If you are a fan of reality television, but don’t watch sports, especially March Madness, I question what you define as “reality.” Every single March, millions upon millions of people are glued to their television sets, smartphones, tablets, etc. to watch March Madness. Most people who watch the tournament are typically basketball fans who fill out a yearly bracket in hopes of having bragging rights or winning money. Others who aren’t as big into basketball as they are the brackets are still glued to the action. It’s a lot like how fantasy football has impacted how many people view football. The difference between the “reality” of shows like the “Bachelor” among many others and the reality of sporting events such as March Madness is the fact that most “reality” shows are scripted. You can’t script how a sporting event will play out and you can’t script the raw emotion poured out by these collegiate athletes.
For each team, every game is essentially a one-game playoff with the hope of playing in and winning six one-game playoff games in route to cutting down the nets at the end of the tournament. The beauty of March Madness is that anything can happen, except a 16-seeded team beating a one-seed, which has never happened. In fact, a one-seed has never lost in either of the first two rounds.
On Thursday, during the first full day of action, fans were treated with a ton of madness, excitement, emotion and drama. Of the 16 games played, there was a record five games decided by one point; the most games decided by a single point in the tournaments history is six, and day one already had five. Unreal. Those five one-point games were included in the nine of 16 games being decided by five points or less. Two of the games needed overtime to determine who continued to dance and who went home early. The first three games of the day featured three matchups of the three-seeded teams versus the 14-seeded teams. The outcomes didn’t exactly go in favor of the higher-seeded teams.
The first game of the day saw Notre Dame (3 seed) taking the best possible shot Northeastern (14) could give before ultimately pulling away for a 69-65 victory. Then the magic of the tournament started as the 14 seeds started to heat up.
The Big 12 was well represented in the tournament, but not on the first day, but more on that later. Iowa State (3) opened up with The University of Alabama-Birmingham (14) and were the favorite to win. However, UAB had other intentions. The young Blazers of UAB – and when I say young, I mean the youngest team in this year’s tournament – put the glass slipper on and it fit perfectly as UAB knocked off the Cyclones of Iowa State. William Lee scored the final four points for UAB in the 60-59 victory. The very next game on the slate saw another Cinderella story as Georgia State (14) knocked off another Big 12 team in Baylor (3). The Panthers of Georgia State were down 12 (56-44) with 2:54 left, but decided it wasn’t going to let the season end like that. Enter: R.J. Hunter, the son of Georgia State head coach, Ron Hunter. The junior scored 12 of his team’s final 13 points, including the game winning three-pointer from Atlanta, Georgia, which knocked his dad off his chair. Coach Hunter needed a wheeled chair to coach this game due his him tearing his Achilles’ tendon while celebrating his team’s Sun Belt Conference championship last week. When his son’s shot went through the net, he was excited and fell out of his chair, still coaching even from the ground. Baylor failed to score over the final 2:54 and thus are out of the tournament.
Back to the Big 12, which was considered the best and deepest conference this seasons, went 0-3 with Texas (11) losing to Butler (6) 56-48. Not a good showing for America’s best conference.
The next close game featured UCLA (11) knocking of SMU (6) 60-59, but not without controversy. Bryce Alford of UCLA heaved up a turn around three with time winding down that appeared to be offline until senior SMU center Yarick Moreira jumped up and hit the ball while it was still in the air, resulting in a goaltending violation and a one-point victory for UCLA. The ball looked like it would miss the rim, but the officials didn’t see it like that. The play was not reviewable, despite many people on social networks wanting it reviewed. Contrary to popular belief, SMU did not, I repeat, SMU did not get robbed. Had they protected a late lead, maybe this would be a non-issue.
The first of two overtime games happened between Ohio State (10) and VCU (7). The Buckeyes would emerge victorious 75-72 setting up a matchup with Arizona (2) on Saturday. That matchup will feature two of the very best freshmen in the country in D’Angelo Russell of Ohio a State and Stanley Johnson of Arizona. That is a must-see matchup if you are a fan of basketball. The next overtime contest came when it looked like Purdue was going to advance to the next round, until Cincinnati detailed those plans, coming back and forcing overtime and eventually winning 66-65. Purdue did themselves no favors as missed free throws down the stretch haunted them. Cincinnati’s reward for winning this game? The top, overall seed in the tournament, Kentucky.
North Carolina (4) continued its roller coaster-like season as it held on late to beat Harvard (13) 67-65. Stephen F. Austin (12), who was a favorite going into the game to beat a struggling Utah (5) team, could not pull off the comeback and fell 57-50. In a game that could have gone either way, Arkansas (5) edged out Wofford (12) 56-53. North Carolina State (8) defeated LSU (9) in another one-point game, 66-65. Kentucky easily advanced to 35-0 against Hampton (16).
I am still in awe over what happened in yesterday’s games. How can you not be on the edge of your seat, or off your seat for that matter, while the madness unfolds? This is the best time of the year, no doubt about it. Whether your brackets got busted or not, you have to love the upsets and unpredictability. The best part of it all? It was only day one of the tournament. For my money, this was the best first day of the tournament I have ever witnessed.