The Impact of a Historic Friday at the NCAA Tournament

By Kevin Sweeney

There were upsets.  Buzzer-beaters. Comebacks. Elation. Agony. And of course, lots of busted brackets.

It was everything you could possibly ask for in one day of the NCAA Tournament.

Now, what do some of these outcomes mean for the rest of the Tournament? We examine that here.

The Favorite Bounced

A lot of people saw some big upsets coming, but no one saw this happening.  In perhaps the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, 15th seed Middle Tennessee State knocked off tournament favorites Michigan State 90-81 on Friday afternoon.  The Blue Raiders jumped out to a 15-2 lead and held off numerous Spartan comeback bids to send themselves to the Round of 32.  What does this mean? First, it means your bracket is busted.  On ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, over 22% of entries chose Michigan State to win it all, on the other hand, just 2.2% had them losing to MTSU.  It also makes Virginia the favorite to reach the Final Four.  Between Michigan State and Purdue going down in the first round, the 2 most difficult match-ups for Virginia are out.

Hellish Week for Cal Ends in Upset Loss

In the week leading up to the NCAA Tournament, a team hopes to have as few distractions as possible.  For Cal, the opposite occurred.  An assistant coach was fired for sexual harassment, leading scorer Tyrone Wallace was injured and ruled out for the entire tournament, and on the morning of the game, Jabari Bird was ruled out with back spasms. What resulted was a loss to Hawaii in which the Warriors led for the majority of the game.  Cal wasn’t helped by foul trouble for Jaylen Brown, who had just 4 points and fouled out with around 5 minutes to go. Hawaii now takes on a Maryland team who struggled down the stretch and survived a comeback to beat South Dakota State.

Stephen F. Austin Makes a Major Statement

Coming in, we knew that the match-up between Stephen F. Austin and West Virginia would be fast-paced and full of turnovers.  After all, they stood 1 and 2 in turnovers forced per game in all of college basketball.  What we didn’t know was that the Lumberjacks would beat, and for some periods, dominate the Mountaineers at the style they are known for.  The Lumberjacks turned the ball over just 7 times against the vaunted West Virginia press, and on the other end, scored 29 points off of 22 West Virginia turnovers.  A huge game from Thomas Walkup, who scored 33 points and grabbed 9 rebounds last night, led the way for Stephen F. Austin, who will meet Wisconsin the Round of 32.

Is Northern Iowa the Team of Destiny?

Paul Jesperson hit a half-court heave as time expired to send Northern Iowa to the Round of 32 with a win over Texas.  It’s the second straight game that Northern Iowa won at the final buzzer.  With a match-up with Texas A&M looming, the Panthers have their hands full, but with a player of the quality of Wes Washpun, UNI has a chance in every game they play in.

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