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Let the Madness Begin
- Updated: March 18, 2017
Buzzer beaters, broken brackets, and big time upsets have filled the first week of March Madness. With the all the games in the first round coming to an end, here is a rundown of what you need to know heading into Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament.
Lucky Number Eleven
Three 11-seeds pulled off the upset in the first round with USC, Xavier, and the University of Rhode Island all beating their respective 6-seeded opponents. For URI, it marks their first NCAA Tournament since the days of Lamar Odom in 1998. The Rams can credit their victory to their advantage at the charity stripe as they sunk 28 of their 31 free throws compared to Creighton who only shot 19 free throws as a team and made 13 of them. They will look to continue their momentum into the second round as they face a talented Oregon team lead by junior forward Dillon Brooks.
USC escaped against SMU 66-65 on a last minute three-pointer by guard Elijah Stewart. Trailing by as many as 10 in the second half, the Trojans rallied down the stretch en route to their first appearance in the second round since 2009. Facing Baylor in the second round will present them with a tough matchup with Baylor forward Johnathan Motley who nearly averaged a double-double in conference play this season.
Xavier would have been the safest bet to pull off the upset as an 11 seed as they have made it past the first round each of the last two seasons. Five three-pointers by Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett and a ten rebound advantage over the Terrapins proved to be the difference as the Musketeers now advance to play Florida State in the second round. Freshman phenom Jonathan Issac should give Xavier problems with his length and athleticism around the rim going into their game on Saturday.
Stuck in the Middle
Middle Tennessee pulled off the upset against Minnesota, ousting the Golden Gophers 81-72, thanks to an offensive attack that puzzled the Big Ten’s best defense. The Blue Raiders put up 81 points on a Gophers squad that had only allowed that many points three times all season. Middle Tennessee is no stranger to the upset as they beat a two seeded Michigan team in last year’s tournament. They will look to continue their bracket-busting tour as they go up against Butler in the next round.
Fair or Foul
Northwestern won their first NCAA Tournament game ever, not without help from a late-game brain fart by Vandy guard Matthew Fisher-Davis. With 15 seconds left in the game, Fisher-Davis fouled Northwestern guard Bryan Mcintosh, giving him the chance to win the game at the free-throw line, which he proceeded to do. Not an upset, but certainly a surprise considering the nerves the Wildcats must have had playing their first NCAA Tournament game as the presumed favorites, at least by their seeding. Their tourney run could be more than a one-hit wonder, as they face top-seeded Gonzaga, a team picked by many to be the first one seed to go down.
The other end of the bracket a late game foul turned flagrant by Seton Hall guard Desi Rodriguez on Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford that changed the outcome of the game. In a one-point game the foul lead to the game-clinching free throws by Barford. By the looks of the foul, the NBA’s flopping epidemic may have influenced the college game as Buford launched himself into the air as soon as he felt the contact. Regardless, the Razorbacks have moved into a second round matchup against a loaded North Carolina team, still bitter after losing to Duke in the ACC Tournament.
Be On Your Guard
If anything can be learned from the NCAA Tournaments off years’ past its that having talented guards will take you far in the tournament. Whether it’s Buddy Hield, Tyus Jones, or cardiac Kemba Walker, watch out for dynamic guards such as Lonzo Ball and Malik Monk as they just might become the talk of the tournament. Going into the second round of tourney play, prepare for your bracket to be busted if you go against any of the dynamic guards left in the tournament including Duke guard Luke Kenard or Kansas guard Frank Mason III.
The only thing for sure in the NCAA Tournament is that nothing is for sure as the weight of the college basketball world weighs heavier on the 32 remaining teams.