The Greatest Moments in the history of the NCAA Tournament first round

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Look at the time stamp on this post.

12:15 p.m.

On Thursday, March 19th.

This is the precise moment that the 2020 NCAA Tournament — the real tournament, not that First Four nonsense — was supposed to start.

So to honor that moment properly, here are 16 of my favorite first round moments from the NCAA tournament. Please share your favorite in the comments below or tweet at us with the video.

TAMPA, FLORIDA, IN 2008

Without question, the greatest first round site in the history of the NCAA tournament was the Tampa pod in the 2008 big dance.

Friday, March 22nd, 2008 at the St. Pete Forum will go down as perhaps the Maddest day of all the Madness.

That’s because there were four double-digit seeds landing upset wins. Two games went into overtime. Two games were won on buzzer beaters.

It just does not get any better than that.

It started with perhaps the best shot of the day, as Ty Rogers hit a three at the overtime buzzer to beat 5-seed Drake, 101-99, with a play that will remind many of the Kris Jenkins shot to beat North Carolina:

Of course, that was followed up by 13-seed San Diego pulling off an upset with a game-winner with 1.2 seconds left against 4-seed UConn:

That was followed up by 13-seed Siena beating Vanderbilt by 21 points in the third game of the day before 12-seed Villanova upset 5-seed Clemson, 75-69, in the last game of the evening.

And that may actually be the wildest part of the entire day.

As a 12-seed, Villanova upset 5-seed Clemson.

I know, completely unbelievable, right?

RJ HUNTER SENDS HIS DAD FLYING

The context of this incident is important.

Ron Hunter, then the Georgia State head coach, tore his achilles celebrating the 2015 Atlantic Sun tournament championship because that’s the kind of coach that he is. So when his 14th-seeded Panthers took on Baylor in the first round of the tournament, Ron was rolling around on a scooter and sitting on a stool.

Fast forward 39 minutes and 44.9 seconds, and Kenny Cherry missed a free throw that would have put Baylor up by three. Instead, R.J. Hunter – Ron’s son and a future first round pick – gets the rebound, and this happens:

Just incredible.

The sneaky hilarious part about this is the announcer. “They gotta push this to the basket guys, take this to the basket. What are they doing?”

Oh, just winning the game.

NBD.

STEVE MERFELD GETS A LIFT

One of the iconic March Madness moments.

15-seed Hampton was leading Jamaal Tinsley and Iowa State at the half, but a second half run put the Cyclones up 55-44 with under five minutes left. But the Pirates were going away, and Tarvis Williams capped off a 14-2 finish to the game with a bucket in the lane with a very nice 6.9 seconds left on the clock. After Tinsley missed a layup at the other end of the floor, Hampton advanced, becoming just the fourth 15-seed to win a game in the NCAA tournament.

During the celebration, this happened:

I remember watching that play happen live, and thinking that moment was the best moment in the history of sports.

The image of Merfeld punching and kicking the air while lifted four feet off the ground by a player almost twice his size will forever be etched into my mind.

But that wasn’t the wildest 15-over-2 upset we’ve seen.

DUNK CITY IS BORN

Florida-Gulf Coast, a tiny school in Ft. Myers, Florida, has only been in existence since 1991. Their basketball team has only been a thing since 2002. And yet, in 2013, under the tutelage of now-USC head coach Andy Enfield, the Eagles went on what may be the greatest cinderella run in the history of college basketball.

FGCU became the first 15-seed to make it to the Sweet 16, and they did so in incredible fashion. They didn’t needed a fluky buzzer-beater or a couple of lucky bounces to win. They quite literally dunked on, around and over Georgetown (and San Diego State) en route to the second weekend:

They were the better team both days, no questions asked.

And the result was this: A nickname we created. You’re welcome for that.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE KNOCKS OFF FAVORITE, MICHIGAN STATE

Perhaps the biggest 15-over-2 upset in tournament history came in 2016, when Kermit Davis and Middle Tennessee State stunned Michigan State in the first round.

A couple of qualifiers here: For starters, Middle Tennessee State was a really, really good mid-major program, one that did battle with high-majors before and after this upset win. They probably didn’t deserve to be on the No. 15-seed line in this bracket. They were better than that.

But Michigan State entered this game as the favorite to win the title. They had the co-National Player of the Year on their roster in Denzel Valentine. They would have been a No. 1-seed if they had not dealt with some injuries — including to Valentine — during the season. You know how there is always one team that the majority of the talking heads pick to win the title as soon as the bracket is officially announced? Michigan State was that team in 2016.

And Middle Tennessee State kicked their behinds:

KYLE O’QUINN O’VERWHELMS MISSOURI

Another first round stunner came during the 2012 NCAA Tournament, when 15-seed Norfolk State knocked off Missouri.

Perhaps the wildest part about this win is that the best pro on the floor turned out to be a player from Norfolk State.

Missouri was one of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch this season. They played four sharp-shooting guards around Ricardo Ratliffe and let it fly. They scored in bunches, but they were always susceptible to a bruiser in the paint and an off-night. Enter Kyle O’Quinn, a 6-foot-10 New Yorker that ended up at Norfolk State before become a second round pick in 2012. He’s still playing in the NBA today.

He had 25 points and 12 boards in the win, including what proved to be the game-winning bucket:

THAT WASN’T THE ONLY 15-SEED TO WIN THAT DAY

In the very next session of games, 15-seed Lehigh and future top ten pick C.J. McCollum went out and upset a Duke team that featured a couple of Plumlees, Austin Rivers and Seth Curry, which made for one of the wildest and most unforgettable days of NCAA tournament basketball every.

Think about how many brackets were blown up when this happened:

That’s not even my favorite Duke first round loss, by the way.

The 2014 loss to 14-seed Mercer is, mostly because this white boy got to show off his moves:

With the benefit of hindsight, I think even Duke fans can agree that is just the absolute best.

I’D BE REMISS IF I DIDN’T MENTION THE BIGGEST UPSET EVER

UMBC picking off No. 1-seed Virginia.

That story has been beaten to death at this point.

And it also happened to turn into the greatest turnaround in the history of sports.

Virginia, if you have forgotten, won the national title the very next season.

So how about you just watch this video on how and why everything changed:

CHRIS MCNAUGHTON SENDS KANSAS PACKING

It sounds weird to think about now, after seeing Kansas win a national title, 14 straight Big 12 titles and get to a trio of Final Fours, but early in Self’s tenure in Lawrence, there were questions about whether or not he was a good enough coach to win the big one.

Part of the reason that was part of the narrative of his career was because of games like this, where the 3-seed Jayhawks lost to Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

WHAT IF N.C. STATE LOST TO PEPPERDINE?

Jim Valvano is a legend in the sport of college basketball.

Part of it is because of his personality, part of it is because of the grace and dignity that he handled his fight with cancer and part of it is because of the way that Dick Vitale has chosen to dedicate his life to honoring Jimmy V and fighting against cancer.

The Jimmy V Classic. Jimmy V week. The speech. There isn’t a college basketball fan that doesn’t love him.

But one of the biggest reasons that he is a name that is important enough to honor that way is because he won the 1983 NCAA Tournament with N.C. State as a No. 6 seed on a buzzer-beating tip-in from Lorenzo Charles. Everyone remembers that game and that highlight.

What they may not remember is that the Wolfpack were taken to double-overtime by Pepperdine in the first round, and they needed to rally in regulation and the first extra frame just to have a chance to win at the end.

This is one of college basketball’s great ‘what ifs?’

THE SHOW

For my money, Harold Arceneaux will forever be the name etched in my mind as the greatest underdog performer in NCAA tournament history.

‘The Show’ scored 36 points in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament, leading 14-seed Weber State to a win over 3-seed North Carolina.

 

THE BUZZER BEATER PORTION OF THE PROGRAMMING

This is hardly a complete and definitive list of the best buzzer beaters from the first round of the NCAA tournament, but it is a few of my absolute favorites.

Let’s start with the classic: Bryce Drew and Valpo beating Ole Miss by going the length of the court in 2.5 seconds:

Or what about when Northwestern State beat Iowa and the announcers didn’t know who hit the game-winning shot?

Or Drew Nicolas beating UNC Wilmington before disappearing down the tunnel?

Since we’re talking about UNC Wilmington, how about this dunk?

But I think easily the wildest, craziest, maddest end to a first round NCAA tournament game came in 2016, when Northern Iowa and Texas did this:

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.