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March Madness: The weekend that was in the NCAA tournament

The Billion Dollar Dream has been over for a while. Most bracket sheets are loaded with red X's. Still, there is plenty of March Madness ahead of us in the NCAA tournament's round of 16.

You want favourites? Three No. 1s are alive and well after two rounds.

You want underdogs? How about three with double-digit seedings.

You want a rivalry? It's tough to beat Kentucky-Louisville.

Four days, 12 games. It's regional weekend when the Sweet 16 is cut to the Final Four.



Stanford's win over No. 2 Kansas on Sunday meant Andrew Wiggins' collegiate career has come to an end. Or has it? The highly touted Canadian freshman struggled to just four points on 1-for-6 shooting with one assist and four turnovers in the loss - he was even outscored by his brother Nick, a reserve for No. 1 Wichita State which suffered its own shocking (no pun intended) upset. That has some asking if Wiggins might delay his decision to jump to the NBA this summer. “I let a lot of people down,” Wiggins said. “If I would have played better, we wouldn’t be in this situation, you know? I blame myself for this.” Kansas coach Bill Self, who at times questioned whether Wiggins was tough enough to carry the weight of expectations put upon him this season, said what happened Sunday shouldn't offset what Wiggins did the previous 34 games. "This isn’t the worst thing that’s going to happen to him in his life,” Self said. “He’s had a charmed life, there’s no question about that. I’m sad for our team and I’m sad for him that it wasn’t our day or his day today.” Former Toronto Raptors coach and now TSN analyst Sam Mitchell said Wiggins shouldn't question his decision to turn pro, adding he will be a better pro player than a college player.


Andrew Wiggins isn't the only highly rated player to see their college basketball dreams come to an end. Fellow Canadian and Syracuse freshmen Tyler Ennis, also projected as a top pick if he decides to leave school early, and the Syracuse Orangemen fell to upset-minded Dayton on Saturday. While Wiggins struggled in his final game, Ennis had a chance to extend his tournament experience but missed two jumpers that would have given the Orange the lead in the final seconds. Jabari Parker, another talented freshman who could give Wiggins a run for the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft if he decides to turn pro, didn't even make it to the weekend as his Duke Blue Devils were stunned by 14th ranked Mercer on Friday.


While Andrew Wiggins and Tyler Ennis are gone there is still a strong cast of Canadians soldiering on into the Sweet 16 this week. Dyshawn Pierre of Whitby, Ont., leads upset-minded Dayton, who are in the round of 16 for the first time since 1984. They will meet Stanford, who are led by Dwight Powell, a senior forward out of Toronto, and redshirt junior freshman Stefan Nastic from Thornhill, Ont. Toronto's Melvin Ejim will lead No. 3 Iowa State, who have overcome the loss of third-leading scorer Georges Niang to a broken foot to advance to the regional semi-finals for the first time since 2000. Montreal's Kenny Chery and Brady Heslip of Burlington, Ont., whose uncle is Jay Triano and whose father was an all-Canadian at the University of Guelph in 1980, has the No. 6 Baylor Bears into the next round after a 30-point demolition of Creighton in which they held Doug McDermott, the nation’s leading scorer, to just 15 points. Second-seeded Michigan is in the round of 16 for the second straight year thanks in part to sophomore guard Nik Stauskas of Mississauga, Ont. who led an outside attack that saw the Wolverines make 14 three-pointers in a third-round win over Texas.


Florida, the overall top seed and No. 1 in the South Region, faces a familiar tournament opponent in UCLA. Florida increased their winning streak to 28 games with a couple of double-figure victories. This is their fourth straight year in the round of 16, the longest current streak. They beat UCLA in the national championship game in 2006 and in the national semi-finals the following season. The Gators also eliminated the Bruins in the second round in 2011. Top-seeded Arizona in the West was impressive on defence in dispatching Gonzaga in the third round and the Wildcats are in the round of 16 for the third time in four years. This is the closest any of the four regions came to having seeds 1-4 advance (No. 4 San Diego State and No. 2 Wisconsin also moved on). Virginia, the quietest of the four No. 1s, beat Memphis by 18 points and moved on to the round of 16 for the first time since 1995. There they will face Michigan State, who was the nation’s pick for the national championship even if it was a No. 4 seed.


The game that guarantees a winner with a double-digit seeding has Stanford against Dayton. The Cardinal are in the round of 16 for the first time since 2008, the last time they were in the tournament. They haven’t given up more than 57 points and they have been great at the free throw line. Dayton are in the round of 16 for the first time since 1984. They got here with two wins by a total of three points and they have yet to break 60. Tennessee, a No. 11 seed, will play second-seeded Michigan. Tennessee is the third team that played in the First Four to reach the regional semi-finals. The Volunteers have won eight of nine with the only loss to Florida in the SEC tournament. They reached the Sweet 16 with a frontcourt dismantling of Mercer, outrebounding the team that beat Duke 41-19.


Indianapolis is about to be invaded by people from the commonwealth of Kentucky. Those wearing blue are for the University of Kentucky, those wearing red are for Louisville. Kentucky beat Louisville 73-66 just days after Christmas in the schools’ annual meeting. This one is going to be on a higher level as Kentucky’s roster of high school stars meets a Louisville squad that features key players who were on last season’s national championship team. Kentucky, the preseason No. 1, did what no other team could do this season — beat Wichita State. In what has to be the best game of the tournament so far, the Wildcats played above their years in handing the Shockers their first loss of the season. Louisville is in the round of 16 for the third straight year and the great news for the Cardinals is that Naismith Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino is 16-0 in the regional semi-finals. His team has won 14 of its last 15 games overall and eight straight in the NCAA tournament.

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