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NCAA men's tournament bracket reaches the Sweet 16 milestone

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

There is something about the opening days of March Madness that makes college basketball fans and nonfans perk up. The TVs at work switch to sports - the NCAA basketball tournament, men's and women's. Everybody seems to be checking their brackets, and on the court, there's often upset after upset. Let's talk about that with Nicole Auerbach, senior writer for The Athletic. Welcome.

NICOLE AUERBACH: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: OK. So I got to confess. I went to Morehead State University in Kentucky. I was pulling for them. They did great for 25 minutes before they lost to Illinois, but I had a little bit of schadenfreude - is that how you pronounce that? - that Kentucky lost. So what do you make of the opening rounds here?

AUERBACH: Well, that is going to be probably the main upset that we will remember. We'll remember Oakland and what it meant for Greg Kampe, who's been the head of that program for 40 years, and Jack Gohlke and those threes that he drained. But ultimately, those Cinderella teams did not make it through the weekend. We only have one double-digit seed making it all the way to the Sweet 16, and that's NC State, a team that has won a lot of games in the last 12 days but was on the outside looking in before the ACC tournament. Otherwise, it's been very chalky. We have all of the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds through to the Sweet 16 for just the fifth time in NCAA tournament history.

INSKEEP: Yeah. I will confess there's another team that I follow because I'm from Indiana originally. So I was following Purdue, and (laughter) I'm a little shocked they didn't lose in the first or second round. How are they doing?

AUERBACH: Yeah. Well, I think everyone was holding their breath on Purdue because of those early exits and double-digit seeds and, of course, the 16 last year. But, you know, this is a better team. They have better guard play, more experienced guard play. And Zach Edey - he's big. But as Matt Painter will tell you, that is not his only skill set. He is the national player of the year back-to-back years for a reason. And when they play through him, he does have things like a double-double by halftime. It makes it very, very difficult. But they looked fantastic in the round of 32.

INSKEEP: Why don't you describe, for those who do not follow every day, since we have nonregular fans - what's a double-double?

AUERBACH: Double-double is - it - well, it's really two of any categories. So for him, it's usually points and rebounds. But I'll tell you, I was watching UConn, the No. 1 overall seed who also looks fantastic, here in Brooklyn, and Donovan Clingan almost had 10 blocks, as well, so he almost had a triple-double with blocks, which is very, very difficult to do. But Zach Edey is a walking double-double. He is always going to score a ton of points. He's always going to get a ton of rebounds. He's 7'4". He's basically a foot taller than most players on the court.

INSKEEP: What do you make of the women's side when you've been paying attention over there?

AUERBACH: The women's tournament has been a lot of fun, as well. A lot of the higher seeds were winning in that first round, but we started to see some upsets. And on the women's side, if you are a Top 4 seed, you are hosting games. So Duke, a No. 7 seed, upset No. 2, Ohio State, on Sunday. And they did that in Columbus, so it's doubly difficult, as well. We also saw a Stanford-Iowa State game that I think was the game of the tournament or either tournament that went to overtime. And the shot-making was fantastic before the Cardinal eked it out late on Sunday night. So there's still games to be played today, including Iowa and the Hawkeyes, who looked a little shaky in round one. But it's been fantastic. It's also setting up for some incredible regional round action next week on the women's side.

INSKEEP: Iowa, including Caitlin Clark - that's cool. Thanks so much.

AUERBACH: All right. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Nicole Auerbach is senior writer with The Athletic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE SHINING MOMENT")

DAVID BARRETT: (Singing) In one shining moment, it's all on the line. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Devan Schwartz
Devan Schwartz is an editor for NPR's Morning Edition. He is an experienced audio professional who, in addition to his work with NPR, has worked with such organizations as BBC, Slate, the New York Times, and various public radio stations.

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