The first week of the NCAA tournament was filled with so many upsets and other wackiness that it became hard to keep track of all the crazy story lines. You almost wanted to take all the best moments and match them against one another in some kind of single-elimination tournament. If only such things existed.
Oh wait, a bracket! There were plenty of candidates, but we pared the madness down into an eight-item list, which helped us visualize the highest rated moments from an unforgettable week.
First, though, let’s go over some of the story lines that wound up on the wrong side of the bubble. Here are the honorable mentions:
The most lopsided NCAA tournament loss of Roy Williams’s career
The 86-65 trouncing suffered Sunday by Williams’s second-seeded North Carolina squad at the hands of No. 7 seed Texas A&M was the biggest in a tourney career that includes 24 other losses (plus 75 wins and three national titles, including one just last year).
Houston’s Rob Gray scores 39 points and hits a game-winning shot
Gray scored a career high in leading his Cougars past San Diego State on Thursday — and he did it while rocking a man-bun.
Nevada beats Texas in overtime
There just wasn’t room for two games featuring the Wolf Pack (spoiler alert), but this was a beaut — a comeback from 14 points down in the second half, many lead changes and one huge shot after another in a high-scoring overtime.
Two No. 1 seeds fail to make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004
That’s extremely wacky, but (spoiler alert, part deux) both of the losses featuring No. 1 seeds are in our bracket, so it seemed like overkill to include this tidbit.
Okay, let’s get to the seeded story lines, starting with the lowest:
8. Buffalo routs Arizona
Let’s not forget about this, just because it happened way back on Thursday and only set the stage for bigger upsets to come. The Wildcats, a trendy pick to make it out of the South Region as its No. 4 seed featuring a candidate to go No. 1 in the NBA draft (Deandre Ayton), didn’t just lose to Buffalo, they got smoked, 89-68. The Bulls had never won a game in the tournament, but they had fans back home doing what they so joyfully do, i.e., hurling themselves through folding tables.
7. Michigan State grabs 29 offensive rebounds in a loss to Syracuse
It’s saying a lot that that was the most head-scratching number to emerge from the third-seeded Spartans’ 55-53 loss Sunday to the 11th-seeded Orange, which had 30 rebounds total. ‘Cuse also had just three assists — to 12 turnovers — and made one three-pointer … and somehow got the win. How was that possible? Well, the Spartans going 8 for 37 from three-point range didn’t help.
6. No. 1 Xavier loses to Florida State
It wasn’t just that the Musketeers were the top seed in the West Region, while the ninth-seeded Seminoles had to spring a mini-upset in the first round just to play them. Xavier appeared to be in control for most of the second half but blew a double-digit lead with under nine minutes left, and its end-of-game sequence left a ton to be desired.
5. South Region carnage
The top four seeds did not make it to the Sweet 16, which had never happened before.
4. Michigan’s game-winning shot
For all of its drama thus far, the tournament has featured just one genuine buzzer-beating, game-winning shot. The Wolverines’ Jordan Poole did the honors Saturday, helping his third-seeded squad stun sixth-seeded Houston, 64-63.
3. Loyola Chicago and its 98-year-old superfan nun
Look, the 11th-seeded Ramblers were going to be one of the darlings of the tournament anyway, considering they hit two very late shots to upset No. 6 Miami and No. 3 Tennessee on their way to a surprise berth in the Sweet 16. But they also sport the event’s most lovable fan, Sister Jean? Come on, that’s practically cheating.
2. Nevada’s mind-blowing comeback against Cincinnati
Apparently, the Wolf Pack’s 14-point rally versus Texas was just a warm-up for the main event. According to some analyses, No. 2 Cincinnati had a 99.9 percent chance of winning when it took a 22-point lead in the second half Sunday, but No. 7 Nevada had other ideas. The 75-73 shocker made for the second-largest comeback in tournament history and, when combined with Xavier’s collapse, also made for a very, very rough Sunday in the Queen City.
1. UMBC topples Virginia
No. 1 seeds had gone 135-0 against 16 seeds, but the Retrievers smashed that stat like a crab with a mallet, putting their school on the map and making it abundantly clear that absolutely nothing could be taken for granted in this tournament.
And look at that: UMBC is now a No. 1 seed in its own right.
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