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NCAA Tournament: Sixteen thoughts about the Sweet 16

Florida head coach Mike White celebrates with fans after a 65-39 win against Virginia during the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 18, 2017. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) 1199182
Florida head coach Mike White celebrates with fans after a 65-39 win against Virginia during the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 18, 2017. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) 1199182
Published Mar. 22, 2017

The Sweet 16 isn't so sweet. March Madness hasn't been so mad.

Not this year.

We've had a little of everything. We've had upsets. We've had top seeds advance. But it has been odd NCAA Tournament so far. And odd doesn't always translate to good.

So as we wait for the next round to begin on Thursday, here are 16 thoughts about the Sweet 16:

1. Where's the one shining moment? Two high seeds and two big favorites — defending champ Villanova and preseason No. 1 Duke — are out. But, thus far, this tournament has not provided that one special play or game or moment. No buzzer-beaters. No thrills. No madness.

2. Big upsets are fun when they happen, but not fun after they happen. It's always a fun surprise to see South Carolina upset Duke and Wisconsin knock off Villanova. Until you realize that you have to then watch those teams play the next round. Instead of a potential epic showdown between Duke and Villanova in the East final, the best we could hope for is Florida vs. Baylor. Sorry, but that doesn't have quite the pizzazz.

3. Which team has been the most impressive so far? Well, there are two ways to look at it. Top seed Kansas has been dominant, winning games by 38 and 20. But the team with the most gold-star victories is Xavier. The Musketeers upset No. 6 seed Maryland and No. 3 seed Florida State, and neither game was all that close.

4. The most disappointing team? We would say Florida State, but then again, is anyone surprised that the Seminoles failed to get out of the first weekend? That's pretty much FSU's modus operandi. Duke probably goes down as the most underachieving team. This preseason No. 1 full of five-star players was beat up during the season, but it still ended up losing nine games and getting knocked out in the round of 32.

5. Maybe the Big Ten isn't as lousy as we all thought. All season long, all we heard was how the Big Ten had only one or two decent teams. Seven teams made the tournament and five of them won in the first round. Three advanced to the Sweet 16, and that includes Wisconsin upsetting Duke, Michigan upsetting Louisville and Purdue handling Iowa State. Turns out, the Big Ten has as many teams in the Sweet 16 as any conference.

5. Maybe the ACC isn't as good as we all thought. Duke's out. Louisville's out. Notre Dame's out. FSU's out. Virginia's out. All of those teams were top five seeds. Only one of the nine ACC teams that made the tournament remains, and that's North Carolina.

6. How's Florida looking? You would think that the Gators are living right with Villanova and Duke out of their region. But this matchup against Wisconsin's big men is not a good one for Florida. You'd rather play Wisconsin than Villanova, but that doesn't mean the Gators won't have their hands full.

7. Most exciting player has been UCLA's Lonzo Ball. His dad might be a braggart, but his dad is also right. The freshman point guard is the most exciting player in the nation. In two games, Ball has made 13 of 17 shots for 33 points with 12 assists, 11 rebounds and a pair of steals.

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8. Team that has been living on the edge: Kentucky. The No. 2 seed came this close to losing twice. Hard to imagine that luck continuing if the Wildcats don't play better against UCLA.

9. Maybe Gonzaga is as good as its 34-1 record says it is. The Zags caught a break when a missed goaltending call helped them beat plucky Northwestern, but they also deserve to be in their second straight Sweet 16.

10. Don't sleep on West Virginia, or as it is known these days, Press Virginia. That easy victory against Notre Dame was impressive.

11. Feel-good story continues to be Michigan, which is 6-0 since its plane skidded off the runway before the Big Ten tournament. Prediction: The Wolverines will upset Oregon.

12. Butler continues to have major success without coach Brad Stevens, who jumped to the Celtics in 2013. Stevens took Butler to four NCAA Tournaments, including two championship games. In three seasons under Chris Holtmann, the Bulldogs have been to three more tournaments.

13. If you were to re-seed the tournament starting right now, the No. 1 seeds would be North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kansas and … Wisconsin. Yep, Wisconsin over Baylor and Florida in the east.

14. Team I'm not buying: South Carolina. The Gamecocks shot lights-out in the second half against Duke, and I don't think they will shoot that well again against Baylor. But, do give South Carolina this: it plays relentless and physical defense.

15. Best game in the Sweet 16: Kentucky vs. UCLA.

16. Who gets to the Final Four? Arizona, Wisconsin, UCLA and Kansas.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com. Follow @tomwjones.