The bracket bashing of March Madness has begun. No doubt Friday morning hopeful bracketologists everywhere were throwing their picks in the trash bin, as a record 4 of Thursday night’s 16 games reached overtime. And yes, there were upsets galore, delivering the ecstasy and agony that is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Things got started quickly, as a big upset began March Madness in the very first game of the round of 64 after play-in games closed out Tuesday and Wednesday. Following the 11th seeded Dayton Flyers upending of 6 seed Ohio State 60 – 59, who many felt were over-seeded, only 19% of the brackets filled by CBS Sports basketball prognosticators remained in play for perfection. There were 15 lead changes in the rivalry, and the two schools are separated by barely 75 miles.
Two #5s fall in the first round, as Harvard tops Cincinnati and North Dakota State sends Oklahoma packing. With Siyani Chambers scoring 11 points, including 5 straight in the final 2 minutes, 12th seeded Harvard won its second NCAA Tournament game, upsetting 5 seed Cincinnati 61 – 57 on Thursday. And #12 NDSU beat #5 Oklahoma in overtime 80 – 75 for the first NCAA tourney win in the school’s history. An under-ranked #4 Louisville squad had to push late to get past surprising #13 Manhattan, and #7 Texas required a last-second shot from Cameron Ridley to top #10 Arizona State. High scorer of the tournament so far was Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, who scorched Delaware for 41 points (school tourney record) as the #4 seed Spartans moved on.
In the First Four play-in games before the first round, Cal Poly played into the tourney for a 16 seed. They get undefeated #1 Wichita State as a reward. Charles Barkley recently stated his opinion that the Shockers were “set up to lose” by the selection committee, but it won’t happen Friday against Cal Poly. Tennessee outlasted Iowa for a #11 seed, and the North Carolina State Wolfpack handled Xavier easily in the other First Four play-in games. #1 West seed Arizona takes on 20 point underdog Weber State on Friday. #1 South seed Florida won but looked very beatable against First Four winner Albany, and East #1 Virginia is favored by 21 over 16 seed Coastal Carolina on a Friday that has three #1 seeds playing.
By the time #7 UCONN got by #10 Saint Joseph in the ninth game of the day Thursday, only 0.2% of CBS Sports brackets still had a chance at perfection. That is the epitome of the sheer craziness and unpredictability that we have come to know and love from March Madness. Heart-breakers and dream-makers abound, and there is no reason to believe that Friday’s 16 games will produce anything less dramatic. Vegas odds on March Madness show #6 North Carolina only a 4 point favorite over #11 Providence in their Friday contest, a team that many prognosticators show beating a struggling Tar Heels team. The same day a #8 seed Kentucky team that won 24 games during the regular season is favored by 5 points over #9 K State. And if any one of the four play-in teams can advance, it is probably going to be #11 Tennessee, taking on #6 Massachusetts Friday afternoon.
Savvy sports gamblers probably took note that Dayton Flyers fans have stated for years that Ohio State is “scared” to schedule a home-and-home during the regular season with the team. And after Flyers player Jordan Sibert, a transfer from Ohio State nonetheless, helped Dayton upset OSU, those prophetic fans have to be ecstatic. The last two years the eventual NCAA Men’s Basketball champion has been the overall #1 seed, and that is Florida this year. And while last year’s champ Louisville is still in play, the last time March Madness saw back-to-back champions was 2007. That was when Billy Donovan and the Gators scored consecutive championships, and Gator Nation is looking for 3 titles in 7 years, something that poor performing Florida will not see happening if they keep at their current rate of play.