The best and worst of the NCAA tournament’s opening week

21 Mar

Just because six of the NCAA tournament’s top eight seeds survived the opening week doesn’t mean this year’s Sweet 16 lacks surprises.

Five teams seeded eighth or higher have advanced to the NCAA tournament’s second weekend, a group that includes last year’s runner-up Butler, major-conference surprise teams Florida State and Marquette and city rivals Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth.

We’ll have plenty of time to examine the Sweet 16 matchups and offer some revised Final Four projections in the next few days. Let’s first take a look at some of the best and worst of the NCAA tournament’s opening week.

Player who shined in the spotlight: Butler’s Matt Howard may have a game-winning putback and free throw and Florida’s Erving Walker has his late heroics against UCLA, but Jimmer Fredette is the face of this NCAA tournament for a reason. Shrugging off the pressure on him to meet expectations, the BYU star had 32 points and seven assists against Wofford and 34 and six against Gonzaga, propelling the Cougars to their first Sweet 16 in three decades.

Player who faded in the spotlight: Why did sixth-seeded Xavier struggle to even be competitive in its opening-round 66-55 loss to Marquette? Mostly because its best player simply didn’t perform to his usual high standard. Point guard Tu Holloway, who averaged 20.2 points per game and carried the injury-plagued Musketeers to another Atlantic 10 title this year, managed just five points on 1-for-8 shooting against the Golden Eagles.

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