The NCAA bracket 2011 is now down to an Elite Eight. To get there, the bracket advanced two teams in relatively easy fashion last night, while two more needed last second heroics to do it. In addition, Tournament Cinderellas like Marquette and Richmond fell down hard, while VCU somehow found room to keep going. But as for Ohio State, the No. 1 overall seed became the latest favorite to face a shocking exit.
North Carolina and Kansas started the night by cruising over Marquette and Richmond, in anticlimactic blowouts. But the Sweet 16 came to an end with two thrillers, as Kentucky stunned Ohio State, and VCU survived Florida State in overtime.
Before these games, four double-digit seeds were left in the bracket, and one was guaranteed to get into the Elite Eight, thanks to the VCU-Florida State game. The Rams would stand alone as a double digit Cinderella, however, thanks to the Tar Heels and Jayhawks.
Kansas has had the easiest route through the NCAA tournament, although they’ve struggled a bit in their two wins. Yet there were no fits and starts against Richmond, as the Jayhawks secured an easy 77-57 win. But North Carolina had it even easier with Marquette, as a 32-5 first half run triggered an 81-63 thrashing.
The real drama came in the next session, as Kentucky and Ohio State fought to the finish, and VCU and Florida State went to overtime. The Rams looked to be in control for a while, but the Seminoles used a 12-3 run to force the extra session.
Once the Rams were down 71-70 with seconds left in overtime, it seemed their run was over. But an inbounds bounce pass, and a surprisingly easy layup from Bradford Burgess, gave them a 72-71 triumph, and a David vs. Goliath battle with Kansas.
The greatest shakeup to the bracket came in Newark, however, as the Buckeyes actually went down to the Wildcats. Thanks to another last second shot from Brandon Knight, Kentucky pulled a 62-60 shocker, and left Kansas as the only No. 1 seed left. The Wildcats now get a regional final with North Carolina, with the winner to take on either Connecticut or Arizona.
Although Kentucky, North Carolina, Connecticut and Arizona are major names, they all seemed unlikely to get this far at various points. On the other side of the tournament , Butler and VCU have stunned the world, while Florida has returned to power. Only Kansas has cruised through so far, especially since they keep facing low seeds.
No one saw this kind of NCAA bracket coming, so it almost seems unlikely that convention will hold now. Tonight, Butler and Arizona look to keep the surprises coming, against Florida and Connecticut in the Elite Eight openers.
ESPN- “NCAA Tournament Bracket – 2011”
SI.com- “Richmond vs Kansas – Recap”
Yahoo Sports- “North Carolina dominates Marquette, faces Kentucky”
CBS Sports- “Burgess’ layup in OT vs FSU puts VCU into Elite Eight”