The first weekend of the Big Dance, which the NCAA has, in its infinite wisdom, christened the “second and third rounds,” produced even more upsets than usual this year. And if you’re anything like me, your bracket is covered in more red ink than the essay you blew off to plot how to win your bracket pool.

While busted brackets and another early exit for the Hoyas have much of the Hilltop tuning out of the tournament, there are still plenty of compelling Sweet 16 matchups. But to understand these games, we should first examine what most of us failed to predict in last weekend’s biggest upsets.

Duke: Last week I was riding high on the Blue Devils. Because they lost to Lehigh, I now look like a chump. One thing that I should have noticed was Duke’s offensive struggles when the three-ball wasn’t falling. The Blue Devils had six losses this season, and in four of those they shot worse than 30 percent from deep. A bad night shooting from long range compromised the team every time — and against the Mountain Hawks, Duke made only 23 percent of its treys.

Florida State: Another ACC team, the Seminoles have surprised a lot of people in the past few weeks. They started off with a win in their first ACC tournament game, which seemed to give them a lot of momentum going into Nashville. Then they snuck past St. Bonaventure despite being outrebounded and giving up too many turnovers. But their luck ran out in their next game against superior competition from Cincinnati. Granted, the Bearcats were a bad matchup, because Florida State senior forward Xavier Gibson isn’t stellar even when he’s not being defended by the Bearcats powerful senior center, Yancy Gates. Bad rebounding, too many turnovers and untimely fouls finally caught up with the Seminoles.

Missouri: The Tigers seized the Big 12 title by thumping Baylor, which makes this upset the hardest to explain. In fact, Missouri had lost only four games all year, and three of those came on the road. Two of the losses came against Kansas State, though, and this weekend’s tournament loss to Norfolk State was only possible because Norfolk took a page straight out of K-State coach Frank Martin’s playbook. The Tigers and the Spartans both shot above 50 percent from the field, but the difference was in rebounds and second shots. Norfolk State grabbed 35 boards, 12 more than Missouri. They also took 59 shots, making 32, while the Tigers went 29-of-55. That was just enough to give Norfolk State the edge it needed for a two-point win.

Michigan: Ohio’s penchant for shocking upsets should be well known to Georgetown fans, so it wasn’t a surprise that they were ready to face Michigan. What was surprising, however, was how unprepared Michigan was for the Bobcats’ perimeter defense. Ohio held Michigan to only 30 percent from three-point land, and the Wolverines couldn’t find much inside the line. Michigan Head Coach John Beilein tried to lay the blame on freshman guard Trey Burke, who took some ill-advised shots as the game wound down, but the responsibility is on Beilein for poor planning and bad game management. Overall, Ohio had Michigan’s measure.

But I’m calling a mulligan on last week’s projections. To redeem myself, I’m offering up this lightning round of picks for tonight’s Sweet 16 matchups.

Kentucky vs. Indiana: It would make a fantastic story if lightning struck twice for the Indiana Hoosiers, but it is unlikely away from their home court at Assembly Hall and without senior guard Verdell Jones III, who is injured. Although Kentucky keeps games close for too long, vengeful basketball gods are the only roadblocks to an eighth NCAA banner. Pick: Kentucky win.

Baylor vs. Xavier: This game is intriguing and should be a great offensive show, marred only slightly by the Bears’ heinous uniforms. Xavier had to work hard to win its previous tournament games against the struggling Notre Dame and the overmatched Lehigh. Baylor, on the other hand, has seemed dominant, especially over Colorado. Pick: Leaning Baylor.

Kansas vs. North Carolina State: The Wolfpack’s  magical run is about to come to a screeching halt. NC State is solid, as Georgetown fans know only too well, but it has holes that Kansas is good enough to exploit. It may be close, but junior forward Thomas Robinson will gut it out for Kansas. Pick: Kansas win.

North Carolina vs. Ohio: This tournament is set up perfectly for the Ohio Bobcats to be this year’s Butler, and they couldn’t have caught a bigger break than they did with the injury that UNC sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall sustained to his wrist. Still, the Tar Heels have played gutsy basketball all year and have a lot more talent than the Bobcats do. Pick: Flip a coin.

Evan Hollander is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and deputy sports editor of The Hoya. TOP OF THE KEY appears every Friday.

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