After six exhilarating days of basketball, the NCAA Tournament field has dropped to 16 participants.
While reaching the Sweet 16 is certainly satisfying, all the teams still alive in the tournament know there is a golden opportunity staring them in the face. Whether they can take advantage is what will make this week's action so much fun to watch.
In the Midwest bracket, the No. 1, 3, 5 and 7 seeds earned their way into the second week of action. The one given there was the Kentucky Wildcats. With wins over Hampton (79-56) and Cincinnati (64-51), John Calipari's crew moved into rarified air, marking the first time in NCAA history a team has gone 36-0 to begin a season. West Virginia, the region's No. 5 seed, is up next for the Wildcats.
The other half of the bracket features No. 3 seed Notre Dame taking on seventh-seeded and tournament darling Wichita State. The Irish haven't exactly looked sharp in their two tournament games, edging out Northeastern (69-65) and Butler (67-64 in overtime), but Mike Brey's team, which has struggled in recent tournament play, is still alive and kicking. Notre Dame is a lethal offensive squad, and if the shots start falling, the Irish are as good as any team out there. Of course, they will have to turn things around in a hurry as the Shockers are full of energy after upsetting in-state rival Kansas, the No. 2 seed in the region. Wichita State is no average mid-major with 95 wins over the last three seasons (just the 26th team in NCAA history to do so).
In the West Region, three of the top four seeds have advanced in No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 2 Arizona and No. 4 North Carolina. Third-seeded Baylor fell in second-round action to Georgia State, which then in turn fell to sixth- seeded Xavier. Bo Ryan's top-seeded Badgers are an impressive 33-3 after disposing of Coastal Carolina (86-72) and Oregon (72-65) in tournament play. They will take on North Carolina, which survived Harvard (67-65) before knocking off Arkansas (87-78). The Tar Heels may be at less than full strength, but Roy Williams' squad has great depth and athleticism, two traits that could be problematic for Wisconsin.
Arizona is as hot as any team in the tournament not named Kentucky. Sean Miller's squad swept the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles and has made light work of Texas Southern (93-72) and Ohio State (73-58) in consecutive tournament games while improving to 33-3. With a great facilitator and loads of talent along the frontline, Arizona will cause a headache for No. 6 Xavier in the Sweet 16. The Musketeers finished in the middle of the pack in the Big East, but somehow are the one conference representative still around (Villanova, Butler, Providence. St. John's and Georgetown are all out). Xavier isn't flashy, but it has looked sharp in tournament wins over Ole Miss (76-57) and Georgia State (75-67).