Halfway through March Madness, the 2015 NCAA tournament might as well be re-branded March Meekness. Lacking the usual panache and suspense from previous years, the bracket-busters and buzzer-beaters are fewer in number.
Undefeated Kentucky, the clear-cut favorite to win the tournament has cruised to the Sweet Sixteen. Joining the Wildcats are perennial powers Duke, Louisville, Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan State, UCLA and Gonzaga. Wichita State, Notre Dame, NC State, Wisconsin, Xavier, Utah, West Virginia and Oklahoma are the remaining hopefuls for the national title. UCLA is the lowest remaining seed, a No.11 seed matched up this weekend in the South region against second-seeded Gonzaga.
A pair of sevens could be wildcards to spoil the party for Kentucky and other favorites. The Wichita State Shockers and the Michigan State Spartans have been overlooked and relatively ignored all season, and have made some noise already. Michigan State upset second-seeded Virginia for the second-consecutive tournament, while Wichita State took care of in-state rival Kansas to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Coaches Tom Izzo and Greg Marshall are considered excellent strategists and always have the Spartans and Shockers prepared to play every opponent.
Another wrinkle to watch is the potential Elite Eight matchup between Kentucky and Wichita State. Last year, Kentucky ruined Wichita State’s undefeated season on their way to a national title, so the revenge factor looms in the background. Of course, the Wildcats and Shockers must find a way to defeat West Virginia and Notre Dame respectively before this matchup could occur.
Despite the lack of usual excitement, the tournament remains as popular as ever. The American Gaming Association estimated that 40 million Americans will fill out 70 million brackets and bet over 2 billion dollars in wagers. The 70 million brackets completed would outnumber the 66 million ballots that voted for President Barack Obama.
The Sweet Sixteen tips off Thursday, March 26 at 7:17 ET when Notre Dame tips off against Wichita State in the Midwest followed a half-hour later when Wisconsin faces North Carolina in the West bracket.