By Andrew Kahn
How’s your bracket looking? Yeah, mine too. The NCAA Tournament got underway on Thursday and, as usual, the results were unpredictable. Other than the four top seeds, no team was safe. That’s why they call it March Madness, not March Monotony (thanks, Greg Anthony).
Two Seeds Fall
Some upsets are so improbable that even the players on the winning team didn’t see it coming. After 15 seed Norfolk State upset 2 seed Missouri 86-84, Norfolk’s Kyle O’Quinn admitted that even his bracket was busted. The Spartans, representing the MEAC and playing in their first NCAA Tournament, became just the fifth 15 seed to win a Tournament game. As 21-point underdogs, it was the biggest upset in Tourney history.
Just a few hours later, 15 seed Lehigh repeated the trick, upsetting Duke in Greensboro, N.C., 75-70, behind C.J. McCollum’s 30 points. No 15 seed has ever advanced to the Sweet 16, however, and this year was no different.
Top Seeds Advance
All four No. 1 seeds survived the opening weekend, but two are not nearly as strong as they were on Selection Sunday. Syracuse found out early last week that its center, Fab Melo, was ineligible for the Tournament and North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall broke a bone in his non-shooting wrist in yesterday’s win. Marshall will have surgery on the wrist today and has not been ruled out for Friday’s game against Ohio.
Bracket-Busting Buckeye State
For the first time in Tournament history, four teams from the same state are in the Sweet 16. That state is Ohio, thanks to Cincinnati, Ohio University, Ohio State, and Xavier. The Bearcats and Buckeyes will play each other in Boston on Thursday, just their second meeting since 1962. The rivalry is not on the same level as Cincinnati-Xavier, but Ohio State’s unwillingness to schedule the Bearcats makes the match-up more intriguing.
Seven double-digit seeds won in the first round, just one short of tying the record. One was 12 seed VCU, which beat Wichita State by three. The Rams made it all the way to last year’s Final Four as an 11 seed, but their 2012 run ended on Saturday when their clean look at a three-point attempt at the buzzer was just off the mark.
North Carolina State, a bubble team heading into Selection Sunday, beat San Diego State and then knocked off Georgetown to reach the Sweet 16. It was Georgetown’s fourth straight Tournament appearance in which it was eliminated by a double-digit seed.
There were 11 schools from the Mountain or Pacific time zones in this year’s Tournament and all were eliminated in the opening weekend. There was much talk throughout the season about Pac-12’s weakness—its regular season champ, Washington, didn’t even get a bid—but the Mountain West was a strong conference this year. However, the only MWC team to win a game was New Mexico. Blaming this on travel doesn’t even have merit, as games in Portland and Albuquerque should have given an advantage to the western schools.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local who has written for ESPN the Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.