NCAA's March Madness is aptly named, a circus of upsets and blowouts, all grouped under the one umbrella of the NCAA tournament, the quest to find the national champion. And yes, the first day was one of absolute histrionics, from unlikely, bracket-busting upsets (looking at you UAB) to easy, expected blowouts (35-0), let's review the madness from the first day.
(3) Notre Dame 69 def. (14) Northeastern 65
BEN'S PICK: Notre Dame
Despite not being in the tournament since 1992, Northeastern gave quite a fright to the third seeded Fighting Irish. Although they trailed by as much as 11 with under 7 minutes left, they fought and whittled the margin down to two points, before a turnover and a missed three on their final two possessions cost them a chance to advance past the second round. Notre Dame were led by junior Zach Auguste who had 25 points on 10-14 shooting, with 5 rebounds, whilst the Huskies were led by Scott Eatherton with 18 points and 8 rebounds.
NEXT GAME: (6) Butler
(14) UAB 60 def. (3) Iowa State 59
BEN'S PICK: Iowa State
Yep, my bracket was busted before I even woke up in sunny Sydney, Australia on Friday morning. The news of the relatively unknown University of Alabama at Birmingham (yes, I had to look up what UAB stood for) shocking the Cyclones by a point to improve to 10-14 in tournament play. UAB junior Robert Brown scored a game-high 21 points and added 4 rebounds with a few triples. Despite Iowa State clamping down defensively and shooting the ball better, the Blazers dominated on the glass to the tune of 52-37. ISU junior Jameel McKay had a double double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 6 blocks.
NEXT GAME: (11) UCLA
(14) Georgia State 57 def. (3) Baylor 56
BEN'S PICK: Baylor (like 99.5% of the world)
Another bracket buster, as Georgia State recorded only their second tournament victory ever with a win over the highly-fancied Bears of Baylor. Despite the loss, Baylor forward Taurean Prince had a dominating game with 18 points and 15 rebounds, but all the spotlight was on Panthers guard R.J. Hunter. The son of the coach (nepotism?), he had 16 points in the game, 12 of which came in the final 3 minutes, including the game winning prayer of a three with 3 seconds remaining.
NEXT GAME: (6) Xavier
(2) Arizona 93 def. (15) Texas Southern 72
BEN'S PICK: Arizona
Finally, a game that went to the script. Arizona, led by stars Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, pounded the Tigers by 21 points. RHJ and Johnson had 23 and 22 points respectively, whilst Hollis-Jefferson added 10 rebounds. The game was never in doubt, with the Wildcats dominating in the paint and on the boards. Texas Southern were led by Madarious (what a name) Gibbs with 16 points, but never looked in the same class as the star-powered Wildcats. Arizona have won their last 12 games, and are a favourite pick by many to go to the Final Four.
NEXT GAME: (10) Ohio State
(6) Butler 56 def. (11) Texas 48
BEN'S PICK: Butler
I had to go with the college I will be (hopefully) attending in the fall here, as Butler has good um...I don't know, GO BULLDOGS!! Apparently, Butler is a very good defensive team, racking up 5 steals, but forcing 15 turnovers, but were also efficient with the ball themselves, only turning it over 5 times themselves. Kellen Dunham was the only Bulldog in double figures with 20 points, whilst Jonathan Holmes led the Longhorns with 15 points and 5 rebounds. This was a very poor shooting game, as indicated from the final score, with both squads shooting below 35% from the field, but Butler's defence allowed them to pull away.
NEXT GAME: (3) Notre Dame
(11) UCLA 60 def. (6) SMU 59
BEN'S PICK: SMU
Controversy reigned supreme here, as UCLA defeated the Mustangs by one point. Despite clawing back a 9 point deficit late, the game was marred by a controversial goaltending call, where Bryce Alford's three pointer was adjudged to have been interfered with by a defender despite appearing to have no chance to go in. Despite that, Alford was on fire, hitting 9-11 from downtown on his way to 27 points. Nic Moore led SMU with 24 points, including 6-11 from three, as Larry Brown's Mustangs made a disappointing early exit. UCLA are now an impressive 98-37 all time in tournament play, while SMU fall to 10-13.
NEXT GAME: (14) UAB
(6) Xavier 76 def. (11) Mississippi 57
BEN'S PICK: Mississippi
The Xavier Musketeers pulled away late in this one to down the Rebels of Ole Miss by 19 points. Matt Stainbrook had an outstanding game for Xavier, finishing with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Stainbrook is an interesting story as he gave up his scholarship so his brother could have it (nawww). Stefan Moody led Ole Miss with 14 points, but he did have 5 of Mississippi's 8 turnovers. Ole Miss fired away from downtown, and converted a Piston-like 6-27 from three. Xavier, by comparison, gunned down 10 three pointers. Some interesting takeaways from this matchup. Since the First Four was introduced in 2011, every winner has gone on to lose its Round of 64 matchup. Xavier also became the first favourite to win this year.
NEXT GAME: (14) Georgia State
(10) Ohio State 75 def. (7) VCU 72
BEN'S PICK: Ohio State
Banking on the star power of D'Angelo Russell is a good strategy as it turns out. The consensus top-3 lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft had a wonderful outing, dropping 28 points on 10-20 shooting, despite taking an elbow from VCU's Doug Brooks to the face in regulation. The Buckeyes were the picture of offensive efficiency, shooting a hair under 50% from the field, and 6-15 (40%) from downtown. Melvin Johnson led the Rams with 17 points. The game was fairly even, with VCU outrebounding OSU by 5, and both teams committing 11 turnovers. It needed OT to separate the two squads.
NEXT GAME: (2) Arizona
(1) Villanova 93 def. (16) Lafayette 52
BEN'S PICK: Villanova
This game was a straight up murder. Villanova demolished the Leopards by 41 points, led by Dylan Ennis with 16 points. It was a balanced scoring effort, with Daniel Ochefu (14), Ryan Arcidiacono (13), Darun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston (12) and Kris Jenkins (10) all in double figures. Lafayette were realistically never in this game. They had decent contributions from Dan Trist (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Seth Hinrichs (13 points), but no other Lafayette player passed 5 points. In the history of the NCAA, the no. 1 seeds are 121-0 against no. 16 seeds.
NEXT GAME: (8) N.C. State
(8) Cincinnati 66 def. (9) Purdue 65
BEN'S PICK: Cincinnati
Cincinnati's victory was marred by a brain snap by leading scorer Octavius Ellis, who gave an elbow to the throat of Purdue center A.J. Hammons, who was very professional in his reaction, or lack thereof. On to the good stuff, and Cincy guard Troy Caupain hit a tough running layup which danced around the cup before falling in after time had expired to force overtime. Caupain finished with 10 points and 4 assists. Hammons led Purdue with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to stop the third-straight upset played in Louisville, after UAB and UCLA's victories.
NEXT GAME: (1) Kentucky
(4) North Carolina 67 def. (13) Harvard 65
BEN'S PICK: Harvard
This was the ultimate high risk, high reward pick, and it looked like happening after Siyani Chambers' incredible 4-point play in the dying moments. Unfortunately, UNC had too much class, and used their massive size advantage with guys like Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson. Justin Jackson top scored for the Tar Heels with 14, whilst Wesley Saunders set a school record for scoring in a tournament game with 26 for Harvard. Ultimately, Harvard weren't able to deal with the size of UNC in the end, getting outrebounded 34-24. Harvard did do an excellent job of taking care of the ball, only committing 7 turnovers (only 1 in the 1st half), whilst forcing a sloppy UNC into 17 turnovers. Ultimately, this was one which UNC escaped with.
NEXT GAME: (5) Arkansas
(5) Utah 57 def. (12) Stephen F. Austin 50
The most likely game to cause an upset, the 12-5 matchup. In the end, Utah managed to hold off a fast finishing SFA to win it's first tournament game in 10 years. Jakob Poetl was amazing, finishing with 18 points (7-7 FG), 8 rebounds and 5 blocks for the Utes, whilst star guard Delon Wright was held to 11, despite scoring his 1000th point in college play. Ty Charles and Thomas Walkup led the Lumberjacks with 14 and 12 respectively, who bow out after a 29-5 season. SFA will feel unlucky after only shooting an abysmal 5-26 from long distance.
NEXT GAME: (4) Georgetown
(8) N.C. State 66 def. (9) LSU 65
BEN'S PICK: LSU
Heartbreaker. A BeeJay Anya hook shot with 0.1 left on the clock sunk the Tigers, who only had themselves to blame. In the last 3:59, LSU were scoreless, including 0-12 from the field and 0-6 from the free throw line. Do-it-all star player Tim Quarterman led LSU with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, but it wasn't enough as LSU crumbled down the stretch. LSU forwards Jordan Mickey (12pts, 14reb, 6blk) and Jarell Martin (16pts, 11reb) both had double doubles, but the Wolfpack, led by Anthony Barber's 17 points, completed a stunning comeback. This result was also the 5th 1-point game of the day, a new NCAA tournament record.
NEXT GAME: (1) Villanova
(5) Arkansas 56 def. (12) Wofford 53
BEN'S PICK: Arkansas
In a tight match, the Razorbacks leant on their two stars, Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis, to overcome a resilient Terriers outfit. Qualls had 20 points on 8-9 shooting, whilst Portis, a potential NBA lottery-pick, added 15 and 13 rebounds. Spencer Collins led Wofford with 16 points and 9 rebounds, but the Terriers were wasteful from deep, going 7-24. Karl Cochran (2-12 3PT) and Eric Garcia both missed potential game-tying threes on Wofford's final possession to ensure the Razorbacks hung on.
NEXT GAME: (4) North Carolina
(1) Kentucky 79 def. (16) Hampton 56
BEN'S PICK: Kentucky
I always got the feeling from watching this match that Hampton were a bit of a joke to the commentators. When Hampton took the lead 4-3, one of them exclaimed to take a picture for next season's media guide. Also, there was a game of things that would happen before Hampton beat Kentucky. One of them? Chuck Barkley winning a ring...Quinton Chievous led the Pirates with 22 points and 10 rebounds and was the only Hampton player in double figures. The Wildcats were led by potential #1 NBA draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
NEXT GAME: (8) Cincinnati
(4) Georgetown 84 def. (13) Eastern Washington 74
BEN'S PICK: Eastern Washington
Greg Monroe vs. Rodney Stuckey. I ashamedly admit to choosing the inconsistent combo guard over the omnipotent Moose overlord. The Hoyas were keyed by their bench, which scored over half (45) of their points. Georgetown guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (what a name...again) had 25 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 2 assists, whilst 4 other Hoyas were in double-digits. For the Eagles, forward Venky Jois (do I even need to say it?) had 19 points and 8 rebounds. Georgetown murdered EWU from behind the arc, finishing 11-23 on long guns.
NEXT GAME: (5) Utah
For those of you not counting, my bracket stands at an abysmal 9-16, good for equal last in the DBB league with Shinons.
Day 2 of March Madness approaches, and here's the full slate of games covered on ESPN, Ben's pick in brackets.
(5) West Virginia vs. (12) Buffalo (Buffalo)
(4) Maryland vs. (13) Valparaiso (Maryland)
(7) Wichita State vs. (10) Indiana (Wichita State)
(2) Kansas vs. (15) New Mexico State (Kansas)
(1) Wisconsin vs. (16) Coastal Carolina (Wisconsin)
(8) Oregon vs. (9) Oklahoma State (Oregon)
(5) Northern Iowa vs. (12) Wyoming (Northern Iowa)
(4) Louisville vs. (13) UC Irvine (Louisville)
(6) Providence vs. (11) Dayton (Providence)
(3) Oklahoma vs. (14) Albany (Albany ... I don't remember this one, and my bracket is called "I Wasn't Drunk I Swear")
(7) Michigan State vs. (10) Georgia (Michigan State)
(2) Virginia vs. (15) Belmont (Virginia)
(1) Duke vs. (16) Robert Morris (Duke)
(8) San Diego State vs. (9) St. John's (St. John's)
(7) Iowa vs. (10) Davidson (Davidson)
(2) Gonzaga vs. (15) North Dakota State (Gonzaga)
So how's your bracket going? We'll check back in tomorrow...