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NCAA Tournament picks up steam just before Sweet 16

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NCAA Tournament 2017 scores: Friday's 1st-round bracket updates, upsets and recaps

We're down to the round of 16 as the 2017 NCAA Tournament continues on Thursday. As well, No. 1 Gonzaga faces No. 4 West Virginia as a 3-point favorite, while No. 3 UCLA battles No. 2 Kentucky as a narrow 1-point favorite. But it's the bottom half of the bracket commanding the most attention with 7-seed MI, possibly the hottest team in the field.

The Cardinals led by 9 in the second half, but MI took control the rest of the way. Tom Izzo's Spartans took the lead with 4:19 remaining in the first half and never looked back, sending the Hurricanes packing 78-58. Now it has three teams in regional semifinals, matching last year's total. Sadly that comes to a close today, but not without a tremendous slate of games that has the potential to give us the most exhilarating and eventful day of the Big Dance so far.

You see, the thing about the NCAA Tournament is that it's single elimination. "So, you have to accept it".

OR and Quinnipiac are crashing the Sweet 16. A lower court decided that the NCAA deprives men's basketball and football players of the monetary value of their names, images and likenesses when used for commercial purposes, an appeals court confirmed that the NCAA is not above antitrust law and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. If it weren't for a Big East Tournament win over Butler, Xavier sitting on their couch watching the Rounds of 64 and 32 would have been a very real possibility.

First, they beat No. 6 Maryland on the back of stellar shooting all around. Yesterday, which featured upset losses by a pair of No. 2 seeds in Duke and Louisville, drew 11.9 million viewers, up 34% compared with a year ago and the most-watched first Sunday since 1993.

It's on to the weekend that many consider the defining mark of a season. Those one-loss teams (and the schools that beat them) include San Francisco in 1955 (UCLA), Texas Western in 1966 (Seattle), UCLA in 1968 (Houston), UCLA in 1969 (USC), UCLA in 1971 (Notre Dame) and North Carolina State in 1974 (UCLA). The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in seven years behind Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes - two holdovers from a run to the national-title game in 2015.

"An honest mistake", Northwestern coach Chris Collins called it.

Finally, No. 5 seed Virginia matched up with No. 4 seed Florida in the second round.

That is, until the second half started.

Last year's tournament was filled with upsets, buzzer beaters and spectacular individual performances.

Collins and his kids deserved better on this play.

With three teams headed to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen, the Big Ten conference is proving doubters wrong - and leaving a pile of busted brackets in its wake.

The ACC went 7-8 in the opening week of action, but given how they were seeded and the expectations, it was worse than that. The Cowboys and Wolverines put on an offensive showcase, but it was the hot shooting of MI in the second half that allowed John Beilein's group to advance. His mistake - he thought they were down 1 - sent McIntosh to the free throw line for the go-ahead points with 14.6 seconds left.

The best moment? The celebration afterwards.

The Bruins are a joy to watch, the highest-scoring team in the country, led by fab freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, who had 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in a second-round win over Cincinnati.

Tar Heels fans are probably feeling pretty good after the way everything played out on Sunday. In other words, Florida and SC are one victory away from an All-SEC East Region final. Basically, there may have been the same number of upsets two years ago, but the upsets were more fun, and the games were tighter and more competitive. Compare that to Greenville, N.C., where the presence of both the No. 1-seed North Carolina and No. 2-seeded Duke (now gone) bumped the average ticket price to $509 and put the cost of getting into the building at $131.

No. 2 seed and reigning ACC Tournament champions Duke had no trouble in its first-round game, routing No. 15 seed Troy 87-65.

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