NCAA Tournament Recap: Some Top Seeds Were Lucky To Survive, Others Didn’t


Just think, if the other great shooting teams actually shot the ball well, we would have had the most topsy turvy first-round in NCAA Tournament history. As it turns out, nine lower-seeded teams won their first round matchups anyway. Yes, three of those wins came from the No. 9 seed. Furthermore, a No. 10 seed favorite won a game as well. Still, that leaves us with five huge upsets in the first two days of the NCAA Tournament. And the carnage could have been much more in the quest for a date in the Round of 32.

Five Near Misses

5 Kentucky 78
12 Davidson 73

The Davidson Wildcats gave the Kentucky Wildcats all they could handle in the 78-73 loss. Although Davidson was down 10 at the half, they stormed back to take Kentucky to the brink of elimination. However, their 3-point shooting failed them at the most critical time. Leading scorer Peyton Aldridge was 1 of 9 from 3-point range. He was 4 of 17 from the field and never got comfortable against the Kentucky defense. Overall, Davidson shot 11 of 33 from 3-point range and they missed too many golden opportunities. In the end, we knew at least one 5-seed was going to escape into the next round.

5 Ohio State 81
12 South Dakota State 73

The Ohio State Buckeyes were really on the brink of elimination when back to back boneheaded plays turned into an easy win in the final minute. With the game tied, David Jenkins Jr. fouled Kam Williams on a 3-point attempt. The shot went in and the Buckeyes instantly reclaimed a four-point lead. The next possession, the South Dakota Jackrabbits fouled on another 3-pointer to give the Buckeyes three more foul shots. Williams made all three. That’s how a tie game turns into an eight point win with 1:36 left in the game.

4 Gonzaga 68
13 UNC-Greensboro 64

The UNC-Greensboro Spartans had a three-point lead late in the game. Then, they had three straight offensive possessions where nothing went right. A failed alley-oop attempt to James Dickey may have put the game away. Instead, the ball sailed high out of bounds. Once the Gonzaga Bulldogs tied the game, Zach Norvell Jr. took over with a game-winning 3-point shot with 26 seconds left. However, Marvin Smith still had an opportunity to tie the game. His 3-point shot went all the way in the hoop and bounced back out. Norvell hit 1 of 2 foul shots to finish off the Spartans by four points.

6 Houston 67
11 San Diego State 65

The San Diego State Aztecs had no answer for Rob Gray’s offensive game. Gray scored 39 points, including the game-winning layup with 1.1 seconds left. The Aztecs had one final shot and got the ball above the arc for a game-winning attempt. The shot rimmed out and the Houston Cougars pulled out their first NCAA Tournament win since 1984.

4 Auburn 62
13 Charleston 58

Did Grant Riller get fouled on a potential game-tying three. Did Auburn send the wrong foul shooter to the line to give the Auburn Tigers a four-point lead? There are a lot of questions going around in Friday’s first-round matchup between the Charleston Cougars and the SEC’s regular season champion. In the end, the Cougars couldn’t make enough offensive plays down the stretch. They were 5 of 22 from 3-point range. The Tigers were 5 of 24 from 3-point range, but made three critical ones in the final minutes.

In all, nine double digit seeds lose by single digits That doesn’t include Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks after their 10-point loss to the Texas Tech Raiders. The Lumberjacks led most of the game until the wheels fell off late in the second half. Their eight point lead disappeared and the Lumberjacks couldn’t recover.

The No. 14 Bucknell Bison also lost by four points to the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans after a barrage of threes. However, the Spartans made all of their foul shots in the final few minutes. That’s interesting because they missed seven foul shots earlier in the game. This could have gone sideways quickly.

Big Upsets

In reality, none of the games looked like upsets. Of course the UMBC Retrievers were the first No. 16 seed to advance to the Round of 32. Moreover, they won by 20 points. Winning is one thing. But decimating Virginia’s defense in the process was just the icing on the cake. Out of the five biggest seed upsets, only one came on a last second second. The other four victories were by five points or more.

The Buffalo Bulls had the biggest victory by 21 points. The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers needed the 3-point buzzer beater to defeat the Miami Hurricanes on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Marshall Thundering Herd clearly matched up well with the Wichita State Shockers all game long. Even the RPI and Kenpom numbers couldn’t help the favorites when they played on the court. The final big upset of the first-round came when the Syracuse Orange knocked off the TCU Horned Frogs. Historically, this is not an upset at all. Therefore, it doesn’t count that way and shouldn’t be in the same discussion for years to come.

16 UMBC 74
1 Virginia 54

13 Buffalo 89
4 Arizona 68

13 Marshall 81
4 Wichita State 75

11 Loyola-Chicago 64
6 Miami 62

11 Syracuse 57
6 TCU 52