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Bracket Not Busted: All Top 8 Seeds Advance to Sweet 16 in Chalky March Madness
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By Associated Press
Published 4 weeks ago on
March 25, 2024

A surprising lack of chaos marks this year's March Madness, with all top 8 seeds advancing to Sweet 16. (AP/Michael Conroy)

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March Madness arrived with visions of chaos. Based on last year’s bracket, there was little reason to doubt it.

The only surprise so far has been the lack of pandemonium.

The top two seeds from each region are headed to the Sweet 16 for just the fifth time. One double-digit seed will join them. Most of the Cinderellas that put the madness in March busted out of the bracket long before midnight.

The bluebloods and big boys — many of them, anyway — are going to the regionals and they all want more.

Players’ Ambitions

“I didn’t come back to make the Sweet 16,” Purdue big man Zach Edey said after the Boilermakers’ 106-67 victory over Utah State. “I came back to make a run, a deep run. Nobody is satisfied with where we are now.”

Last year’s Final Four was unlike any other, a bracket-busting foursome with no teams seeded better than No. 4 for the first time since the bracket expanded in 1979.

Reigning national champion UConn has looked good in its bid to repeat this year, but there wasn’t a dominant team during the regular season, opening the door for what was expected to be a wild NCAA Tournament.

It didn’t happen.

The upsets that punctuate March have been limited — 13-seed Yale and 12-seeds James Madison and Grand Canyon and 14th-seeded Oakland are all headed home. The only true buzzer-beater was a tying 3-pointer by Texas A&M’s Andersson Garcia to force overtime against Houston. The average margin of victory the first two rounds was 15.8 points, second-highest since 1985.

Purdue erased some of the disappointment of last year’s first-round flameout with a pair of lopsided wins, setting up a Sweet 16 matchup with a Gonzaga team back in the underdog role. Fellow No. 1 seeds North Carolina, UConn and Houston also are through.

The Cougars were the only ones tested, needing overtime to beat Texas A&M 100-95. No other game involving a No. 1 seed was closer than 16 points.

No. 2 seeds Arizona, Tennessee, Marquette and Iowa State also advanced, marking the fifth time — first since 2019 — that all eight top-two seeds reached the Sweet 16 since the start of seeding in 1979.

Also in are No. 3 seeds Illinois and Creighton, along with fourth-seeded Duke and Alabama. The average seed for the Sweet 16 is a chalky 3.3, right behind the 3.1 in 2019 and 2009.

Double-Digit Seeds

Oakland’s Jack Gohlke took the first big star turn of the NCAA Tournament, pouring in 10 3-pointers — second-most ever — in the 14th-seeded Golden Grizzlies’ upset win over No. 3 seed Kentucky. Gohlke hit six more 3s against N.C. State, but the Wolfpack outlasted Oakland in overtime to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015.

That leaves No. 11 seed N.C. State, which had to win the ACC tournament just to get into the bracket, as the only double-digit seed left after San Diego State blew out No. 13 Yale in the final game of the second round.

“I think that’s what March is about,” N.C. State big man DJ Burns said. “Some teams got here by winning their conference just like us and that doesn’t mean they’re a bad team.”

Powerhouse ACC

The ACC had what was considered a down year with just five teams making the NCAA Tournament.

Virginia bowed out in the First Four, but top-seeded North Carolina, Duke, Clemson and N.C. State are all through to the Sweet 16, giving the ACC a sparkling 8-1 record through the first two rounds.

The ACC is the sixth league to get four teams through to the Sweet 16 since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1985. The Big East was the last to do it, in 2003.

Big East Beast

Big East coaches, players and fans were frustrated with the bracket reveal when just three teams made it into the bracket.

The league is rolling so far with three teams getting through to the Sweet 16 and a 6-0 record.

UConn is looking good in its bid to become the first repeat champion since Florida in 2006-07, winning its first two games by an average of 28 points.

Marquette ended its early-exit woes, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016. Creighton is also into the regional round after coming within seconds of reaching the Final Four a year ago.

“You’ve see how other leagues that got the bids that our league deserved has underperformed,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “Obviously the mistake was made. It sucks.”

Big Ratings

The limited buzzer beaters and lack of Cinderella runs haven’t squashed interest in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA said the first round on Thursday averaged a record 8.5 million viewers across CBS and the Turner channels and Friday’s games drew 8.6 million, second-most ever. Interest climbed even more for Saturday’s second-round games, averaging 10.8 million viewers, another record.

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