The first weekend of the tournament is always great. The Sweet 16 may be far from what we wanted, but there were still plenty of close games, memorable individual performances, and, uh, —
Nope. Sorry. Can’t do it.
There are no true mid-majors left in the field and we are pissed. We still cover Gonzaga, so we’re hitching ourselves to the Bulldog Bandwagon, but my God we could have used a UC Irvine win last night.
Alas, it was zot in the cards. Rather than sit here and mope, however, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at some of the shining moments from our teams in the first weekend. Believe it or not, there were a few!
Ja Morant’s First Round
The best NBA prospect in the NCAA Tournament (do not fact-check this, please) delivered in Murray State’s first-round win over Marquette. He posted only the ninth triple-double in NCAA Tournament history, compiling 17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds. More importantly, he spoiled the hopes and dreams of one of the best teams in the Big East. The highlights:
Fletcher Magee making history against Seton Hall
For a while, it looked like the world might not get to see the Wofford Terriers’ true greatness. Locked in a dogfight with Seton Hall for most of the game, Wofford was on the verge of an early exit before Fletcher Magee hit three triples over the final seven minutes to make a nail-biter look like a blowout in the box score. His seven threes for the game made him the NCAA’s all-time three-point field goal leader. He’ll be remembered for that far more than for his rough shooting game against Kentucky on Saturday.
Rick Byrd’s first NCAA Tournament win
Galactic hero and master of the force Rick Byrd finally got the monkey off his back, earning his first-ever NCAA Tournament win when Belmont defeated Temple in the First Four. Byrd was a coaching success before Belmont even joined Division I, leading Lincoln Memorial and Belmont to a combined 12 NAIA Tournament appearances. When the Bruins joined Division I, it took 10 years to get the Bruins into the tournament, but they have made the postseason in 12 out of 14 years since. Noted football writers may not have thought the First Four counted as a tournament game, but just ask the fans in attendance. It did.
Just passed a Belmont fan bawling his eyes out, so happy for his team. If you say this isn’t the tournament you’re a turd.— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) March 20, 2019
Buffalo blitzing BOBBY F***ING HURLEY
This one was for you, random Internet guy who thinks a team from the MAC is automatically worse than a power conference team. After the first few minutes, the game was never close. Nick Perkins and Jeremy Harris each had 21 points and CJ Massinburg had 18 as the Bulls simply over-powered the Sun Devils.
Gardner-Webb had us believing...again
It. Could. Have. Happened. Again. Normally, when a 16 seed builds an early lead against a 1, you watch it with guarded optimism. It usually happens every year before the 1 inevitably wakes up and asserts its dominance, leaving a final margin not indicative of the 16’s fight. This was different. You may not have heard this, but Virginia became the first 1 seed to ever lose to a 16 seed last year. The embarrassment alone had us believing that the Cavaliers would come out and dominate this game from the start. They’d simply be too focused, too determined to avoid another humiliation. But when it didn’t start that way, another possibility crept into mind: Was Virginia now playing scared? Was it too tight, burdened with the pressure of not letting it happen again? With Gardner-Webb up 28-14, it felt like we might get a repeat of last year. Let’s pretend that the story ends right there and enjoy some highlights from the first half.
There were a couple minutes there where we actually thought the toothpaste people could do it. Any time you overcome a double-digit deficit as a 15 seed to actually take the lead, you’ve got a shot. It shows you won’t be rattled. It shows you’re not intimidated by a big-name opponent. It shows that Bick Rarnes. Here, watch Jordan Burns from outer space:
ZOT— Peter The Anteater (@PeterTAnteater) March 25, 2019