Madness surprises; upsets everywhere
The month of March brings with it a unique season known as March Madness. College basketball teams throughout the country are entered into a pool of 65 teams, all looking to cut down the nets and win a national championship. Before this year, March Madness was usually unsurprising, with the higher-seeded teams taking care of business, whether it be in close games or just absolute blowouts. However, this year was the complete opposite, as we saw brackets being busted from the first day of the tournament.
The first day of the tournament always brings a ton of excitement. People ranging from 15-year-old high school basketball players to 60-year-old basketball gurus fill out brackets in the hopes of achieving a perfect one, which would immediately earn them countrywide fame along with $1 million from Yahoo!. Those who were watching on that first day were not disappointed.
The early set of games featured a few powerhouses, such as the always-dangerous University of Notre Dame and Villanova University. Little did we know that the two teams that they were playing, Old Dominion College and Pittsburgh’s very own Robert Morris University, would respectively produce some stunning finishes that were a sign of upsets to come. Notre Dame was upset by one point by Old Dominion, and Robert Morris brought Villanova to overtime before falling short at the buzzer.
With one upset already, the first day was looking to be extremely crazy going into the later sets of games. Some of the top seeds, such as Tennessee and Baylor, were pushed to the limits but came through at the end of the game.
Some other teams were not so lucky. The Georgetown Hoyas, one of the favorites to reach the Elite Eight and also the Final Four, faced a matchup with Ohio State, a small, guard-oriented, three-point-shooting team that was always willing to run the court. The Hoyas came out sloppy, getting down by double digits almost immediately. Showing almost no will to make a comeback, annual powerhouse Georgetown went out in the first round to this school from central Ohio.
Other upsets in the first day featured the ever-dangerous Murray State Racers, a low-seeded tournament stalwart the past few years. Vanderbilt had the game going into the final seconds, but a buzzer-beater from 15 feet by Murray State’s Danero Thomas plunged a dagger into Vanderbilt’s tournament hopes, sending the Racers home the victors. And of course, there are the heroics of Brigham Young University’s Jimmy Freddette, who poured in 37 points en route to a double-overtime victory against the Florida Gators.
The second day of the tournament was a bit more relaxed than the first, with the only true upset going to the Cornell Big Red, giving them their first NCAA tournament win in a long, long time. Cornell used some sweet three-point shooting and precision passing to pummel the Temple Owls, who previously had the best three-point defense in the country.
The second-round matchups did not disappoint. One of the most talked about games this year featured the Northern Iowa Panthers against the number-one team overall, the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas, a notoriously slow starter in games, immediately went down by eight to close out the first half. Supposedly phenomenal point guard Sherron Collins was having an awful day from the field, shooting less than 30 percent. Using a well-timed full-court press, the Jayhawks got within one point with around one minute left to play in the game. However, the Panthers broke the full-court press once, using a long outlet pass to get the ball past midcourt.
The most defining moment for the Panthers occurred in the next five seconds. Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh made a risky decision — to pull up and shoot a three-pointer instead of burning the clock out. It turned out to be the greatest choice of the game, as he drained the three and crushed the Jayhawks’ goals of a national championship.
The rest of the tournament also had its share of upsets, and it currently boasts the Butler Bulldogs, a five seed, the West Virginia Mountaineers, a two seed, the Duke Blue Devils, a one seed, and the Michigan State Spartans, another five seed, in the final four. Out of all these teams West Virginia looks the strongest, but Duke is coming off a huge win against Baylor, so I give them the edge for the rest of the tournament. But, with the way this tournament is going, who am I to make an accurate prediction?