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NCAA Sweet 16: Overachievers And Underachievers

Carly Fasciglione |
March 25, 2015 | 4:20 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

The Wolfpack has proved that they are an offensive force to be reckoned with. (Twitter/@PackMensBball)
The Wolfpack has proved that they are an offensive force to be reckoned with. (Twitter/@PackMensBball)
After six days and 52 games of pure madness, the Sweet Sixteen is set. Once again, the tournament left no shortage of intrigue and provided us with an abundance of narratives to rattle our brains during this short breather. Now that your bracket is in complete shambles, let’s look at the teams who have been shocking the nation, the teams who are simply not playing up to their capability, and what it all means going forward.


North Carolina State: After upsetting former top-seeded Villanova, which a certain someone just so happened to predict, NC State is finally getting the attention it rightfully deserves. The Wolfpack headed into the tournament as a run-of-the-mill bubble team. Despite a 16-point deficit against LSU in the first round of play, NC State handled a bad situation and climbed out of it with composure, a necessity for any team trying to make a run in the tournament.

In the Round of 32, the Wolfpack pulled off a victory that brought tears to the eyes of piccolo players everywhere. The Wildcats struggled immensely at the hands of the Wolfpack’s tough defensive play, as they only shot 31 percent. Wolfpack big men Abdul-Malik Abu and Lennard Freeman contributed a double-double each and dominated the paint on both sides of the court. Standout guards Trevor Lacey and Cat Barber continued to impress offensively and made clutch plays late in the game to seal the Wolfpack’s first victory over a top-seeded team since their memorable upset against Houston in 1983. 

While it might be unlikely that this Wolfpack team will have the same fate as Jim Valvano’s squad, they have already defeated Louisville in the regular season and could be a real threat to either Michigan State or Oklahoma. A Final Four appearance seemed practically impossible in the beginning of the season, but the Wolfpack have proven otherwise.

READ MORE: Ranking The Sweet 16 Games

West Virginia: After missing the tournament for two years in a row, Coach Bob Huggins changed his defensive scheme to the now-notorious “Press Virginia”. Despite having one of the most disruptive defenses in the nation, many picked the Mountaineers to be an upset victim against Buffalo and many doubted that they could make it past Maryland. Much of this doubt stemmed from losing three of their last four games before the tournament and their lack of an offensive presence. 

Regardless of the criticism, the Mountaineers got past an underrated Buffalo squad and put on a defensive clinic against Maryland. Against the Bulls, Devin Williams stepped up to the plate for the otherwise stagnant Mountaineers offense with 17 points and only one missed field goal. West Virginia’s relentless defense against the Terps forced 23 turnovers and their full-court press allowed them to put up 16 more shots than Maryland.

They may not have been pretty, but WVU has sealed some impressive victories while relying primarily on their defense. Unfortunately, not being able to shoot the ball may become a bit of a problem when they face those guys from Kentucky. 

Should the Sooners be worried about Buddy Hield's lack of production despite their wins? (Twitter/@OU_MBBall)
Should the Sooners be worried about Buddy Hield's lack of production despite their wins? (Twitter/@OU_MBBall)

Wisconsin: As soon as the brackets were announced, many immediately questioned Wisconsin’s place as a top-seeded team. The Badgers haven't really done much to prove the critics wrong. Beating Coastal Carolina was a given, however, their scare against Oregon in the second round should not have happened.

Naismith finalist Frank Kaminsky looked weak in the paint while the Ducks were able to disrupt the Badgers' top-ranked offensive rhythm. Wisconsin simply did not take advantage of their size and were out-blocked, out-rebounded, and outscored in the paint. Oregon may have been a hot bubble team coming into the tournament, but potential national title contenders should not have had this much trouble against this flawed Ducks team.

Now, the Badgers have to face a very evenly matched UNC team and Frank Kaminsky may be the only exception. The Tar Heels don’t have a big man to match up against Frank the Tank, but if he plays the way he did against Oregon, the Badgers may be waving their hopes at a title an early goodbye.

Oklahoma: A number three seed may have been the wrong call to begin with, but now the Sooners find themselves as the highest ranked team in the East Region.

Oklahoma proved their defensive efficiency in the regular season, as they were ranked seventh in the nation and 22nd in rebounding and Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield led the way offensively. In the tournament, however, the Sooners are only one of two teams who have not had to play a top-10 seeded team in the tournament, and they haven't made much of the opportunity.

Being challenged by both Albany and Dayton, both non-Power Five schools, isn’t helping the Sooners' case to make a championship run. And their POY... has shot just 34 percent in the two games with just seven rebounds. Hield did make a crucial block late in the Dayton game, but play like this from their offensive leader isn’t going to cut it as they move deeper into the tournament.

The Sooners now face Tom Izzo's team that’s currently playing its best basketball of the season. The Spartans have depth and a resilient defense that could very easily give the Sooners struggling offense some issues. It is very possible that the East could be the only region without any of its top three seeds when the Elite Eight is set.

Reach Staff Writer Carly Fasciglione here or follow her on Twitter.



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