The tournament has made an impression not only for its numerous upsets, but also for its plethora of close games. On Thursday, March 20, four games went to overtime, setting a single-day tournament record, while two others were undecided until the final buzzer. Dayton’s dramatic 61-60 win over Ohio State started the tournament in fine fashion, and the excitement continued that evening when Connecticut, Saint Louis and North Dakota State won consecutive overtime victories in the span of one hour. Then, Louisville nearly lost to the Bronx’s Manhattan Jaspers, before Texas finished the night off with a buzzer-beater over Arizona State. Friday began with another shock, as Duke blew a late lead against tiny Mercer College. Amazingly, the craziest game of the opening round came later, when Stephen F. Austin made a game-tying four point play against VCU, and then won 77-75 in overtime. The next day, the Atlantic-10’s Dayton scored another nail-biting upset, taking down the heavily favored Syracuse Orange 55-53.
The drama intensified on Sunday, as Kentucky and Wichita State traded clutch plays and huge shots until the Wildcats emerged as 77-75 victors when the Shockers could not hit a buzzer-beating three. Kansas also could not hit its three at the horn and fell 60-57 to Stanford after the Cardinal stopped Andrew Wiggins and the Jayhawks down the stretch. Then North Carolina and Iowa State battled to the buzzer, where DeAndre Kane completed a fierce Cyclone rally on a game-winning driving layup with just 1.6 seconds left. Even games where the favorite emerged victorious were often filled with late tension.
If the upcoming Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds are half as entertaining as last week’s action, we will all be in for a treat. Of the teams remaining, I think UCLA, Baylor and Tennessee are the most dangerous underdogs left, while Florida, Louisville, and Arizona still look like the teams to beat. In any case, fans should be eagerly anticipating more tournament madness this week.
— Dominic Kearns
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