1. The most tumultuous regular season in recent memory has fittingly yielded an NCAA tournament rife with early upsets. Thirteen teams seeded ninth or worse won their first-round NCAA tournament games including a record eight seeded 11th or higher. Seeing the likes of Michigan State, West Virginia, Purdue and Cal all fail to win a game should come as no surprise to anyone who followed college basketball prior to March. In a year with plenty of good teams but no great ones, the No. 1 seeds had more total losses than any other season in history and teams in the final AP top 10 had 22 more total losses than they did last season.
2. There's no doubt which underdog secured the first round's biggest upset. Middle Tennessee's stunning 90-81 victory over second-seeded Michigan State was one of the most jaw-dropping outcomes in NCAA tournament history. This was a Middle Tennessee team that finished three games out of first place in its league and did not beat a single top-100 opponent in Ken Pomeroy's ratings. And this was a Michigan State team that had the second-lowest title odds of any team in the field and is coached by seven-time Final Four coach whose name is synonymous with March. The lesson here: Not even Tom Izzo is immune to March Madness.
3. Friday's most memorable finish is a buzzer beater that will be a March staple for many, many years to come. Northern Iowa's Paul Jesperson caught an inbound pass at his own 3-point arc, dribbled around a Texas defender and banked in a tie-breaking half-court shot as time expired to give the 11th-seeded Panthers a 75-72 victory. It was Northern Iowa's second consecutive buzzer-beating victory. The Panthers clinched an NCAA tournament bid in the Valley title game earlier this month on a Wes Washpun jumper that bounced high off the back rim and fell through.
4. The conference that felt the brunt of the upset trend most frequently was the Pac-12, which lost five of its seven NCAA tournament teams in the opening round even though the league produced nothing but teams seeded eighth or better. Injury-plagued Cal played without two starters and had Jaylen Brown finish with more fouls and turnovers than points in a loss to 13th-seeded Hawaii. Overseeded Oregon State couldn't sustain a second-half rally and fell against 10th-seeded VCU. Arizona, USC and Colorado all dropped first-round games on Thursday too.
5. The Big 12 was hardly spared from the carnage either. Only three of its seven NCAA tournament teams survived the opening-round upheaval even though like the Pac-12, each of them were seeded no worse than eighth. In addition to Texas' heartbreaking loss to Northern Iowa on Friday, West Virginia crashed and burned against Stephen F. Austin in a matchup of two teams that force a higher percentage of turnovers than any others. The Lumberjacks broke the Mountaineers' pressure and broke their spirit too, scoring 30 points off 22 turnovers from the Mountaineers.
MOST HEARTBREAKING WAY TO LOSE, PART I:
Where does this rank among iconic NCAA tournament buzzer beaters? Behind Laettner. Maybe also behind Bryce Drew. Behind Tate George? Keith Smart? Tyus Edney? Wherever you put it, it's a short list ahead of Northern Iowa's Paul Jesperson.
MOST HEARTBREAKING WAY TO LOSE, PART II
Cincinnati lost to St. Joseph's by a finger tip. Because forward Octavius Ellis did not release his game-tying dunk until after time expired, it did not count. Therefore the ninth-seeded Bearcats fell to eighth-seeded St. Joseph's in excruciating fashion 78-76.
New March rule: If you win an NCAA tournament game with a half-court buzzer beater, you celebrate with your school's most famous alum. This is two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner trading chest bumps and high fives with Northern Iowa players.
"There's three guys here that gave me every single thing they had, and I don't care about next year. I don't even care about tomorrow right now. I just care about the present and what they did for me, for us. And somehow I've got to make sure that in all this disappointment that does not get lost, because that's the problem with sports; it does get lost." — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo responding to a question about whether his team's loss to Middle Tennessee could serve as motivation for next year's Spartans.
BEST QUOTE II
"I don't know why anybody would waste time pressing us. We'll throw it to you. We're very charitable." — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins after his team's 22-turnover performance against Stephen F. Austin.
MSU made history today by being the first 1 ever to lose to a 15— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 18, 2016
MOST RELAXED MASCOT:
- - - - - - -