Some reactions to what I saw in the opening weekend of the Big Dance:
Let there be no doubt: Buddy Hield is the best player in college basketball this year.
While Hield was the consensus national player of the year early in the season, some sentiment appeared to swing towards Michigan State's Denzel Valentine late in the season as Oklahoma scuffled. After averaging 31.5 points per game in the first two rounds, Buddy Buckets showed again this weekend why his claim to the throne never should have been in doubt.
Yet, OU's offense actually seemed to function better in the second game against Virginia Commonwealth with Hield on the bench in foul trouble. Rather than settling for jumpers, the Sooners got to the rim off of dribble penetration and back cuts when VCU tried to overplay on defense. They need more of that and a little less Buddyball going forward.
Two most impressive teams so far: Kansas and Villanova.
I wouldn't say the top two seeds in the South Region are the best teams in the country, but the Jayhawks and Wildcats played ultra-sharp ball over the weekend.
Both rolled in their openers over clearly inferior teams, which is what you want to see out of teams vying for a Final Four bid. More importantly, they didn't let up in round two.
If KU and VU keep it up, that would make for a magnificent Elite Eight matchup.
Biggest trainwreck: Baylor
Anyone who is familiar with the Bears shouldn't be surprised by the idea of them flaking in the first round against a disciplined squad like Yale. Still, after bowing out in the first round as a 3 seed last season, you'd hope Baylor would play with at least a little focus.
Instead, Scott Drew's team treated everyone to the standard nonsense: Teammates shoving each other in the huddle, a technical for hanging on the rim, etc.
Oregon is a fascinating team.
I admit that "head cases" is the wrong term.
The Ducks seem to be kind of impulsive. It strikes me that they play with a lot of emotion, which can lead to big swings in games. When it's going good, UO can be deadly. It can also mean big trouble when a few breaks go against the Ducks.
They're about to get some bad calls against Duke in their next game. Will be interested to see how they react.
Watch out for Gonzaga.
Mark Few's team stumbled along this season, but everything is coming together at the right time. The Zags barely broke a sweat in two wins over Utah and Seton Hall.
In Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga boasts one of the most dependable post players in the nation. Kyle Wiltjer gives Few a shotmaker who can use his length to get looks from all over the floor. Importantly, Eric McClellan has raised his game in the postseason to provide a third scoring option from the wing.
The Zags' ability to knock down shots from the perimeter and Sabonis' presence on the offensive glass present a very tough matchup for Syracuse in the round of 16. I expect to see them playing on Sunday in the Midwest Region final.
Predictions for Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
Sweet 16: Oregon over Duke; Oklahoma over Texas A&M
Elite Eight: Oklahoma over Oregon
Sweet 16: Kansas over Maryland; Villanova over Miami
Elite Eight: Kansas over Villanova
Sweet 16: North Carolina over Indiana; Wisconsin over Notre Dame
Elite Eight: UNC over Wisconsin
Sweet 16: Virginia over Iowa State; Gonzaga over Syracuse
Elite Eight: UVA over Gonzaga