Overreactions to the Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament
The last two days could have been chalkier than an elementary school classroom circa 2005, and absolutely no one would have cared, because it was two days of college hoops pretty much nonstop from noon to past midnight. After the events of last year, I don't think any of us could have asked for anything better than that.
Fortunately, the last two days were anything but chalk. We saw some major upsets, and we also saw the #1 team in the country break-even en route to a 98-55 victory. The Round of 32 starts in just a few hours, but before all of that hoopla, here are some of the thoughts I had while spending a combined eight hours on my living room couch over the last few days(can the first two days be Friday/Saturday from now on? Please?).
If chalk is when the favored team wins, the Round of 64 was a whiteboard.
The story of the Round of 64 this year was most definitely all of the major, major upsets that occurred. While there were actually only seven big upsets this year, the gravity of each upset is what made it dramatic. For starters, you had #15 Oral Roberts taking out #2 Ohio State, a popular Final Four pick in quite a few brackets. We also saw #14 Colgate take #3 Arkansas down to the wire in a game that for most of it was significantly closer than the final score looks before the Razorbacks pulled away and ultimately put to rest any chances of a dentist's dream of a Sweet 16 in the South Region.
Later in the day, we saw a red-hot 12 seeded Oregon State squad easily dispatch Tennessee for their first NCAA tournament victory in almost 40 years, who probably should have been a 10 if only because it would have made a fantastic dad joke. The final two upsets of the day came via North Texas and Syracuse. The Mean Green, who have the distinction of having probably one of the best nicknames in Division 1, kept it close all game before blowing out the Boilermakers in overtime and proving that while it is in fact very hard, you can indeed stop a train. A short while later, playoff Syracuse came out in full effect and absolutely demolished San Diego State, holding them to just 18 points in the first half. Buddy Boeheim, who you have to imagine probably spent a lot of his childhood being called "Chief" or "Champ" due to his first name, led the Orange with 30 points.
While Saturday only featured three real upsets, it also featured a tournament first-an uncontested game, after VCU was forced to withdraw after multiple positive Covid tests. The first of the day was also one of the biggest, as defending champion #4 Virginia fell to #13 Ohio and the sharpshooting Jason Preston. It wasn't entirely unexpected though, as due to uncertainties surrounding the Cavaliers and their practice schedule after covid complications forced an early exit from the ACC Tournament last week, many had the Bobcats defeating them in the first round.
Then, in the final game of the night, Abilene Christian continued the trend of small midwestern Christian schools defeating Final Four contenders when they dispatched third-seeded Texas on a pair of last-second free throws by Joe Pleasant, who just really sounds like a dude who I would love to get a beer with some time. We can't forget #12 UC Santa Barbera either, who came incredibly close to upsetting Creighton before also losing by one due to some clutch free throws by Christian Bishop with 16 seconds left. All in all, a very good two first days.
A Cinderella Story
The past two days also left us with some very solid candidates for Cinderella runs. Oral Roberts, who provided us with one of the biggest upsets of the tournament as well as countless dirty jokes, seeks to continue their Indy 30 with a victory against #7 Florida. Shortly after, North Texas and Oregon State play Villanova and Oklahoma State, meaning tonight should be packed with action.
On Monday, Ohio takes one Creighton for a chance at the Sweet 16, while #14 Abilene Christian takes on #11 UCLA in a Sweet 16 battle between two double-digit seeds.
Loyola-Chicago and Illinois won their respective first-round games against Georgia Tech and Drexel, respectively, setting up a highly anticipated matchup for the Round of 32 on Sunday that's sure to be one of the best of the weekend-Loyola has the legendary Sister Jean by their side along with Third-Team All American Cameron Krutwig, while Illinois has two AP All-Americans: First Teamer Ayo Dosunmu, and Third Teamer Kofi Cockburn. The Ramblers won't have god and anime on their side since it's a Sunday, but it's still sure to be a very good game.
The first weekend also featured an unfortunate NCAA Tournament first, as the contest between #7 VCU and #10 Oregon was declared a no-contest due to Covid protocols with VCU. Obviously a very unfortunate event, our thoughts are with the VCU squad at this time and we wish the best of luck to Oregon against #2 Iowa on Monday.
Pretty good first round, if I do say so myself. Very, very excited for all of these Round of 32 matchups. See you all on the other side.