eric musselContrary to what people that were caught up in the moment are going to try and tell you, this was not the craziest first weekend of the NCAA tournament of all time.
We may have had the single-craziest moment ever — we’ll get to that — and we did lose a number of the top teams in the bracket, but the insanity of this weekend wasn’t quite clinical.
That said, we did get left with a number of memorable moments through out the first four days of the greatest sporting event in America. Here are the 12 that will stick with us for the longest time:
12. THE KEENAN EVANS TAKEOVER
We’ve been trying to let you know about this guy all season long. The Texas Tech star averaged 22.5 points and 3.0 assists through the first two weekends of the event, and 33 of the 45 points that he scored came in the second half of two close wins. He hit the go-ahead three to beat Florida with just over two minutes left and made all the big plays in the come-from-behind win over Stephen F. Austin in the first round. He is a killer.
The best moment, however, might have been this lob that elicited memories of Kobe-to-Shaq:
11. MYLES POWELL FOR THE COVER
If you’re not a gambler, you may not have noticed that the final, seemingly meaningless shot in Kansas’ win over Seton Hall in the second round had all kinds of weight behind it. Powell hit a running 30-footer as time-expired, cutting the Kansas lead to 83-79. Kansas was favored by 4.5 points in that game. The shot that he hit meant that the Pirates covered the spread. Millions of dollars — that’s not an exaggeration — changed hands as a direct result of that shot going in.
10. MEET ZACH NORVELL
You may not have known who he was before this event started but you probably know who he is now. The Gonzaga freshman scored 15 points and hit the game-winning three as the Zags beat UNC Greensboro in the first round of the NCAA tournament, following that up by going for a career-high 28 points, a career-high 12 boards, a career-high six threes and his first career double-double in a second round win over Ohio State. He’s scored at least 14 points in each of his last six games. He will be the next superstar in Spokane.
9. SYRACUSE IS IN THE SWEET 16 PLAYING BASKETBALL THAT MAKES VIRGINIA SEEM EXCITING
Jim Boeheim, man. You have to give him credit. For the second time in three seasons, his Orange team has snuck into the NCAA tournament with a resume that didn’t deserve a bid and proceeded to make everyone seem like an idiot for saying they didn’t belong. The Orange are in the Sweet 16 after starting in the First Four and failing to score more than 60 points in any of their three games. Boeheim just packs in that 2-3, puts as many long and athletic people on the floor that he can and lets Tyus Battle go make plays. And it works. Sometimes basketball is an easy game, I guess.
8. TEXAS A&M MOLLYWHOPS THE REIGNING NATIONAL CHAMPS
One thing that I never thought that I would see in this event is a team with Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson getting run out of the gym. Those two dudes are so good and so tough and been through so much that I expected them to be in a dogfight every time they set foot on a court for all of eternity. Then Sunday happened, and Texas A&M — who spent four months flirting with the idea that maybe living up to their potential was a possibility — absolutely trucked them. They won by 21 points, and the outcome never really felt in doubt after the final TV timeout of the first half.
7. BUFFALO STEAMROLLS ARIZONA
Remember when we all thought that this was going to be the most memorable upset for the first weekend?
Hahaha. That was fun.
But just because Virginia happened to go full Virginia and exactly one half of the top three seeds in the tournament were knocked out before the start of the second weekend doesn’t mean that what Buffalo did should be swept under the rug. The Bulls eviscerated an Arizona team that looked like they were ready to quit on this utterly forgettable season by the middle of the second half.
6. FLORIDA STATE SENDS XAVIER PACKING
Xavier, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, looked like they were going to be able to cruise into the Sweet 16, as they led the Seminoles by 12 points with under 10 minutes left in the game. But that did not last, as they were outscored 18-4 to close out the game while Florida State reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011.
It’s the first time since 2004 that we head into the Sweet 16 with two of the nation’s No. 1 seeds sitting at home.
5. NEVADA WITH TWO COMEBACKS IN THREE DAYS
Eric Musselman and the Wolf Pack managed two thrilling wins in the span of three days. First, they came from way behind to beat No. 10-seed Texas in the opening round of the event before erasing the second-largest deficit in NCAA tournament history when they came back from 22 points down in the final 11:43 to second No. 2 Cincinnati back to the Queen City.
4. JORDAN POOLE HITS HIS GAME-WINNER
This shot, to beat Houston in the second round, will be the most memorable shot from this first weekend:
While this image is one that will forever epitomize what makes March Madness so special:
3. ROB GRAY’S FIRST ROUND PERFORMANCE
The shame in Poole’s shot going in was that it ended the tournament run of Houston star Rob Gray, who put together one of the best first weekend’s in tournament history as well as a performance that should have been iconic. In the first round, against No. 11-seed San Diego State, Gray finished with 39 of his team’s 67 points, including the game-winning bucket with 1.1 seconds left on the clock.
That game-winner capped one of the wildest finishes to a game that I can ever remember seeing. Check this out:
And that led directly to this:
2. THE No. 11-SEED LOYOLA-CHICAGO RAMBLERS, AND SISTER JEAN, ARE IN THE SWEET 16 AFTER TWO GAME-WINNERS
I don’t even know where to start with this.
Twice in the span of three days, Loyola trailed 62-61 with less than 10 seconds left and twice in the span of three days they made a game-winner to advance to the next round of the tournament.
For the first time in the history of the world, a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament as the Retrievers knocked off Virginia to get their shot to play their way into the Sweet 16. They lost to Kansas State on Sunday, but who cares? It would have been terrific theater to see them get their shot in the Sweet 16, but it was not meant to be.
We’ll have to simply settle for UMBC truck-sticking the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.