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NCAA Tournament Observations: Loss or not, Shockers for real

By Jon Rothstein | CBS Sports

Regional previews: East | South | Midwest | West | More NCAA tourney

1. Wichita State lost, but the Shockers' detractors didn't win.

This team is legit and proved just that Sunday against Kentucky. Many including myself wondered how Wichita State would respond if it played against a high quality team on a neutral floor and the Shockers responded with flying colors. Gregg Marshall's squad was one shot away from beating a Kentucky team that boasts multiple players that will play at the next level including two potential lottery picks in Julius Randle and James Young. Another to remember? That was maybe the best 40-minute game the Wildcats played all season. The big stage brought out the best in Kentucky and because of that John Calipari will lead his team against Rick Pitino and Louisville in the Sweet 16. March is good folks. March is really, really good.

2. The same Stanford lineup that people questioned early in the season is the reason the Cardinal beat Kansas and advanced to the Sweet 16.

Johnny Dawkins recalibrated his front court this past fall and opted to move Josh Huestis from power forward to small forward so he could play a bigger lineup up front featuring Huestis, Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic. An augmented front line didn't give the Cardinal as much lateral quickness and athleticism as it was used to having, but Stanford was now able to have "Syracuse" type length across the back line of its defense when it opted to use a 2-3 zone. The alignment worked when the Cardinal had a breakthrough win over UConn on Dec. 18 and it was one of the main reasons Stanford beat Kansas on Sunday. This team wasn't given much thought on Selection Sunday and most of America was actually picking New Mexico to get a crack at the Jayhawks in the Round of 32 in place of the Cardinal. Instead Stanford advanced to the NCAA Tournament's second weekend for the first time since 2008.

3. Baylor might be the most impressive team that we've seen in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

And it may not be close. Scott Drew's squad beat Creighton on Sunday by 30 points and dominated Nebraska in the Round of 64 by 14. The Bears are overwhelming teams with their length defensively and are also getting terrific mileage out of Denver transfer Royce O'Neale. The 6-foot-6 O'Neale isn't the first player people think of when they're scouting Baylor, but the athletic wing is truly embracing his role as a utility guy. In two NCAA Tournament games, O'Neale is averaging 6.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6 assists.

4. The two best guards in college basketball will square off on Friday when Iowa State faces UConn in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden.

DeAndre Kane against Shabazz Napier at the World's Most Famous Arena. Better get your popcorn ready! The 6-4 Kane took things to a different level in Sunday's 85-83 win over North Carolina and finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, including the winning layup in the final seconds. Napier meanwhile dominated the second half Saturday against Villanova and went on a surge in the second half that would make Kemba Walker envious. The senior guard finished with 25 points and has had the best season of any guard in college basketball. This will be one of the more entertaining matchups in the Sweet 16 and these two guards are a major reason why. Friday can't get here soon enough.

5. Teams that faced pressure during the regular season are thriving during the NCAA Tournament.

Look at Dayton and Stanford. The Flyers were 1-5 in the Atlantic 10 after a loss against Saint Joseph's on Jan. 29 and looked like they were destined to miss the field of 68. After that defeat, Archie Miller's team did a complete 180, but still needed a game at Saint Louis on March 5 to cement its place for an at-large bid. The NCAA Tournament is bringing out the best in Dayton because playing in do-or-die situations isn't anything new for the Flyers and the same can be said about Stanford. The Cardinal entered this season knowing that they had to reach the field of 68 to ensure that Johnny Dawkins would return as coach next year and they've thrived under difficult circumstances. Both these teams will play this week in the Sweet 16 in Memphis.

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