The Sweet 16 is so easy and so hard at the same time. All you have to do is win two games in one weekend. How hard can that be? Hard enough that 48 teams can't do it, though; following the play-in games, the cruelties of the tournament eliminate three-quarters of the participants in four days. You get a lot of unhappy press conferences.
Sweet 16s are interesting partly for who's not in them. The 1 and 2 seeds are viewed as these bracket titans, nigh-impossible to stop on the first weekend. And why not? These are teams that lost, like, twice a month at most. And yet, since the expansion of the tournament to 64 teams, only three tourney fields have failed to knock out at least one 1 or 2 seed in the first weekend. Those would be 1989, 1995, and 2009. (And '09 was a really chalky tournament, notable for featuring all four 1, 2, and 3 seeds in the Sweet 16, but the 1/2 seed carnage in 1989's S16 was something to behold.) This year didn't disappoint in the surprises department, punching out half of its 3 seeds, keeping the 12/5 faith alive, and delivering the 8th-ever 15/2 upset. The list of teams-not-here is long and distinguished, even if you don't count the names that didn't even make the tourney (UCLA, Georgetown, Marquette). Kentucky, Michigan State, Arizona - there's a lot of Final Fours represented there. (30, if you were wondering.)
This is to say that even though UVA was "supposed" to make the Sweet 16, nothing is actually supposed to happen. Ten of last year's 16 aren't here this year. And so on and so forth. It's minor compared to what could still happen, but the last senior class of the First Book of Tony does have something to hang its hat on.
-- Voters for the Wooden Award may or may not have turned in their ballots before the Butler game. If they waited, what Malcolm Brogdon did to that game might just sway them. Buddy Hield is a better scorer than Brogdon, so he's the front-runner, but goodness, how many teams in the nation possess a defensive weapon like what UVA unleashed on an unsuspecting Andrew Chrabascz? 24 points for Chrabascz before Brogdon started sitting on him, and zero field goals after.
-- Which itself is only half of the Malcolm Brogdon story. Last year, right around this time, I was positing that Brogdon could take over games if he wanted to, but didn't because he didn't know he could. I quote from my own season review: "He has it in him to be that clutch scorer who's there when you absolutely, positively need a bucket, and he's flashed that ability. If he figures that out, UVA might not lose a close game all year." Well, UVA did lose close games - all of their losses are close - but the contrast between then and now couldn't be plainer. UVA lost last year in this very same round because 1) they couldn't buy a three and 2) they didn't have anyone to say "eff it I'm goin' deep." Brogdon has discovered his Eff-It Mode. This is a guy who plays 39 out of 40 minutes, rarely fouls, destroys your best scorer, and can't be fouled, left any room to shoot a jumper, or successfully guarded by anyone either smaller or bigger than him.
-- This comes to attention partly because the sideline reporter for the Butler game actually asked Tony an intelligent question that elicited an insightful answer (about the Brogdon-on-Chrabascz matchup), which is a huge step up from the usual "tell me how you feel" nonsense. Combined with the fact that Mike Kryz-that-guy actually gave his own sideline interview, I suspect something in the Official Powerade.
-- Putting Louisville in the bracket would've shuffled the whole thing, changed all the matchups, etc., so it'd be wrong to say, "just think how well the ACC would be doing if Louisville were here too." But it is legitimate to be impressed that the ACC is 6 of 16 without even giving a chance to one of the top ten KenPom teams in the country.
-- I got my first look at the disappointing lacrosse team this past weekend. It was not the disaster I expected, obviously, and two incredibly close losses to the top two teams in the ACC are a bummer, but also a clue that there's still a flicker of brilliance, somewhere. One thing I didn't see was the goaltending that has been the #1 gripe on the boardz. Matt Barrett was excellent, which you don't even need to have watched any lacrosse to know is a 180 from his previous outings. It offered slight hope that a tourney berth can be salvaged, but UVA would have to win - oh, probably every game from here on out to make that happen.