The first round of March Madness is the best two days of the year — and we deserve it after a year without it.
March Madness round one — the only time of the year where you spend two twelve-hour days glued to your TV sets flipping between four different channels as a basket case of emotion literally accomplishing nothing at work the entire day.
This is our glorious reality.
Let’s breakdown some of the biggest happenings in the past two days.
1. COVID impacts the tournament
The virus was quick to strike on Saturday as the round one game between Oregon and VCU was canceled due to multiple positive tests for VCU in the last 48 hours:
“It was devastating, it was heartbreaking. No dry eyes,” Head Coach Mike Rhoades said, his voice thick. “This is what you dream of as a college player and a coach. To get it taken away like this, it was a heartbreaking moment in their young lives.VCU Coach Mike Rhodes on his team bowing out of the tournament
VCU finished in second place of the Atlantic 10 and lost in the title game to St. Bonaventure. It’s so sad for these kids but we all must ask: could it happen in the Final Four?
2. Game of the tournament (so far)
I believe it was the last game — a battle of Texas teams where the 14th seeded underdogs of Abilene Christian took out the third-seeded Texas Longhorns 53-52 in a scrappy game.
While trailing 51-49 with less than 15 seconds left, Texas’ Andrew Jones hit a three-pointer to put the Longhorns ahead. Wildcats forward Joe Pleasant was then fouled on an offensive rebound with 1.2 seconds left. The 59% free throw shooter sunk the Longhorns.
This was a tough loss for Texas who came into this game as a trendy final four pick.
The coolest part of this game? Lisa Byington became the first woman in history to do play-by-play for a March madness game. Her quote at the end of this game should go in the history books:
“BELIEVE THE UNBELIEVABLE!”
2. Biggest Surprise
You may not have thought about it but it was stunning that Wisconsin decimated North Carolina 85-62 on Friday Night.
Wisconsin hit 51-percent of their shots including 13 for 27 from three-point land while UNC only hit 38.5 percent of theirs. Wisconsin also out-physicalized and rebounded the more physically opposing Tar Heels.
Maybe all Wisconsin needed was to finally get out of their grueling Big 10 schedule. The Badgers were a preseason Top 10 team and finally played like one.
3. Biggest Disappointment
By mid-day on Friday afternoon my bracket was busted.
Sadly, my final four pick, the Ohio State Buckeyes, were stunned by 15th seed Oral Roberts 75-72 in overtime. The Buckeyes trailed most of the second half and missed two three-pointers in the final seconds to send the game into double-overtime. ESPN put this in context:
In ESPN’s Men’s Tournament Challenge, more than 95% of the brackets (nearly 14 million) picked the Buckeyes, who were 16-point favorites. It was the biggest upset since UMBC’s first-round victory over top-seeded Virginia in 2018 as a plus-20.5 underdog and the eighth biggest since 1985.Quote by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf
The biggest disappointment of all was how a fan treated Ohio State forward EJ Liddell post-game.
This is simply messed the f— up. No one deserves this type of treatment, especially someone like EJ Liddell who poured out his heart and soul for Ohio State.
4. The Pac-12 stunned everyone
The Pac-12 stunned everyone this weekend finishing 5-0 in first-round games. Who would have thought that this mediocre conference would have had such March madness success?
It is the “first time in 12 years the conference has advanced that many teams into the Round of 32.” Moving forward the outlook appears promising as UCLA looks poised for its third tourney win, Oregon State is on fire, Colorado beat Georgetown by over 20 points and USC faces a Kansas team.
5. Who will fit the glass slipper?
Opponents should fear the Golden Eagles. They are experienced and boast the NCAA’s leading scorer in Max Abrams, who scored 29 points against the Buckeyes. Forward Kevin Obanor also had a great 30 point, 11-rebound stat line in the game.
The top match-ups in the Round of 32
Looking ahead- here are four match-ups you should keep your eyes on:
8 Loyola Chicago vs. #1 Illinois; 12 pm EST on Sunday
The “Battle for Illinois” sets up the Fighting Illini, winners of 15 of their last 16 to take on Sister Jean and the Ramblers of Loyola Chicago. Illinois looks to make the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2005. The Ramblers’ only match-up vs. a top conference opponent was their 14-point loss to a Wisconsin team which Illinois beat twice.
#8 Wisconsin vs. #1 Baylor, 3:40 pm EST on Sunday
The Badgers take on the two-loss Baylor Bears who are third in the nation at 84.4 points per game and 1st nationally in draining about 42 percent from three. Wisconsin will have to use their experience (four 23-year-olds, two 22-year-olds) and continue their hot shooting to keep up.
#11 Syracuse vs. #3 West Virginia; 5:15 pm EST on Sunday
A match-up here between two former Big East rivals. This is what Syracuse does — plays mediocre all season, sneaks into the tournament, and makes a huge run. Legendary West Virginia coach Bob Huggins won his 500th career game on Friday and looks to keep the momentum going.
#6 Texas Tech vs. #3 Arkansas; 6:10 pm EST on Sunday
This is a classic offense (Arkansas) vs. defense (Texas Tech) battle. Several of Texas Tech’s players were in the Championship two years ago and they hope that will be the difference vs. an inexperienced Arkansas team.
#8 LSU vs. #1 Michigan; 7:10 EST on Monday
LSU is playing their best ball of the season coming off of a 15 point win vs. St. Bonaventure where four of their players were in double figures. This will be the first huge test for Michigan minus their best defender Isaiah Livers. WIll #1 go down?
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