March Madness: How the Sweet 16 is shaping up after a week of upsets

New Orleans, Louisiana - The action in both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments has been living up to every expectation, and then some! Here’s what’s been standing out as the road to the Final Four continues.

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari came up short in the first round as his men's team fell to Saint Peter's.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari came up short in the first round as his men's team fell to Saint Peter's.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

The opening stages have been all about upsets, everywhere you look.

For one, this really wasn’t Kentucky’s year. The Wildcats suffered unexpected first-round exits in both tournaments and while the second-seeded men’s defeat hit particularly hard, the reigning SEC champs and sixth-seeded women’s team also suffered a big disappointment.

The same could be said for the Baylor Bears, who saw both of the men's and women’s squads make early exits in the second round, this past weekend. Heading into the tournament, the women’s team was at least a Final Four favorite, looking to improve upon last year’s Elite Eight appearance. But the men’s upset loss to UNC on Saturday killed the hopes of a back-to-back national title run.

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And the possibility of more surprises is still there, perhaps more so on the men’s side, where the Sweet 16 features four teams that are seeded 10th or lower.

The women’s brackets have only two in their third round, the Creighton Bluejays and the South Dakota Coyotes, who are both seeded tenth.

Peacocks are the "Cinderellas" in this year’s big dance

Saint Peter's head coach Shaheen Holloway.
Saint Peter's head coach Shaheen Holloway.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

The 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s Peacocks have a strong claim to being the upset kings in the men’s brackets. Before their Thursday night upset of Kentucky, hardly anyone outside their home state of New Jersey had heard of this basketball program.

The Peacocks have rightfully earned the title of this tournament’s "Cinderella."

Their 67.5 points per game ranks 296th in the country, while their 62.3 points allowed is so high, it’s not even ranked nationally.

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But nearly everyone knows them by now and they’ve nothing to fear as they’re now in the Sweet 16, according to their head coach Shaheen Holloway (45).

"I got guys from New Jersey and New York City," Holloway told ESPN. "You think we're scared of anything? You think we're worried about guys trying to muscle us and tough us out?"

After taking care of Murray State in the second round, the Peacocks have a third-round matchup against Purdue on Friday, March 25.

The women are outscoring the men

Dara Mabrey and the Fighting Irish just put up a team-record 108 points against Oklahoma on Monday night.
Dara Mabrey and the Fighting Irish just put up a team-record 108 points against Oklahoma on Monday night.  © imago/Icon SMI

Obviously, in tournament play, it’s "win or go home", no matter what the final score is.

But it’s notable that two separate women’s teams have broken the 100-point barrier, while none on the men’s side have managed it so far.

The Maryland Terrapins dropped 102 on Delaware in their first-round and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish just put up a school-record 108 points in their second-round victory over Oklahoma.

It's worth pointing out, for those at the back who might be coming up with a "but": the men and women both play the same amount of minutes (40 in regulation and five in each overtime), the 30-second shot clock is the same, and so are the respective three-point lines at 22 feet, 1¾ inches.

Here's to more of that in the Sweet 16!

Overtime galore

Bart Brooks, head coach of the Belmont Bruins who won this year's only overtime game during the first round in the women's tournament.
Bart Brooks, head coach of the Belmont Bruins who won this year's only overtime game during the first round in the women's tournament.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Overtime has been trending noticeably over in the men’s brackets.

In the first two rounds, there were five games that went into overtime to determine the winner. That's as many as the entire 2021 NCAA tournament saw.

In the women’s tournament, only one matchup went past regulation, a 73-70 first-round upset win by Belmont over Oregon.

And after their tournament was all said and done last year, they only had two games that needed extra time.

While the women’s games seem to be wrapping up in a timely fashion, it’s looking like the men’s game is on pace to work longer and longer as this year’s tournaments continue.

Third-round action in the NCAA basketball tournaments tips off for the men on March 24 while the women will run the floor starting on March 25.

Cover photo: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

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