Friday, March 22, 2013

NCAA Tournament: Round of 64 Day 1 Recap

No. 14 Harvard pulled off the biggest upset of the night against No. 3 seed New Mexico. (

The first "official" day of the NCAA Tournament is in the books. It was a great day of basketball because, well, it was 10 hours of basketball. I'm not sure it's possible for the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament to not be great, no matter what happens on the court.

Yet the offense wasn't great and it looked like there wouldn't be any of the major upsets that we're normally accustomed ... oh, hey Harvard, almost missed you. It took one of the final games of the night, but No. 14 Harvard upset No. 3 New Mexico, making many who had New Mexico advancing multiple rounds sobbing into their pillow before falling asleep and waking up the next morning hoping it was all a dream. Those Ivy School Madness-makers were the big story of the night, but here are a few other takeaways from the first day of the NCAA Tournament.

No first for a No. 16 … yet
Every No. 1 seed each year has to go into that first game wishing and praying it is not them who becomes the first top seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. It will forever live in the history books along with the embarrassment that it was you and your school to "choke" first. An athletic Southern team gave Gonzaga all it could handle Thursday bringing the thought up once again, but the Bulldogs were too strong down the stretch to be upset. However, with the increasing parity and athleticism found at some of these mid-major schools, it would not be surprising to see a No. 16 come away victorious for the first time in the next five years.

Runaway victories
Out of the 16 games played Thursday, 11 of them were decided by 10 points or more. Some of these scores are misleading as it was closer than the final score would indicate (Butler vs. Bucknell) but others are the opposite, as it was never really felt that close (Michigan St. vs. Valpo). In a tournament where the stage and momentum are great equalizers, games are usually pretty competitive, but Thursday there were plenty of cases where one team didn't show up or the other team just ran away with the game from the beginning. This was especially surprising in the No. 8/No. 9 matchups, where the quality of the teams should be fairly equal, yet Wichita State ran all over Pitt and Colorado State did the same to Missouri. It will be interesting to see if the margin is closer in the Friday games.

Close, but not close enough
Yes, most of the games were not that close, but a few teams brought fans to the edge of their seats, especially in the afternoon sessions. No. 11 St. Mary's battled back from a late deficit to having the final shot to win with just more than a second remaining, while No. 14 Davidson had a one-point lead on Marquette with four seconds left. In a month and tournament known for underdogs being immortalized in last-second greatness, both St. Mary's and Davidson fell short of advancing to the Round of 32. Instead it was Marquette with the end-game heroics to win. We're still waiting for that first buzzer-beater from a mid-major player who will be remembered and talked about from that point on.

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