Group created ✓
Bracket filled ✓
Bracket busted after the first game ✓
Almost last in every group ✓
1 Final Four Team eliminated in the first weekend ✓
This has arguably been the worst March Madness in history for me but I’ve enjoyed every moment of the tournament so far. It’s been full of upsets and exciting moments. And now we’re down to the Sweet 16. My sleepers did just that, SLEEP! Northern Iowa was the only team to win a game before getting bounced. The other three (Boise St, Harvard, and SF Austin) lost by a combined total of 10 points. All three played respectable games but didn’t have enough to get a win.
The first weekend of games saw the top two seeds from the East Region bounced (1-seed Villanova and 2-seed Virginia). Left standing in the East Region is (8)NC State who has to play ACC foe (4) Louisville and (3) Oklahoma who plays (7) Michigan State. In their only regular season matchup, NC State went to the KFC Yum! Center and won by 9. Yes, it’s called the “KFC Yum! Center”. In that game, Anthony Barber led the Wolfpack with 21 points while L’ville got a subpar scoring night from Montrezl Harrell who only had 7 points on 1-5 shooting. In their two NCAA tournament games the Wolfpack have had contrasting wins. The first game against LSU they had to overcome a 16-point halftime deficit and in the second game they led most of the way by outdueling (1) Villanova in the paint with a 45-32-rebound advantage and double-doubles from Lennard Freeman (11 pts and 12 reb) and Abdul-Malik Abu (13 pts and 12 reb). Meanwhile the Cardinals needed late heroics to get a 2-point win against UC-Irvine. In their 3rd Round matchup against Northern Iowa, Terry Rozier led the way with 25 points and 7 assists. But it was Louisville’s stingy defense that stole the show by holding the Panthers to 39% overall shooting from the field.
The Sooners and Spartans both had single digit victories in their wins. Oklahoma opened by beating Albany. It was their first NCAA tournament win since reaching the Elite 8 in 2009. TaShawn Thomas and Buddy Hield led them with 18 and 15 points respectively. In the matchup against Dayton, Hield provided 15 points and 5 assists along with Jordan Woodard’s 16 points and 9-10 free throw shooting. The Sooners outrebounded the Flyers by 13 and shot 50% from 3-point range. Oklahoma’s Sweet 16 opponent, Michigan State had wins over Georgia and Virginia. In the game against UGA, Izzo’s crew built a 13-point lead at the half and then held on for a six-point win. 4 Spartans chipped in with double figure scoring. Denzel Valentine led the way with 16 and Bryn Forbes came off of the bench with 14 points on 5-8 shooting (3-6 from beyond the arc). In a Sunday afternoon snoozer, Sparty upset (2) Virginia 60 -54. Neither team shot the ball well but MSU was able to get double digit scoring from Travis Trice and Branden Dawson once again. Trice led all scorers with 23 points on 7-15 shooting (4-8 from 3). Dawson put forth a gritty 15 points-9 rebounds-4 blocks performance. Those two seniors along with the mercurial Tom Izzo makes Sparty the favorites to come out of the East Region. Last season was the first time at Michigan State that Izzo had a class of seniors not reach the Final Four during their time at MSU.
Today’s blog also pays tribute to Pac Div who put out one of my favorite mixtapes entitled “Church League Champions”. A “church league champion” is about all I’m going to be at this point with my horrible bracket. Look for another first weekend Regional recap later tonight.