The Opening Weekend of March Madness Was Incredible

Welcome to the 53rd edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, where I’m still trying to catch my breath after that incredible weekend of basketball. ‘Round these parts the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament produces a wealth of material. Let’s get into it.

 Teams like North Dakota State make the NCAA tournament's opening weekend just the best thing in sports. (via James Snook-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

Teams like North Dakota State make the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend the best thing in sports. (via James Snook-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

The best day on the sports calendar is not Super Bowl Sunday. It’s not baseball’s Opening Day. It’s not all of the bowl games on New Year’s Day. There is one correct answer to this debate. The best day on the sports calendar is, without a doubt, the Thursday when the NCAA Tournament tips-off and March Madness begins. The Friday of this weekend is almost as good, but Thursday gets the nod because on Thursday you know that you get to do this again and again and again for four straight days.

And this year’s NCAA Tourney Thursday might have been the best NCAA Tourney Thursday ever. Four of the 16 games went to overtime, which has never happened before. Four of the twelve regulation games were decided at the buzzer or in the final minute. So literally half of the games on Thursday came down to the final seconds. Three double-digit seeds won. Three more choked away a would-be victory. Colorado was embarrassed. (More on that later.)

It was a glorious, unbelievable day. Let’s recap.

The first game tipped off at 10:15 between Dayton and Ohio State, two schools that would make up an intense and interesting intrastate rivalry, except the Buckeyes refuse to play Dayton in the regular season. First game of the day, solid storylines, why not go down to the wire? Ohio State senior Aaron Craft, seemingly in his 8th season and a guy people love to hate in a J.J..Reddick/Jimmer Fridette/Tim Tebow kind of way, drills perhaps the biggest shot of his career to put the Buckeyes up one. Then he gets beat on defense (his main asset) at the buzzer. His remarkable career is over. The Flyers move on. I lose a billion dollars. The Madness has arrived.

After Wisconsin wins by 40 and CU loses by a couple, Harvard and Cincinnati are locked in a back and forth game. In the final minute, Cincinnati’s best player, probable All-American Sean Kilpatrick, dribbles the ball off his leg for a crucial turnover and the nerds dramatically pull off a major upset for the second straight year.

Next, Syracuse, Oregon, Florida, and Michigan State all take care of business in what I guess could be described as a bit of a lull as the day turns to evening.

Connecticut and Saint Josephs go to overtime in an edge-of-your-seater. Michigan handles Wofford. Then Saint Louis and North Carolina State get weird. Fifth-seeded SLU is down by 14 points with five minutes remaining. But they come back and send another game to overtime. The Bilikens somehow score 18 points in the final 2:22 of regulation, which is absurd. Saint Louis fouls NC State relentlessly because neither team can make a damn free throw. The final few minutes of regulation and overtime seem to take an hour and half. The game had absolutely zero flow. It was painful to watch. Yet because this is March Madness, it’s also somehow beautiful. Neither team would quit. The passion is worn heavy on the faces of all these kids who just don’t want their season to end. The aesthetics of the game are horrible, but also awesome.

Right after that one ends, the nation flips over to North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma. By this time, we’ve watched eleven basketball games and could maybe use a breather. Nope. Some kid named Lawrence Alexander drills a three with eleven seconds left to send this game into overtime too. In the closing seconds of overtime some freshman named Carlin Dupree who is a 58 percent free throw shooter and hasn’t played a single minute all night comes in and calmly knocks down the two biggest free throws in the history of the Bison program. HOW DO YOU NOT LOVE THIS STUFF?!

Okay, now we get to catch our breath right? Nope. Flip over to Arizona State vs. Texas. In the final seconds Texas throws up an awful brick of a three-point attempt. The rebound lands at their center’s feet and he picks it up and tosses in the game winner as the buzzer sounds.

I somehow refrain from literally ripping my bracket into shreds.

That stretch of games was the most relentlessly exciting and compelling college basketball you will ever see. But we’re still not done.

Villanova takes care of business. Now it’s Louisville vs. Manhattan. I come to the realization that nobody knows what a Jasper is. Louisville, picked by many to go to the Final Four and beyond, looks like it might go down to a 13-seed. It’s now approaching 11 p.m. We’ve been watching basketball for more than 12 hours. Just when you think the Cardinals are actually going down, Luke Hancock calmly knocks down a couple threes in the final 1:19 and they survive.

There’s one game still going on, San Diego State vs. New Mexico State. New Mexico State has a 7′ 5″ giant, so that’s interesting. It looks like the Aztecs will comfortably put this one away. They go up five with a minute to go. It’s now 11:30 p.m. and there has been nonstop basketball for more than 13 hours. I have to wake up for work in less than seven hours. I turn off my TV because APPARENTLY I HAVE LEARNED NOTHING. While brushing my teeth, I get a text. I giddily run out to my TV and see NMSU score five points in 16 seconds to send, fittingly, the last game of the day to overtime. SDSU pulls it out. America finally goes to bed.

The first of 16 more games on Friday tips off in less than eleven hours.

There’s absolutely nothing like the opening weekend of March Madness. And make no mistake, whatever comes along in 2014, nothing in the sports world will touch March 20th.

On to the fun stuff…

We’ll start with the most notable GIF of the week. This is what you do when you are a 14-seed and you beat Duke in the NCAA tournament on Friday morning.

Look how into it number 10 is!

Fred Hoiberg also decided to dance, but his style is a little different.

After that little scene The Mayor texted his daughter to apologize. She took a screenshot and posted it to Twitter. Pretty great stuff.

 

Sean Miller of Arizona and Archie Miller of Dayton are the first pair of brothers to coach in the same Sweet 16. They look and talk exactly alike. Apparently this confused Greg Gumble of CBS, which led to this tremendous, cringe-inducing interaction.

The Kansas vs. Stanford game on Sunday morning was entertaining, but the biggest star was undoubtedly this nutjob.

via @sbnationgif

I just realized that getting drunk and playing the damn cowbell court side at the NCAA Tournament while your team pulls off an upset to advance to the Sweet 16 sounds like the most fun thing… like, ever.

The other star was this poor tyke, who was shown approximately 94 times by CBS in the game’s final couple minutes.

via @bubbaprog

Some stuff happened on the basketball courts, too! I picked Arizona to win the title. I still feel pretty good about that. I’ve had the opportunity to watch them a number of times this season and have always come away impressed. They’re composed, deep, athletic, talented, balanced, well-coached and defensively sound. Did I mention athletic? No duo in the nation can match the athleticism of Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon. Here’s a little evidence of that from Sunday night.

via @mshamburger1

Here’s the stone-cold, brass onions play from Deandre Kane of Iowa State in the closing seconds that sent North Carolina home. (And led to Hoiberg’s dance above).

via @sbnationgif

I also need to say a few words about the best game of the weekend. The best day of the weekend was Thursday, but the best game came on Sunday afternoon, when 35-0 Wichita State took on preseason #1 and immensely talented Kentucky. Prior to tip-off, some people were calling it the greatest round of 32 matchup ever. It more than lived up to the hype.

Kentucky narrowly pulled off the upset when Fred Van Vleet’s buzzer beating attempt rimmed out. It was just a blast to watch. Kentucky, the blue-blood program with the perhaps the most tradition and largest fan base in all of college basketball trying to upset a one-seed from the Missouri Valley Conference.

Both teams played at a very high level throughout the game. Both teams have great defenses, but neither offense could really be stopped. The Shockers’ Cleanthony Early had perhaps the best performance of the tournament in the losing effort. Look at this freaking dunk!

via Deadspin

When the game finally ended– and everyone was hoping for overtime– you got the feeling that the winner should bypass the next three rounds and move on to the national championship. It truly felt like a Final Four game on the tournament’s fourth day.

Here’s Van Vleet’s attempt at the buzzer. I would have liked to see Early get a touch, but Van Vleet is the MVC’s Player of the Year and his sick crossover actually produced a great look. It just didn’t fall.

via @cjzero

via @cjzero

Maybe I’m just getting caught up in the excitement but I thought it was one of the best basketball games I have ever watched. March Madness is just the best. Have I mentioned that yet?

Tweet(s) of the week: The weekend was full of incredible basketball. But let’s go back to Thursday morning for a moment. You didn’t actually think I would forget about what happened in the Colorado vs. Pittsburgh game did you? If you don’t know better, I’m a pretty big Colorado State backer and am therefore not a very large fan of Colorado.

When I give my thoughts on this blog, I really do try to be objective. Sometimes I have some fun with some good, old-fashioned internet trolling, but for the most part I just call it like I see it. Also, I realize it’s a pretty bad look to make fun of a rival school’s performance in the NCAA tournament when your school just went through a rebuilding year and got zero consideration for an invite… to the CBI.

That said, Colorado’s performance on Thursday was so laughably horrible that we should all probably make fun of them. Have at it, internet.

In the game referenced in that last tweet, Michigan won by 30 and was the 8-seed. This means Colorado just had the WORST PERFORMANCE EVER from an 8-seed. Historically awfu! They had a good year, but damn, it did not end well.

No need for studs or douches this week because of so much awesomeness. Instead I’ll give you some fairly random predictions for the Sweet Sixteen.

  • Arizona will hold San Diego State under 55 points and win comfortably.
  • Louisville will squeak by Kentucky in another classic. Russ Smith will get his crap together and hit a Russdiculous shot late.
  • Michigan State vs. Virginia will go to overtime, but Tom Izzo isTom Izzo so Sparty wins.
  • Baylor will be too athletic for Wisconsin and pull off the upset.
  • Florida vs. UCLA will be entertaining as hell. Gators win.

Based on the accuracy of my bracket, we can legitimately expect none of these things to happen.

In non-sports news, some guy who is probably not creepy at all is wandering around Wal-Marts in North Carolina tricking women into letting him suck their toes.

I also really enjoyed this “Best Name Bracket” from the people over at Deadspin. Not sure I can see Dr. Loki Skylizard getting upset, but Curvaceous Bass and Shamus Beaglehole are no slouches in this competition.

And finally, I could have made this post exclusively about the NCAA Tourney, but when you come across a GIF of a mascot bear catching a baseball in his giant mouth, you share that shit immediately.

via @corkgaines

I think this one is headed for the GIF hall of fame.

***

Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading. Year Two is off and running. See ya next week for my Rockies preview, which will actually have to come a day after Opening Day.

Comment on any of this stuff below, or email me at mdhahn1@yahoo.com with post ideas, videos or other media I should know about. Subscribe at the top right of this page. Follow me on Twitter @MitchDHahn.

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5 thoughts on “The Opening Weekend of March Madness Was Incredible

  1. Old geezer up north

    Dude, sorry about losing the billion. After the call on the New Mexico Bowl, I really thought you had a shot……………….

    Reply
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