By Sam Cowan
The opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament is one of the most fun sports periods of every year and it’s also one of the most nerve-wracking.
Whether you’re looking to win some money in your office pool or you just filled out a bracket for fun to compare against the nation, you will have your eyes glued to your television, phone or computer for most, if not all, of the 48 games crammed into the four day open.
With all the parity present in college basketball this year, some including myself predicted an unpredictable weekend and that’s exactly what we got.
The wild weekend included 10 double-digit seeds advancing to the second round, a tournament record. Highlights included the No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks rolling over trendy Final Four pick West Virginia 70-56, the No. 12 seed Yale Bulldogs winning their first tournament game in program history and No. 11 seed University of Northern Iowa hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer from beyond half-court to get by Texas.
However, the biggest upset of the week was No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State University shocking the world and decimating just about every bracket in the country by beating No. 2 seed Michigan State in what is arguably the biggest upset in tournament history.
To put the win by MTSU in perspective, it was just the eighth time in tournament history a 15-seed had beaten a 2-seed and many had Michigan State projected as a 1-seed coming into the tournament to begin with.
Of course, this incredible effort by MTSU was followed two days later by them getting destroyed by No. 10 seed Syracuse in the second round.
The second round didn’t feature as many surprise winners, but did have some incredible finishes including Notre Dame surviving by one point on a tip-in with a second remaining, an epic 31-second, 12-point comeback by Texas A&M which had to be seen to be believed and No. 2 seed Xavier falling on a buzzer-beating, corner 3-pointer as the latest casualty of a crazy tournament.
Now, the Sweet 16 looms on Sunday and there are certainly some interesting contenders hanging around.
Seven of the remaining teams have never won the tournament and another two teams, Wisconsin and Oregon, haven’t won the tournament since World War II.
All four No. 1 seeds survived the opening weekend, which means the possibility of an all 1-seed Final Four is still in play. If it happens, it would be the second time ever and the first since 2008.
On a different note, No. 11 seed Gonzaga and Syracuse facing off on Friday means we will be guaranteed a double-digit seed in the Elite Eight.
The potential for a champion from the ACC is high as six of the teams remaining come from the conference, the most by far of any conference this season.
No matter what the final results are, it’s pretty much a given there will be a few exciting finishes along the way to the championship game in April. There’s just something about the NCAA Tournament which brings out the best in teams and in the sport.