NCAA's 'Sweet 16' Devoid Of Cinderellas

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The NCAA men's basketball tournament has been filled with early-round upsets in recent years. This year? Not so much.

"The first day, Thursday, you had to keep yourself awake because all the favorites were winning easily," NPR sports commentator John Feinstein tells Steve Inskeep.

In fact, after two rounds of play, the field generally reflects the expectations of the committee that "seeds" the field, with 14 of the 16 top seeds still alive.

Gone are two No. 4 seeds. Wake Forest was excused by No. 13 seed Cleveland State in a first-round upset. And Washington was beaten by No. 5 seed Purdue in second-round play.

The field also includes No. 12 seed Arizona, which beat Cleveland State in the second round after taking out Utah in first-round play.

But as Feinstein points out, Arizona is "not exactly a Cinderella," since the Wildcats have a long tradition of basketball success.

And Arizona has "a puncher's chance" to knock out Louisville in the next round, Feinstein says. Louisville, the tournament's overall No. 1 seed, was tested in second-round play by upstart Siena.

The other No. 1 seeds — Pitt, Connecticut and North Carolina — are also alive.

In the next round, Pitt will meet Xavier, coached by Pitt grad Sean Miller.

Connecticut gets Purdue, and North Carolina will face Gonzaga, from Spokane, Wash. The 'Zags and coach Mark Few have built a highly competitive program playing out of the relatively weak West Coast Conference.

There are plenty of players to keep an eye on as the drama unfolds, but Feinstein singles out Pitt's burly big man, DeJuan Blair, calling him a "charismatic player." Blair and his teammates will try to carry Pitt past the round of 16 for the first time since 1974.

Another player to watch: North Carolina's 6-10 center Tyler Hansbrough, a former NCAA player of the year, who returned for his senior season in search of another national title for the traditionally powerful Tar Heels.

Third-round play in the tournament takes place Thursday and Friday at four sites around the country as teams vie to make the Final Four in Detroit.



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