This past weekend, fans across the country experienced the unexpected again with the opening two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.
Roughly twenty million brackets were submitted this year through “ESPN’s Tournament Challenge.” After a number of bracket-shattering results, it became official on only the second day of play that no one will have a perfect bracket.
A lot has happened in the four-day span, so let’s dive into the biggest headlines from the weekend, along with what fans should know heading into the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight.
No. 13 seed Furman Paladins defeats No. 4 Seed Virginia Cavaliers 68-67 in the round of 64:
With under ten seconds remaining in the game, a forced turnover from senior Kihei Clark gave Furman a last-chance opportunity. Guard JP Pegues then nailed a three-pointer to allow the Paladins to pull the upset. Virginia fans suffer a devastating loss once again on the five-year anniversary of their heartbreaking – and bracket-breaking – 2018 loss to UMBC.
No. 15 Princeton defeats tournament-favorite No. 2 Arizona 59-55, as well as No. 7 Missouri 78-63:
The Princeton Tigers held Arizona scoreless for the remaining 4:43 of the game while compiling the final nine points. Senior Ryan Langborg’s basket with just over two minutes left gave Princeton their first lead, followed by a crucial defensive block that put the struggling Wildcats in a tough position. When was the last time Princeton won an NCAA Tournament game? 25 years ago when they upset UCLA.
It may have been an upset, but the second-round matchup against the Missouri Tigers was a different story. From start to finish, Princeton showed no signs of slowing down. By the end, the 15-seeded Tigers would make 12 threes compared to Missouri’s cold night of just shooting 27% from beyond the arc. It’s safe to say that Princeton is a legitimate threat heading into the second weekend.
No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson defeats No. 1 Purdue in the first round, 63-58:
A 16-seed has only ever beaten the top seed once in the tournament’s history with UMBC’s legendary upset over Virginia in 2018. Now, the FDU Knights own the next biggest shocker.
This FDU team is statistically one of the shortest teams in the entire country, and went up against 7-foot-4 Zach Edey of the Boilermakers. In recent history, the regular-season powerhouse of Purdue has struggled against double digit seeds in March Madness. The Boilermakers fell to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s last year and No. 13 North Texas in 2021. After claiming a Big Ten championship, that is not the way to end a season – again.
No. 7 seed Michigan State defeats No. 2 Marquette, 69-60, to reach Sweet Sixteen:
Is March just made for Tom Izzo and the Spartans? Michigan State took on a Marquette team that was on the heels of a nine-game winning streak. To put it more simply, not many people had the Spartans moving past the weekend. But thanks to fourth-year guard Tyson Walker, Marquette transfer Joey Hauser and a spectacular A.J. Hoggard, Michigan State had some guys to bring to the table in this matchup. Walker finished with 23 points as MSU shot efficiently in the second half. Izzo now has reached his fifteenth regional semifinal game, and it would be no surprise if they make a deeper run.
Reigning champion No. 1 Kansas falls to No. 8 Arkansas, 72-71:
With the absence of head coach Bill Self , it’s fair to say that the defending champions could have played differently under his watch. Self has been dealing with health issues for a number of weeks, forcing him to remain absent from the sidecourt for the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA tournament.
Still, this was a shockingupset. The Jayhawks held a comfortable lead at halftime, but late free throws cost them. This was the first time after 27 games that Kansas has lost despite leading midway through. The Razorbacks, on the other hand, played with tremendous grit the entire game behind Davonte Davis’s 25-point performance. Last year, Arkansas pulled an upset over Gonzaga, another one-seed at the time. Are they a dark horse moving forward? You can bet on that.
Teams to Watch:
Alabama Crimson Tide:
The Crimson Tide is a one-seed for a reason. But if this tournaments proven anything, it’s that you’re not safe at any seed.
Not only has Alabama survived the first weekend, but they’ve dominated both Texas A&M-CC and Maryland. Star first-year Brandon Miller has taken a second to really get going, but the team is balanced enough to win without him at his best. Alabama has proven why they are one of the most dangerous teams left with a top-five NBA prospect in their pocket. The tide is rolling.
The Huskies have kept the country watching this weekend. What stands out is their defense, which has been efficiently grabbing rebounds when they need them. Adama Sanogo, a junior forward, has been a clear x-factor for this team, posting 28 points against Iona followed by a 24-point showing against Saint Mary’s. The Huskies are one of the most complete teams right now. Don’t be surprised if they grab two more wins this weekend.
This team has reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2008. What’s special about the Longhorns is the depth within the bench that was shown in their second-round win against Penn State, 71-66. Knowing that they’ve been 8-2 in the past month, it’s really hard to bet against them. They’re peaking at the right time and they have the confidence to head into a manageable Xavier matchup. Keep an eye out, because Texas could reach the Final Four for the first time in 20 years.
The first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament proved how anything can happen in March. There has never been a better time to say that this is anyone’s championship to win.
Can Tom Izzo reach the Final Four once again? Can Gonzaga rally their way with how exceptionally Drew Timme has been performing? Can Princeton continue its cinderella run? One thing is for certain: expect the unexpected.