A week ago, 68 teams entered the NCAA March Madness tournament with high hopes they’d create a run of their own, winning at least six games and hoist a national championship in Houston on April fourth.
That seems like an eternity ago as 52 teams have been eliminated and the remaining 16 teams look to make their stamp on history.
Here’s my takeaway from the maddening first weekend of the 2016 tournament:
Biggest upset: No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee upset No. 2 seed Michigan State — the eighth time ever such as happened in tournament history and first since 2012 — in the first round. The Blue Raiders never trailed for a second in the game, and pulled off what is arguably the greatest upset in tournament history. The Spartans were a final four team a year ago, and entering the tournament, were ranked second by the Associated Press, only behind Kansas which was awarded the No. 1 overall seed in this years tournament. Millions of people — many wondering why they weren’t a No. 1 seed to begin with — had them picked to go to the Final Four again this year, but instead, had to get the Sharpie out and cross off their hopes of a perfect bracket by the second day. It wasn’t an awful game out of the Spartans which adds to the magnitude of the upset. The Spartans shot 55.6% from the field (Blue Raiders – 55.9%) and had a 66.7% (10-15) success rate from the free throw line (Blue Raiders – 13-21, 61.9%).
What in the world moment: No. 11 Northern Iowa held a 14 point lead with under a minute to play and still wound up losing to No. 3 Texas A&M. The Aggies put together a 14-2 run in the final 33 seconds of regulation to force overtime. The Aggies eventually went onto to win in double overtime. It’s a case of what’s more remarkable, the Aggies comeback or the Panthers flop? I go with the Panthers who looked lost and couldn’t get the pass inbounds to save their chances of advancing.
Biggest disappointment: The Pac-12 entered the tournament as one of four conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12) to have seven teams seeded in the tournament. By the second round, there were two teams left, Oregon and Utah. Utah was eliminated by Gonzaga in the second round, leaving Oregon as the only Pac 12 representative left in the field. To put that in perspective, the ACC rolls into the Sweet Sixteen with six out of their seven remaining, including my personal Cinderella team.
Cinderella team: I can’t believe I’m saying Syracuse is a Cinderella team, but after many thought of them as bubble team on Selection Sunday, Syracuse has lived up to its No. 10 seeding. Regardless of what happens in Friday’s game against No. 11 Gonzaga, — who isn’t considered because we’ve all seen what the WCC team can do regardless of its seeding — they’ve proven they belong in the big dance. And win or lose, a double digit seeded will be playing in the Elite Eight.
8: Teams seeded 11 or lower to advance to the second round. Highest ever in tournament history.
1: number of times a No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed have lost on the same day.
Moving forward: With everybody now out of the running for a perfect bracket, we can now sit back and enjoy what’s in store. That includes a matchup between Indiana and North Carolina. The last time the two schools met, the Hoosiers upset the Tar Heels in Michael Jordan’s final game in 1984. It also features six games with teams seeded fifth or higher playing for a spot in the Elite Eight. Expect some fireworks and more Sharpie use this weekend when the world finds out its Final Four.
For more fun I have included Danny’s, Jon’s and my brackets. Enjoy.