If your bracket looks anything like mine, then you're probably trying to find a hole to crawl into right now. Not only did the first weekend of March Madness action provide us a flurry of great games and exhilarating moments, it also took out two top seeds while wiping out almost all the Cinderella teams! Let's look back at a week that totally blew our minds.
THURSDAY RECAP - Nothing To See Here…
There were two major, tournament rocking upsets on the opening day of March Madness. The first was when Yale somehow outworked and outperformed Baylor in a 5-v-12 matchup that saw the Bears come in as -5.5 favorites only to lose 75-79. The Ivy League has done unfathomably well in the first round of the tournament. We should've maybe seen this coming.
What people didn't expect was a plucky Seton Hall squad, who had fought their way through the home stretch to earn a sixth seed, to get blown out by the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Leading the way was the unstoppable Domantis Sabonis, who took over the game completely with 21 points, 16 boards and 2 blocks.
Outside of that, it felt like a normal day of exciting basketball. Kentucky wailed on Stony Brook, Utah beat Fresno State with Duke also holding off UNC Wilmington. Fourth seeded Iowa State also made short work of the upstart Iona Gaels.
The rest of the day continued to roll on as expected as a pair of nine seeds toppled their eighth seeded rivals. Butler edged Texas Tech in a game that was truly difficult to care about, while UConn and Kevin Ollie continued to roll in the tournament without a worry over Colorado.
There were some games that were tighter than some expected them to be. Certainly, nobody could've seen Buffalo putting up the fight they did against the Miami Hurricanes in a 3-v-14 matchup, with the Bills barely losing 72-79.
Easily the most humorous matchup of the day was Little Rock and Purdue, with the latter notched as a 5th seed and coming in as an under-the-radar team. Purdue just couldn't close out Little Rock who posted a dramatic upset and carried on the tradition of the twelfth seeds beating the fifths. Purdue was handed multiple opportunities to win that game and blew every single one of them.
Perhaps the most exciting finish happened when the ninth seeded Providence Friars rallied to edge USC despite the struggles of their celebrated star, Kris Dunn. The Big East Player of the Year was shaky throughout the contest and was bailed out by teammate Rodney Bullock, who had a 16-and-10 line that included he last second, game winning shot.
The top seeds also decimated the sixteen seeds, with Virginia capsizing Hampton by a score of 81-45. The Kansas Jayhawks, who entered as the tournament favorites, also crushed Austin Peay 105-79. UNC cremated Florida Gulf Coast's "Dunk City" from starting up again in 2016.
Wichita State provided some late-day thrills, with the Arizona Wildcats falling to a play-in team expectantly. It's hard to call the Shockers' win an upset. They were the top ranked defensive team in the country heading in to the tournament.
Outside of Gonzaga and Wichita State, there wasn't too much to scream to mama about on the Thursday. It seems that the basketball gods saved their best for Friday…
FRIDAY RECAP - Upsets! Get Your Upsets!
Friday's ring of games was what everyone expects and hopes out of the NCAA Tournament, and there's almost too much action to cover here all at once. Let's just get the normal stuff out of the way first, so we can concentrate on the better stuff…
The top seed Oregon Ducks shortened the tournament stay of play-in team Holy Cross in a 91-52 barnstorming where the Crusaders never stood a chance.
The second seeds also turned in huge performances on Friday, with Xavier cruising to an easy win against Webster, while second-seeded Villanova caved the world in on NC Asheville. Oklahoma also posted back-to-back halves of 41 points against Cal-Bakersfield in an easy win.
Texas A&M also flexed their offensive muscle by scoring the most points on the day with a 92-65 dismantling Green Bay during the Friday set. Syracuse laid waste to the Dayton Flyers. The #10 VCU Rams upended the #7 Oregon State Beavers pretty soundly in a 75-67 victory.
Notre Dame clawed back from a 12-point deficit to deliver Michigan a deathblow in the second half. That should've been one of the more thrilling performances of the day. But it wasn't even close.
The first big upset of the day belonged to Hawaii, who deafeated the highly touted California Bears, who were not only a -5-5 point favorite in the matchup, but also an outside preference by some to go all the way based on their sheer talent alone. It was a lot to take in, especially with many pushing Cal to a meeting with Kansas in the Sweet 16 at the very least.
There was little - if any - time to breath as Michigan State got erased by Middle Tennessee in what will be remembered as the biggest upset of the 2016 March Madness tournament. It was a +25.5 point cover by the unheralded Blue Raiders against a team that many had pushed to the Final Four and the national championship. What a short lived run for a team that Tom Izzo referred to as one of the best he's ever coached.
The #7 Iowa Hawkeyes also survived a barnburner with #10 Temple thanks to a tip-in off quite possibly the worst shot I've ever seen to try and win a game. It was the first buzzer beater of the whole tournament and wouldn't be the last of the day.
While a buzzer beating tip saved one team, it also led to the demise of another as Cincinnati lost to St. Joseph's when a last minute tip of their own was waved off. Poor kid was caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Steven F. Austin (not to be confused with Stone Cold Steve Austin) also sent third-seeded West Virginia packing in the opening round with a stunning second half performance to win 70-56 in a blowout against a top notch defense.
Yet with all this going on, this day belonged to Paul Jesperson, whose half-court heave to save Northern Illinois against Texas in the biggest upset of the day was a moment to remember. Texas had just provided a buzzer beater of their own just one second prior to send the game in to over time, and Jesperson did what nobody expected as an 11th seed knocked off another 4th seed to close out the Round of 64.
SATURDAY RECAP - Death To Cinderella
The favorites got their revenge on Cinderella in the next round. Wichita State (which shouldn't have been playing in a play-in game to begin with) succumbed to too much basketball in a tight time frame by losing to Miami 65-57. Duke also ended the party against Yale in a matchup of the two most unlikeable fan bases in all of college basketball. Little Rock also crumbled against Iowa State as well.
The one-seeds continued their dominance with Virginia pasting Butler and Kansas bulldozing UConn 73-61, handing Kevin Ollie his first tournament loss ever. The UNC Tar Heels also completely tooled the Providence Friars, who were left with their pants down for the entire second half. UNC won 85-66.
That would've set up a huge matchup of UNC-Kentucky in the next round, but the Indiana Hoosiers had other plans in mind, dousing the Wildcats with a 73-67 win thanks in large part to Yogi Ferrell's 18 points. It was an inspired effort by Kentucky's guard Tyler Ulis who had 27 points, but Indiana was just too big and brawny up front.
Domantas Sabonis continued to emerge as a big to watch with another double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, helping Gonzaga roast Utah in a blowout. Once again, it feels like Gonzaga has found its tournament feet and are ready to slip those glass slippers on as a darling, eleventh seed.
SUNDAY RECAP - A Comeback For The Ages
On Friday night, Northern Iowa provided one of the most memorable moments in tournament history. But on Sunday, they suffered one of the worst collapses ever witnessed in March Madness. Leading by 14 points, with just 44 seconds remaining, Northern Iowa shouldn't have had anything to worry about but themselves.
And man did they kill themselves badly. The Aggies swarmed and almost every Panther that touched the ball had a complete melt down. Turnover after turnover gave the Aggies a chance to chip away at the lead until it was no more. Two overtimes later and the Panthers still couldn't find a way to win. The Aggies claimed the 92-88 victory.
Then Notre Dame did the same thing, clipping Stephen F. Austin with a last-second tip-in that basically stole the last, ultimate chance we had for an underdog story. The Irish punched their ticket to the Sweet 16 and left Stephen F. Austin in the dust.
Joining them on Sunday were two teams that had the benefit of upsets in the previous round. Maryland sent Hawaii back to paradise in a 73-60 win, while Syracuse had the boon of avoiding Michigan State. They pummeled Middle Tennessee 75-50.
Oklahoma also held fast against a hard charging VCU Rams team that simply would not go away. Leading by 13 points at the half felt like a done deal for the Sooners, but VCU continued to be a provider of tournament thrills by outscoring the Sooners throughout the second half. If not for the 36 points scored by Sooner stud Buddy Hield, the Sooners may be on their way back to the Midwest right now without a return ticket. Instead, they're on to the Sweet 16.
The highest seed to fall on Sunday was Xavier, a team cheered on by Bill Murray and many across the nation. Bronson Koenig wasn't having it, nailing a dagger from the corner to win a game that was otherwise on its way to overtime. His buzzer beater silenced Xavier, and the best part was easily that Koenig nailed it in front of his own bench.
St. Joseph's came close to providing the upset of the day with a narrow loss to Oregon, but couldn't close out the details in the end. They lost 64-69 in what ended up being one of the hardest fought games I watched all weekend. It might be the win that galvanizes the Ducks to the Final Four.
All I know is that I was just happy to see it all come to an end. I'm getting too old for this stuff.