First Weekend of March Madness Lives Up to the Hype

By  Seth Miller

The first weekend of March Madness was fraught with upsets, unexpected blowouts, and tight contests. From a couple of twelve seeds making an impact in the tournament to a resilient Mercer team who would not give up, this weekend of basketball was some of the best tournament play in years.

To recap, the South region saw 12th seeded Stephen F. Austin take down a former Cinderella story in VCU in the first round. Also, Dayton pulled the upset on in-state rival Ohio State by a single point as OSU senior Aaron Craft missed a last-second shot at the buzzer. The Stanford Cardinal team outlasted New Mexico in an upset to set up a match-up in the second round with Kansas. Rounding out the upsets, 9th-seeded Pitt demolished a Colorado team that did not belong in the tournament.

In the first round of the East region, 12th-seeded Harvard was the only team to pull an upset, as they defeated 5th-seeded Cincinnati. The only other match-ups worth noting in the first round were tight games between North Carolina and Providence, and Connecticut and Saint Joseph’s, respectively. In the West region, 5th-seeded Saint Louis rallied from a 16-point deficit to defeat 12th-seeded North Carolina State, who missed 15 free throws. Two upsets occurred in Raleigh, N.C., where 11th-seeded Tennessee cruised past 6th-seeded Massachusetts, and 14th-seeded Mercer showed a 3rd-seeded Duke team that experience beats talent. This region showed where the selection committee made mistakes in that Tennessee should have been ranked higher as well as Kentucky and Louisville. It also showed that UMASS and Saint Louis were over ranked. 

Finally, in the West region, North Dakota State showed amazing resilience as they pulled a 12-5 upset. Weber State gave top-seeded Arizona a run for their money as Arizona escaped with a 9-point victory. BYU and Nebraska were clearly over matched as they both lost by double digits.

The second round saw a couple of upsets as Dayton flew past 3rd-seeded Syracuse and into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in at least three decades, and Standard and their colorful band outlasted 2nd seeded Kansas. The only upset in the East region happened when the UCONN Huskies mushed their way into the Sweet Sixteen behind the resourceful play of Shabazz Napier. The biggest upset of the second round happened in the Midwest region as 8th-seeded Kentucky shocked the top-ranked Wichita State Shockers. Along with the close games and upsets, there were a few blowouts, including Tennessee’s 20-point walloping of Mercer, Arizona’s 23-point blowout of 8th- seeded Gonzaga, and 6th-seeded Baylor’s 30- point destruction of 3rd-seeded Creighton. The Creighton game also saw the end of one of the greatest college basketball careers ever as Doug McDermott ends his career 5th on the all-time scoring list and with a great nickname in “Dougie McBuckets.”

The Sweet 16 is complete with storylines, rivalries, and intense matchups. From the 10-11 seeded matchup between Dayton and Stanford to the UK-UofL rivalry, this weekend will be one for the ages.