It seems like this sentence is written year after year, but once again, the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament was one to remember. Buzzer-beaters. Upsets. Comeback-wins. Cinderella stories. There was a little bit of something for everyone.
The tournament started off with a close game as No. 13 UNC-Wilmington gave No. 4 Duke just about all they could handle before Duke pulled away late to advance in the first round of the tournament. The first upset of the weekend came courtesy of the No. 12 Yale Bulldogs as they took down No. 5 Baylor. No. 5 Purdue squandered a 14-point lead with five minutes remaining before eventually falling to No. 12 Little Rock Arkansas in double OT. To close out the first day of the tournament, No. 11 Wichita State knocked off No. 6 Arizona while No. 11 Gonzaga took down No. 6 Seton Hall.
On the second day of the tournament, March Madness earned its name as four double-digit seeds advanced in the first five games of the day. No upset was more stunning than No. 15 Middle Tennessee taking down No. 2 Michigan State in the first round by a score of 90-81. Michigan State was second to the Kansas Jayhawks as the favorite to win the whole tournament. Instead, the Spartans were sent home on the second day. And the upsets weren’t done yet.
No. 14 Stephen F. Austin dominated No. 3 West Virginia on their way to a 70-56 win while No. 11 Northern Iowa defeated No. 6 Texas on a half-court buzzer-beater from Paul Jesperson in what could be considered one of the greatest shots to end an NCAA tournament game in history. No. 8 St. Joseph’s survived a late surge from No. 9 Cincinnati to close out the second day of the tournament and to finalize the matchups in the round of 32.
The second round of the tournament began on Saturday morning as No. 3 Miami sent home No.11 Wichita State and Duke ended Yale’s Cinderella run after defeating the Bulldogs 71-64. No. 5 Indiana, No. 4 Iowa State, No. 1 Virginia, No. 1 Kansas and No. 1 North Carolina all advanced in the second round on Saturday and No. 11 Gonzaga continued their remarkable run after throttling No. 3 Utah 82-59.
The tournament was already off to a great start. Upsets were happening left and right. Ten double-digit seeds advanced to the second round, which was the most in tournament history. Nobody thought March Madness could get any better. And then Sunday happened.
The day started off a little slow as No. 2 Villanova handled No. 7 Iowa with ease on their way to an 87-68 win to clinch their sport in the Sweet 16. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin squared off against No. 6 Notre Dame. Throughout the course of the game, SFA and Notre Dame went back and forth with no team having larger than a seven-point lead. Notre Dame found themselves down by one with 11 seconds left. After a missed shot from Demetrius Jackson and a missed tip-in from Zach Auguste, freshman Rex Pflueger tipped-in a rebound with 1.4 seconds left to seal the victory for the Fighting Irish.
No. 2 Oklahoma held off a vicious comeback by No. 10 VCU to win 85-81 while No. 10 Syracuse knocked off No. 15 Middle Tennessee 75-50 to end Middle Tennessee’s run in the tournament. In the late games on Sunday, No. 5 Maryland defeated No. 13 Hawaii and No 1. Oregon ousted No. 8 St. Joseph’s 69-64. The two most thrilling games of the night featured No. 11 Northern Iowa taking on No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 2 Xavier facing off against No. 7 Wisconsin.
Northern Iowa was in control for the majority of the game over Texas A&M until the last minute when things began to unravel. In the last 40 seconds of the game, Northern Iowa held a 12-point lead before Texas A&M forced four turnovers and went on a 14-2 and tied the game with seconds left to force OT. After one OT period wasn’t enough to break the tie, Texas A&M started the second OT on fire and never cooled down as they defeated the Northern Iowa Panthers 92-88 to move on to the Sweet 16.
In the Xavier vs. Wisconsin game, Xavier dominated the first half but Wisconsin hung around enough to make the second half of the game close. With under one minute to play in the game, and Wisconsin trailing 63-60, Wisconsin junior Bronson Koenig hit a deep three from the top of the key to tie the game with under 30 seconds left to play. Xavier was charged with an offensive foul and Wisconsin got the ball back with just seconds left to play. After a timeout, Wisconsin inbounded the ball to Koenig who took a few dribbles to baseline, took a step-back three pointer with a hand in his face, and hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win the game for Wisconsin and send them to the Sweet 16.
March Madness picks up again on Thursday night with the four of the eight Sweet 16 games to be played while the remainder will be finished on Friday night. Saturday and Sunday will play host to the Elite Eight games and by Sunday night, the Final Four will be set. If the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament continues at the same pace the first, it’s going to be another fun weekend.