Daily Dispatches
Mercer University basketball players celebrate their win over Duke University
Associated Press/Photo by Chuck Burton
Mercer University basketball players celebrate their win over Duke University

College hoops have March at its maddest

Sports

After a nail-biting start to the NCAA college basketball tournament, anything could happen in the Sweet 16, which tips off Thursday afternoon in Anaheim, Calif., Memphis, Tenn., New York City, and Indianapolis.

On Day One of the tournament, four overtime games, four upsets, a 16-point comeback, and a couple more buzzer beaters made NCAA history as the tensest day in the Round of 64. One 81-year-old University of Memphis fan refused emergency surgery on her collapsed lung until her Tigers finished off George Washington University on Friday.

The unpredictability on the court destroyed the hopes of “bracketeers” after billionaire Warren Buffett promised $1 billion to the person who correctly predicted every game. No one survived Buffett’s contest. Here are a few reasons why:

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Heartbreak. Tears streamed down the faces of crushed fans in St. Louis as foes bounced both Wichita State University and University of Kansas in front of a partisan crowd. The No. 10 seed Stanford University downed Kansas 60-57, and the No. 8 seed University of Kentucky outlasted the Wichita State Shockers 78-76 to reach the Sweet 16.

The upsets rocked fans’ brackets and the Shockers’ title hopes. Wichita State was the first team in NCAA history with a record of 35-0, but Kentucky proved too much.The scene at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis replayed in arenas throughout the country. Syracuse, Villanova, and Creighton universities went down to lower-seeded teams.

Home court disadvantage. NCAA tradition holds that the higher a team’s seed, the closer to home it gets to play. Teams from the universities of Florida and Wisconsin took advantage of short drives to Orlando and Milwaukee. But playing close-to-home didn’t turn out too well for some schools, even with highly partisan crowds. Syracuse lost Saturday in its upstate New York stomping ground, the Kansas teams lost in St. Louis, and, in the biggest upset of the tournament, No. 3 seed Duke University lost Friday to No. 14 seed Mercer University at a site just 20 miles from Duke’s campus.

The next Cinderella? The No. 11 seed University of Dayton upset both Syracuse and cross-state rival Ohio State University. Dayton won both games after opponents missed the winning shot at the buzzer. The win over Syracuse earned Coach Archie Miller a contract extension Monday, according to ESPN. In Miller’s third year with the Dayton Flyers, the team is now 25-10 and going to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years. Police in riot gear arrested at least five people Saturday night as about 1,000 Dayton students celebrated the school’s Sweet 16 berth. University president Daniel Curran surfed the crowd at the party, and the evidence is on Twitter.

Up next: Regional Weekend. Three double-digit seeded teams—Stanford, Dayton and the University of Tennessee—are still in the field going into the Sweet 16. Many favorites quietly made the tournament’s second weekend, too. Three No. 1s—the universities of Florida, Arizona, and Virginia—survived brief scares, and Michigan State University and University of Louisville also remain.

There’s no shortage of storylines in the matchups, either. Cross-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville will drive three hours to Indianapolis for a rematch between the previous two national champions. Dayton and Arizona’s head coaches are brothers Archie and Sean Miller who could meet in the Final Four. Or rivals Michigan and Michigan State could set up their own Final Four showdown.

Andrew Branch
Andrew Branch

Andrew is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C. He was homeschooled for 12 years and recently graduated from N.C. State University. He writes about sports and poverty for WORLD. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewABranch.

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