Let's step back and take a deeeeeeep breath. We just survived a wild four days, better known as the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Most brackets are already lingering in shredders or torn up repeatedly. My bracket, however, is doing well: I'm 31-17 after the first two rounds, and my national champion and runner-up are still alive.
I broke it down last night on my Facebook page. I lost two of my Final Four teams. I lost two more Elite Eight teams, and four additional Sweet Sixteen teams. As it is, I have 10 of my Sweet Sixteen picks still alive, with my West bracket fairly intact; I only lost two first-round games in that bracket.
As always, there was quite a bit of drama. There were a couple of dramatic buzzer beaters, including Murray State's game-winner against Vanderbilt on Thursday and Michigan State's sweet trifecta against come-from-behind Maryland on Sunday.
There were also big upsets, including No. 9 Northern Iowa knocking off top-seeded Kansas in the Midwest (my Midwest bracket, suffice it to say, is toast) and No. 12 Cornell knocking off No. 5 Temple and No. 4 Wisconsin, respectively. Up next for the Big Red: The East's No. 1 seed, Kentucky. The Wildcats cannot take Cornell lightly.
The rest of the Sweet 16:
Northern Iowa-Michigan State: UNI has proven that it can win, and win big. The Spartans needed a last-second 3-pointer to knock off the Terps. An exciting game Friday is expected.
Duke-Purdue: Duke should roughhouse the Boilermakers over.
Saint Mary's-Baylor: Three double-digit seeds remain, and Saint Mary's, of the three, have captured the nation's attention. Big wins over Richmond and No. 2 Villanova have eyes upon this Mid-Major.
Tennessee-Ohio State: Buckeyes all the way.
Syracuse-Butler: Two 30-4's rocking Las Vegas. Hope they hit Caesar's Palace afterward and give my boy Jay some business. Syracuse, of course.
Xavier-Kansas State: K-State by a bunch.
Washington-West Virginia: Mizzou gave the 'Neers a run for their money in the second round, while Washington handled No. 3 New Mexico. I'm thinking Washington in the Elite Eight would be a great win for the Pac 10, a conference that has been down in hoops.
And last but certainly not least, Kentucky-Cornell: I've already mentioned this match up above. Kentucky is my national champion, but I've been following Cornell all season long. I would not be offended if the Big Red defeats the Wildcats. A strong start by UK is needed to keep the Ivy League champions at bay.
Thursday and Friday night will be an exciting few hours of basketball. The drama is not over yet -- especially with Cornell, Saint Mary's, Northern Iowa and Washington still in the mix.