The first weekend of the Big Dance has concluded with the field now down to 16 teams after an exciting start. The last four days were not lacking in the drama category with buzzer beaters, bracket busters, and victorious double digits along the way. These headlines were the biggest stories during the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Ivy League Upset
After several near-bracket busters earlier on Thursday, Ivy League-champion Harvard pulled off the first major upset of the tournament with a 68-62 win over Mountain West-champion New Mexico. However, the 14th-seeded Crimson saw their season end in a 74-51 loss against Arizona.
A 12-seed getting past a five seed is far from a rarity in March. While that matchup goes in favor of the higher seed just over 35% of the time, it is still a rarity when it occurs three times in the same tournament. Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, and UNLV were all eliminated in the round of 64. Shaka Smart and VCU survived their opener, but the Rams were routed by Michigan on Saturday.
15 Going On 16
Florida Gulf Coast is 2013’s Cinderella. The Eagles made history by winning their inaugural tourney game in school history over second-seeded Georgetown and are now the first 15-seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Sheerwood Brown and Andy Enfield’s squad almost became the second biggest story of Friday. Only hours after their victory over the Hoyas, Kansas narrowly avoided becoming the first number one seed to fall to a sixteen seed. The Jayhawks were only ahead of Western Kentucky by five points with 1:57 left in regulation.
Gone and Shocked
Gonzaga had an even bigger scare. Southern University trailed, 58-59, with 2:28 left in regulation and was only behind by four with 52 seconds remaining. The Zags survived day number one, but not weekend number one. Their third round loss to the Wichita State Shockers is the first time, a top seed has failed to advance to the second weekend of action since Kansas in 2010.
First Four To the Second Weekend
The play-in games do matter. VCU went from the First Four to the Final Four, as an 11-seed, during the first year that the field expanded to 68. Now the La Salle Explorers are off to the Sweet Sixteen as a 13-seed, after winning three tournament games this past week.
Dayton, Ohio was the sight of two Big Ten buzzer beaters on Sunday. Aaron Craft sealed the win for the Buckeyes on near-home turf against an Iowa State squad that was pushing a double digit comeback. A few hours later, Victor Oladipo ended Temple’s upset bid and saved the Hoosiers season with a game winning three of his own.
Triumphs from Michigan and Michigan State and last second wins from Ohio State and Indiana gives the Big Ten a team in every region of the Sweet Sixteen. It has already been a banner season for the conference and the list of accomplishments could soon include multiple teams playing in the Final Four in Atlanta. No conference has had 3 teams in the same Final Four since the Big East in 1985.
Make That Almost Five
The Big Ten almost had a fifth member make it to the Sweet Sixteen. 7-seed Illinois went down to the wire with the Miami Hurricanes. Their hopes of winning seemed alive and well, until Shane Larkin’s momentum-changing three with 60 seconds left on the clock.
Survive and Advance
No team summed up Jimmy Valvano’s famous words more this weekend than Marquette. The Golden Eagles trailed by seven points with 1;47 on the clock against 14-seed Davidson and won off a buzzer-beating layup from Vander Blue. He came through again with 29 points in their 74-72 contest against Butler, to help Marquette advance to the Sweet Sixteen for a third straight year.