Eight, with the Jayhawks at +850 on the title odds.
It’s guaranteed that a maximum of one top seed will play for the national title because only Kansas and East No. 1 Villanova are still standing and they would potentially meet in the Final Four. Villanova, the 2016 champion, is a +450 second-favorite overall. The Wildcats haven’t been tested in wins over No. 16 Radford and No. 9 Alabama. They face No. 5 West Virginia (+1600), a former Big East foe, in the Sweet 16.
Kentucky (+700) could have a clear path to the Final Four with all those upsets in the South Region. The Wildcats wouldn’t face a seed better than No. 7 before the national semifinals. The path to the Final Four also got a bit easier for West No. 4 Gonzaga (+700) with Round of 32 upsets of No. 1 Xavier and No. 2 North Carolina.
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