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NCAA bracket busters and the Sweet 16

A historic weekend in the NCAA men's basketball tournament saw more than its share of momentous upsets, shattering both convention and fans' brackets. The 'Sweet 16,' featuring the sixteen remaining teams, begins March 22nd.

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Ohio was just as resilient against Michigan’s standout Big Ten players Tim Hardaway Jr., Zack Novak and Stu Douglas. Ohio didn’t go away the entire game, with the lead changing hands numerous times. But in the end, it was Ohio’s guard Walter Offutt who played beyond himself and was the game-changer. Offutt, who arrived at Ohio via Wright State University, scrambled for a loose ball, was fouled by the Wolverines’ Evan Smotrycz and icily swished two free throws with 6.8 seconds remaining in the game to preserve the upset for Ohio.   

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Virginia Commonwealth’s glass slipper shattered on Saturday, with a loss to Indiana, 63-61. But it took the Hoosiers all forty minutes to get there. At one point, VCU led, 57-48; but at the right moment, Indiana got the defense working and held the Rams to four points in the last twelve and a half minutes. And even so, the Hoosiers had to hold their breath while Rob Brandenburg, one of VCU’s deadly three-point shooters, missed an absolutely perfect look in the final seconds to get Indiana to the Sweet 16.

On Sunday, eleventh-seeded North Carolina State stunned three-seed Georgetown, 66-63 in their second-round Midwest regional clash. Forwards C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and Scott Wood let the Wolfpack with solid scoring at the post, while their shooters were hitting 47% of their three-point shots. The Hoyas haven’t gotten past the first two rounds since 2007, while North Carolina State is in its first Sweet 16 since standout Julius Hodge led the Wolfpack there in 2005.

The tournament's top seeds, North Carolina, Syracuse, Michigan State and Kentucky, all handily advanced to the round of 16. The only other near-surprise of the weekend involved tenth-seed Purdue and the second-seed Kansas Jayhawks. The Boilermakers held a slender lead of 60-59 in the last minute, when Purdue guard Lewis Jackson lost the ball at the top of the key. Kansas defender Elijah Johnson picked it up and returned it to the other end of the court for the score, insuring that Kansas would advance to the next round.

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