Busted brackets, flop by Big East among first-week storylines


Butler is at it again. So are the boys from Tobacco Road. The Bluegrass State has a team, and the Cheeseheads have two. There's room for four double-digit seeds but only two from the not-so-spectacular Big East. And, of course, there's The Jimmer.

The second week of the NCAA Tournament will be sprinkled with the typical blend of favorites and bracket busters, the familiar and the obscure, with a notable lack of Big East flavor in that mix.

After a one-point win over top-seeded Pittsburgh -- the biggest Big East bust -- Butler coach Brad Stevens said he spoke with point guard Ronald Nored, a key component of the Bulldogs' magical run to last year's final.

He "came up to me and said, 'Coach, I've played in 10 NCAA games, and nobody has ever picked us to win,' " Stevens said.

Such is life in America's biggest office pool.

Those who chose Duke and North Carolina, the traditional powers from Tobacco Road, still have someone to pull for. Both teams won last-second games Sunday to advance. Ohio State joined the Blue Devils and Kansas as the three top seeds to move on.

Not living up to the hype: The Big East. The conference that placed a record 11 teams in the tournament moved only two into the second week, and both of those teams moved on by winning second-round games against conference rivals.

"The Big East is overrated, and after Notre Dame loses tonight, it's just going to be another feather in my cap," opinionated analyst Charles Barkley said a few minutes before the second-seeded Irish took the court against No. 10 Florida State.

Notre Dame lost, 71-57.

Joining FSU among the double digits were a pair of No. 11 seeds, Marquette and Virginia Commonwealth.

Marquette, the team from downtown Milwaukee, defeated Big East rival Syracuse to set up a meeting with North Carolina. VCU -- one of the last at-large teams selected for the field -- had to win three games, instead of the usual two, to move to the second week. The Rams will play Florida State in the first 10-vs.-11 matchup in tournament history.

Then there was No. 12 Richmond, a program that made its name pulling upsets in the 1980s and '90s and is at it once again. The Spiders will be the underdogs once again when they play the Jayhawks.

"A lot of teams get (worked up) about where they're seeded," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. "You can't worry about it too much. In the NCAA Tournament, you're not going to see too many teams get overlooked."

One team that certainly doesn't: Brigham Young. The third-seeded Cougars aren't an underdog but are lovable in their own way. That's thanks to the nation's top scorer, Jimmer Fredette, who scored 66 points in two games to lead them to the regional semifinals for the first time in 30 years.

"It was very important," Fredette said after BYU defeated Gonzaga on Saturday to move on. "It was one of my goals coming into this season. I wanted to get to the second weekend, and so did this team, so it's extremely important."

The Cougars will play No. 2 seed Florida in the Southeast Regional. It's a rematch of their first-round game last year, won 99-92 in overtime by BYU.

In the other Southeast game, it will be No. 8 Butler vs. No. 4 Wisconsin. The Bulldogs, who practice and play in the gym where the classic hardwood movie "Hoosiers" was filmed, lost their best player from last season, Gordon Hayward, to the NBA and struggled at times this year. Surely, they can't make another run to the Final Four. Or can they?

"It's exciting, and a lot of us have been here before, so we know what to expect and we have to show the freshmen the ropes," senior guard Zach Hahn said. "But this is what you play for, and you never want it to end."

Led by freshman center Jared Sullinger, Ohio State was one of the few teams to breeze through the first weekend easily, winning its two games by an average of 31.5 points. The Buckeyes play Kentucky, coached by John Calipari, who is trying to join Rick Pitino as the second coach to lead three programs to the Final Four. The Wildcats are young, led by three freshmen, Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb.

"If the choice is talent or experience, I'm taking talent," Calipari said. "Then, you can blame me for us not winning. But I'm taking talent. That's just how I've been throughout my career."

Duke has a good blend of talent and experience in its quest for a repeat. The Blue Devils, the top seed in the West, will play No. 5 Arizona, back in the tournament after missing one season following a record stretch of 25 straight appearances. Sean Miller now roams the sideline that Lute Olson used to own and has the Wildcats into the second weekend for the fifth time in the past decade.

The other West game pits No. 3 Connecticut against No. 2 San Diego State -- one program with tons of history against another with virtually none.

 

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