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Running Through the Madness From a Wild First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament

No sporting event is like the NCAA Tournament. I wrote this minutes before seeing that Dan had just posted an article saying the same thing. If you don’t like it, I’m pretty sure there is something wrong with you. Most likely you’ve never really given it a chance. You’ll probably be won over. People use the “one and done” term when describing players who attend college for just one year, but the magic of this tournament is the one and done format. Single elimination. Only football provides this drama, but teams play once each week. There are fewer teams and games.

Villanova started off the weekend by running away from Alabama after a competitive first half. The second game in Pittsburgh saw Duke handle Rhode Island. Kentucky overpowered Buffalo. Then, things got interesting. Loyola-Chicago defeated Tennessee in dramatic fashion. Sister Jean’s guys seemed to benefit from divine intervention as the winning shot bounced around and fell through with seconds remaining. Her story has been getting even more attention than the UMBC upset, and Loyola-Chicago is not done yet.

Kansas outscored Seton Hall in a typical bad beat game. The Pirates hit Kansas with a classic backdoor. Gonzaga beat Ohio State in a wild contest. The Zags went up 15-0, fell behind, and rallied back with a late 11-0 spurt to go ahead for good.

Texas Tech knocked out Florida in a close game. Neither team went up by double digits. Texas Tech’s biggest lead was 58-50, but Florida came back and tied the game at 64. Michigan provided some excitement by beating Houston on a buzzer beater. You have heard of brackets being busted. That shot saved many brackets. This ending showed us the ecstasy of hitting a winning shot, but also the agony of missing free throws that could have won it for Houston.

On to Sunday. After Purdue held off Butler, Syracuse upset Michigan State. The Orange have quite a following. They remind me of Notre Dame. So many fans, but a lot of haters as well. Jim Boeheim did it again. His zone has been frustrating opponents for decades. It was like pulling teeth, but Syracuse held on.

There was so much more to come. Texas A&M routed North Carolina. The game was in Charlotte. One of the themes in this tournament has been underdogs blowing out favorites. Not often in the grand scheme of things, but Arizona and Virginia were also defeated by large margins when heavily favored.

Next up was Nevada and Cincinnati. The Wolf Pack defeated Texas after falling behind by 14 on Friday. Cincinnati went up by 22. I switched to the Auburn game and looked at some tweets. Since my eyes were not on the game and scoreboards up top, I didn’t realize what was happening. Suddenly people started tweeting about Nevada going on a 16-0 run. When all was said and done, Nevada had rallied to win.

As for Auburn, Charles Barkley’s school lost by 31. It wasn’t even that close. Kansas State ended UMBC’s magical tournament stay. It was there for the taking, but UMBC could not knock down a key shot. They had numerous chances to grab a second-half lead. For the first time ever, seeds 1-4 in a region all failed to make it into a sweet 16. The door is open for Kentucky.

 

FSU rallied late and knocked out number one Xavier. I started to worry when last year was brought up. Xavier upset FSU last year. That game took place in Florida. It was a blowout that would have fit well with the shocking results of this year’s tournament. Florida State rallied in Nashville last night after the impressive Nevada comeback earlier on the same floor. West Virginia outclassed Marshall to conclude Sunday’s action. I didn’t even get to the announcers yet. As they say, stay tuned.

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