The madness is in full swing. Of the 11.57 million brackets filled out for ESPN pools, only one is still perfect. For anyone initially optimistic of their chances for perfection, better luck next year.
The Midwest region wrapped up first round play last night, and amazingly finished without an upset. It was “chalk,” as they say. Number one overall seeded Kentucky looked dominant against Hampton, and faces a Cincinnati squad fresh off an overtime win against Purdue. After defeating New Mexico State 75-56, Kansas will matchup with in-state up-start Wichita State. Melo Trimble and Maryland will play West Virginia, and Jerian Grant and Notre Dame will battle Butler.
The best game of the West region thus far was fourteen-seed Georgia State’s 57-56 upset win of three-seeded Baylor. The bracket buster was close from tip-off, and Georgia State found themselves down two on the last possession of the game. RJ Hunter, the team’s leading scorer and coach’s son, took a 25-foot prayer with time running down and a man in his face: splash. Baylor was stunned and Georgia State advances to play Xavier. Number one seed Wisconsin won handily and faces Pac-12 Tournament runner-up Oregon.
The South finished the Round of 64 nearly as clean as the Midwest region. The only exceptions to the mostly upset-free play were UCLA and UAB. The Bruins entered the tournament with the final at-large bid to much scrutiny. Coach Steve Alford and UCLA used the criticism as fuel, defeating Larry Brown’s SMU team on a controversial last second goaltending call. A popular Final Four pick, the three-seeded Iowa State Cyclones–the Big 12 Tournament Champions–were embarrassed by fourteen-seeded UAB 60-59. The Bruins will face the Blazers as the first game of Saturday’s action. The Duke Blue Devils matchup with a defensive-minded San Diego State team, and Gonzaga will play a frisky Iowa squad.
In the East, the Villanova Wildcats advanced over Lafayette to play NC State. The Wolfpack are highly confident after their 66-65 come-from behind win over LSU. NC State center BJ Anya had the last four points of the game, including a lefty hook shot with 0.01 seconds left in regulation. The second seeded Virginia Cavaliers struggled against Belmont and will need their A-game in order to hold off a Tom Izzo coached seven-seeded Michigan State. The eleven-seeded Dayton Flyers, the only upset of the region’s first round, will play the Oklahoma Sooners. Double-double machine Montrezl Harrell and Louisville advanced to play Northern Iowa.
By Kyle Edwards