By Josh Cook
Here is a quick look back at the Sweet 16 of the men's NCAA Tournament, and a quick look ahead at the Elite Eight.
Best overall performance: Butler. Mid-major no more, the Bulldogs pulled off the upset of the Round of 16 by beating West top seed Syracuse 63-59 Thursday. Many figured that the Orange would roll into the Elite Eight at least (guilty as charged), but Syracuse was sloppy with the ball (18 turnovers) and really did miss center Arinze Onuaku inside, especially when big man Rick Jackson got into foul trouble.
Best game: Kansas State-Xavier. Two words sum up this double-overtime West Regional semifinal - instant classic. Fortunately the Kentucky-Cornell game ended early enough that this area got to see the incredible finish(es) of this can-you-top-this contest. From Terrell Holloway's three free throws at the end of regulation, to Jordan Crawford's 35-foot three at the end of the first overtime to Jacob Pullen's threes in the second OT that gave the Wildcats the win, this game was great.
Best play: J.P. Prince's block of Evan Turner. At first glance it looked like Turner got fouled by Prince on his potential game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds of sixth-seeded Tennessee's 76-73 upset of No. 2 seed Ohio State in the Midwest Regional semis Friday night. But relays conclusively showed that Prince got all ball in his rejection of Turner's last-ditch effort to send the game into overtime as the Vols showed that an All-Southeastern Conference national championship game might not be out of the question.
Best first half: Baylor. The third-seeded Bears absolutely dominated 10th-seeded St. Mary's in the first half of Friday's South Regional semifinal, outscoring the Gaels 46-17 in the first 20 minutes. Baylor's dominance of St. Mary's might actually scare some Duke fans, and probably should.
Best second half: Michigan State. The Spartans dominated Northern Iowa in the second half of the second Midwest Regional semifinal Friday night, outscoring the Panthers 37-23. Michigan State held Northern Iowa without a field goal for the final 10:21 as Tom Izzo, the easy choice as Coach of the Decade, earned another trip to the Elite Eight.
All-Sweet 16 team: Tennessee forward Wayne Chism (22 points, 11 rebounds); Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen (28 points); Duke forward Kyle Singler (24 points, eight rebounds); Kentucky forward DeMarcus Cousins (16 points, seven rebounds); Ohio State forward Evan Turner (31 points, seven rebounds, five assists); Xavier guard Jordan Crawford (32 points).
Ranking the Elite Eight: 1. Kentucky; 2. Duke; 3. West Virginia; 4. Kansas State; 5. Michigan State; 6. Tennessee; 7. Baylor; 8. Butler.
Picks (because we've been so close with our previous picks): Michigan State over Tennessee; Kansas State over Butler (but we'll be rooting for the Bulldogs); Duke over Baylor; Kentucky over West Virginia.
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