[title_box title=”March Sadness: First and second round of NCAA Tournament”]
So, the first two rounds of the tournament are over and they have been nothing short of incredible. There have been upsets galore, and your bracket is surely busted. There is no use in arguing otherwise. I can 100 percent guarantee your bracket is all but done for. It was fun while it lasted. However, if you are one of those very few that still maintains a solid bracket, then congratulations on being lucky. There is no way you could have predicted this.
The Saddest of the Sad
It only took us until the First Four to have our first return customer in Vanderbilt. Although the Commodores took a very bad loss to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, they still earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed with a play-in game against the Wichita State Shockers. In a shockingly one-sided game, the Shockers shocked the Commodores and set themselves up with a first-round date against Arizona.
When filling out your bracket, everyone knows to pick a 12-over-5 upset in the first round. In fact, only three times in the past 31 years have all the No. 5 seeds advanced to the round of 32. There were no shortage of quality No. 12 seeds this year, with the Yale Bulldogs being one of them. For the first time in 54 years, the Bulldogs were going dancing. Yale had the upper hand over Baylor for much of the game, but things got interesting when the Bears made it a one-point game with 16 seconds to go. The Bulldogs held on by the skin of their teeth, setting the stage for an epic battle of the nerds against the Duke Blue Devils in the round of 32 (all in good fun, we all know they are going to be the ones running the world one day. Good job being smart, Duke and Yale).
The other No. 12 seed some people might have chosen for a first-round upset was Arkansas-Little Rock. The Trojans had an incredible season, losing only four games. They would play the Purdue Boilermakers, who were fresh off a loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. The styles of both teams differ vastly. Little Rock, one of the smallest teams in college basketball, had quite the challenge with Purdue and its incredibly talented seven-footers in AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas. The Trojans kept the game close in the first half, but Purdue was able to build a 63-49 lead with five minutes remaining in the game. Little Rock picked up the intensity and clawed their way back into the game before Josh Hagins made a vicious step-back three pointer from the March Madness logo to send the game into overtime. The game would eventually go into a second overtime, where the Trojans sealed the victory. Yet again, David prevails over Goliath.
As you may remember, West Virginia is sometimes referred to as “Press Virginia” for the full-court pressure they put on their opponents the entire game. Earning a very respectable No. 3 seed, the Mountaineers would matchup against Stephen F Austin University. To be perfectly honest, I do not know a lot about Stephen F. Austin, and I can only hope the F stands for “FPress” (the F is silent, of course) because they might be one of the few teams that does it better than West Virginia. One of the few things I do know about the Lumberjacks, however, is that they have made it to the tournament the past few years and have looked very good. I also know their star player, Thomas Walkup, embodies his team’s mascot very well. The game was very close during the first half, but coming out of the locker rooms, SFA went nuts, building a ten-point lead and never looking back. Walkup was key in the victory, scoring 33 of the Lumberjacks’ 70 points. Pretty much the only way this game could have been any more exciting is if the two mascots battled it out in a UFC match.
However, the Lumberjacks would lose a heartbreaker to Notre Dame in the round of 32. Down by one, the Fighting Irish got a last second tip-in for the lead and the win.
Our next repeat customer is one of those two MVC teams we actually know in Northern Iowa, but instead of experiencing the sadness, they caused it. Their first-round matchup with the Texas Longhorns was a back-and-forth affair that came down to the wire. With just three seconds remaining and down by two, Texas’ Isaiah Taylor drained a contested floater to tie the game at 72. It looked like the game was headed to overtime, but remember what happened in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship? That’s right, a buzzer-beater to avoid overtime. However, instead of a lucky bounce inside the arc for two points, Paul Jesperson banked in a half-court shot, and unlike the Buddy Hield shot from the last installment, this one counted. Even a new head coach cannot keep Texas from early tournament exits apparently.
The Panthers appeared headed for a Sweet 16 appearance after controlling much of its game against the No. 3 seed Texas A&M Aggies. However, the Aggies put together one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history, going on a 14-2 run in the last 30 seconds of regulation to send what looked like a sure win for Northern Iowa into overtime. The overtime period was nuts. Banked three-point shots and thunderous dunks happened one after the other, but unfortunately for Panther fans, Paul Jesperson could not hit another half-court heave, and Northern Iowa was sent home heartbroken.
While this was happening, there was another game coming down to the wire between Xavier and Wisconsin. With 13 seconds left, Bronson Koenig made a three-pointer to tie the game at 63. Xavier was in a good situation, having an ample amount of time to get the ball down the court, set up a play, and score. However, with only five seconds left, Edmond Sumner was called for an offensive foul, giving the Badgers a chance to win. After a timeout, the ball went to the hot hands of Koenig, who hit another three for the win and the Bill Murray tears were flowing.
Michigan State was one of the favorites to cut down the nets in Houston when it was all said and done. However, Middle Tennessee State decided they did not care about your bracket. The Blue Raiders quickly jumped out to a 15-2 lead and never trailed for the entirety of the game. The game would get close at the end, but Middle Tennessee was able to handle the pressure with ease, and just like the College Football Playoff, Sparty made an early exit from title contention. Unfortunately for Blue Raider fans, the celebration was short lived. Syracuse stomped them in the round of 32.
Hawaii beat the No. 4 seed Cal pretty handily. I only gave the Golden Bears an honorable mention because it has been a rough week for them. After firing an assistant coach and losing a key player to sickness, they have been through enough lately.
At almost the exact same time that Northern Iowa hit a half-court buzzer beater to beat Texas, another very close game ended, but we were all too shocked at the Panthers to really care. Cincinnati’s Octavius Ellis showed that there really are no such thing as style points in college basketball, holding onto his potential game-tying dunk just a little too long. Just stick with the layup next time, buddy.
More March, more madness, more sadness. Make sure you stay tuned next week for the Sweet Sixteen edition of March Sadness!
Featured image by Jeff Turner
Edited by David Bradford
Matt is a sophomore journalism and electronic media major at the University of Tennessee. He enjoys watching any and all sports, and is an active member in the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. Follow him on twitter @mattraymond271