The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

NCAA First Weekend Review

Posted by Blake Murphy on March 24, 2021

I’m a little bit Madness’d out, as much as it pains me to admit that. I watched 42 hours of basketball over the past four days, and those are 42 pure hours when you consider that there is very little commercial time when you are streaming and flipping channels to maximize ball intake (make your own joke). I am one of the biggest basketball fans I know, so for me to admit to Stu that my cap for a 4-day basketball bender may be 40 hours is tough. Last year, I managed because I missed chunks since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This year, I watched every minute of NCAA ball available. It was…well, it was an experience. I left dents in the couch at Josh/Stu/Alex/Sean’s, gained a lot of weight (probably), and my eyes are tired.

That said, there is very little I would have changed about the weekend. It was a great blend of excitement, Cinderellas, good finishes, and bracket logic. I may not be first in any league, but I have a good shot at respectable finishes, and I’ve only lost one Elite Eight team in my primary bracket. I also fell in love with a man-boy for the second time in 12 months, made enough Greg Paulus, Dookie (The Wire character), Carl Weathers, Mendez-Valdez, and Harbl jokes to last a lifetime, and went one-and-done in back-to-back free online poker tournaments (needless to say, I’m not a poker guy).

My brain is numb. I’m Madness’d out. After a first weekend in review, of course. Here it is.


East Region
Round 1 – Call It Like You See It
Great games: Oklahoma d. St. Joseph’s (72-64)
Other games: UNC d. Mt. St. Mary’s (113-74), Arkansas d. Indiana (86-72), Notre Dame d. George Mason (68-50), Washington St. d. Winthrop (71-48), Louisville d. Boise St. (79-61), Butler d. South Alabama (81-61), Tennessee d. American (72-57)
Stand-out players: Sonny Weems (Arkansas, 33 pts on 12/14 shooting), Luke Harangody (Notre Dame, 16-and-12), Pete Campbell (Butler, 26 pts on 9/11 shooting)

Round 2 – In The Committee We Trust
Great games: Tennessee d. Butler (76-71 in OT)
Other games: Washington St. d. Notre Dame (61-41) Louisville d. Oklahoma (78-48), UNC d. Arkansas (108-77)
Stand-out players: Luke Harangody (Notre Dame, 10-and-22)

Warning label: May cause dry mouth and rectal irritation.
Synopsis: Man, I predicted this would be a straight-forward region but I didn’t expect the favorite to win every game. Count it as a sweep for me but it was a boring region all weekend – only one great game, no break-out performances (save Harangody in round 2), and we didn’t learn much about any of the Sweet 16 teams. Everyone but Tennessee got through untested, making next weekend tough to predict. It’s going to be tough to keep UNC under 100 points, let alone beat them, but every team has multiple weapons and we should be in for some barn burners. Yup, fire-proof your barns, folks.
Altered predictions: UNC d. Washington St., Tennessee d. Louisville, UNC d. Tennessee


Midwest Region
Round 1 – Upset City
Great games: Kansas St. d. USC (80-67), Davidson d. Gonzaga (82-76), Villanova d. Clemson (75-69)
Other games: Kansas d. Portland St. (85-61), UNLV d. Kent St. (71-58), Wisconsin d. Cal State Fullerton (71-56), Georgetwon d. UMBC (66-47), Siena d. Vanderbilt (83-62)
Stand-out players: Michael Beasley (Kansas St., 23-and-11), OJ Mayo (USC, 20 pts), Josh Akognon (Cal State Fullerton, 31-and-8), Andrew Lovedale (Davidson, 12-and-13), Stephen Curry (Davidson, 40 pts, 30 in 2nd half, 8/10 on 3-pts), Kenny Hasboruck (Siena, 30 pts)

Round 2 – Sweet Sixteen, Indeed
Great games: Davidson d. Georgetown (74-70)
Other games: Wisconsin d. Kansas St (72-55), Kansas d. UNLV (75-56), Villanova d. Siena (84-72)
Stand-out players: Michael Beasley (Kansas St., 23-and-13), Wink Adams (UNLV, 25 pts), Scottie Reynolds (Villanova, 25-8-5), Stephen Curry (30 pts)

Warning label: If man-crush lasts more than four days, consult a physician.
Synopsis: Wow, Stephen Curry, are you kidding me? What an unreal region of the tournament. Leg 1 of the 12-and-13-win storyline, Stephen Curry shocks the world (twice), and Kansas and Wisconsin look pretty unbeatable. I’d talk about something else, but Curry is without a doubt the story of this region. Oh, yeah, and he dropped 30 in the tourney last year, too. Something tells me people will remember him this time though, after averaging 25 all season and dropping 70 over two games. Unfortunately, he’s about to hit one, maybe two, red hot teams who destroyed first-weekend opposition. Villanova showed that they were under-seeded but they don’t have a chance.
Altered predictions: Kansas d. Villanova, Wisconsin d. Davidson, Kansas d. Wisconsin


South Region
Round 1 – Paint by Numbers
Great games: Marquette d. Kentucky (74-66), Mississippi St. d. Oregon (76-69)
Other games: Michigan St. d. Temple (72-61), Pittsburgh d. Oral Roberts (82-63), Stanford d. Cornell (77-53), Miami d. St. Mary’s (78-64), Texas d. Austin Peay (74-54), Memphis d. Texas-Arlington (87-63)
Stand-out players: Joe Crawford (Kentucky, 35 pts), Levance Fields (Pittsburgh, 23-and-7), Louis Dale (Cornell, 12-6-2, and don’t be fooled because those were all team highs), Patrick Mills (St. Mary’s, 24-and-5), Jack McClinton (Miami, 38 pts), AJ Abrams (Texas, 26 pts, 0-0 ast-rbs), Justin Mason (Texas, 9-9-7, the anti-Abrams), Charles Rhodes (Miss St., 34-and-9), Jamont Gordon (Miss St., 8-11-9)

Round 2 – The Set-Up
Great games: Stanford d. Marquette (82-81 in OT), Texas d. Miami (75-72), Memphis d. Mississippi (77-74)
Other games: Michigan St. d. Pittsburh (65-54)
Stand-out players: Jerel McNeal (Marquette, 30-and-8), Brook Lopez (Stanford, 30 pts), Robin Lopez (Stanford, 18-and-9), Mitch Johnson (Stanford, 9 pts, 16 ast are you kidding?), Drew Neitzel (Mich St., 21 pts), AJ Abrams (Texas, 26 pts), Damion James (Texas, 16-and-16), Jamont Gordon (Miss St., 21-11-5), Derrick Rose (Memphis, 17-9-7)

Warning label: May increase heart rate and blood-pressure. Do not take with West region.
Synopsis: First round was like the East and seeds 1-8 all won. The biggest upset was #7 Miami beating the somehow-favored 10-seed St. Mary’s, but otherwise this was standard stuff. A few good games and a strong Gus Johnson presence made it enjoyable, but the real story is the Sweet 16 set-up, as Michigan St. showed they can play with great teams and Stanford and Texas showed why they will provide the best game of next weekend. A lot to like here in the most top-heavy region (yes, I put Stan/Tex ahead of Louis/Tenn), and a lot of players really made a name here, especially the Texas Trio. If I had my way, this is how Madness would go always – great games, but the best teams come out winners. I know, I’m boring. You should see me in bed.
Altered predictions: Memphis d. Michigan St., Stanford d. Texas, Stanford d. Memphis


West Region
Round 1 – Two Out of Three Aint Bad, But Six Out of Eight is Better (Do the Math)
Great games: Xavier d. Georgia (73-61), Duke d. Belmont (71-70), Texas A&M d. BYU (67-62), West Virginia d. Arizona (75-65), Western Kentucky d. Drake (101-99 in OT), San Diego d. Connecticut (70-69 in OT)
Other games: Purdue d. Baylor (90-79), UCLA d. Miss. St. Valley (70-29, no typo)
Stand-out players: Josh Duncan, (Xavier, 20-and-8 and 2 Tim Duncan comparisons from an idiot announcer), Curtis Jerrells (Baylor, 27-and-8), Gerald Henderson (Duke, 21-and-7), Alex Renfroe (Belmont, 15-5-3), Josh Carter (Texas A&M, 26 pts), Chase Budinger (Arizona, 23 pts), Jordan Hill (Arizona, 16-and-10), Kevin Love (UCLA, 20-and-9), Jonathan Cox (Drake, 19-and-16), Adam Emmenecker (Drake, 11-6-14), Tyrone Brazelton (West Ktcky, 33 pts), Jeff Adrien (UConn, 18-and-12), Gyno Pomare (aka Dookie, San Diego, 22 pts)

Round 2 – Eat That, Krzyzewski
Great games: West Virginia d. Duke (73-67), Xavier d. Purdue (85-78), UCLA d. Texas A&M (51-49)
Other games: Western Kentucky d. San Diego (72-63)
Stand-out players: Joe Mazulla (WVU, 13-11-8, ast/rbs career highs), Drew Lavender (Xavier, 18-and-9, 22 Nate Robinson comparisons), Kevin Love (19-and-11), Gyno Pomare (aka Dookie, San Diego, 20-and-9), Courtney Lee (West Ktcky, 29-and-7)

Warning label: If a Duke fan, may cause itching, sweating, nausea. If not, may cause excessive smiling and destroyed friendships. Stop fist-pumping immediately.
Synopsis: Well, the 68% of the developed world that hates Duke got their wish. First, the Blue Devils narrowly escaped a God-awful Belmont team. Then, Duke dropped the ball against a beatable West Virginia team. I don’t count myself among the Duke haters, but I certainly don’t like them, so this was enjoyable for me. Texas A&M almost gave Stu serious bragging rights by nearly beating UCLA, another 12-13 show down happened (are you serious? What the hell?), and some other teams people don’t like went down (Purdue, UConn, and Drake all lacked love this weekend). Oh, before I forget, two OT games in the first round and a plethora of tight ones that would violate DP’s parole! UCLA and Xavier are both clear favorites next weekend, and UCLA’s path to the Final Four gets a big assist, as if it weren’t easy enough already with another few days to heal.
Altered predictions: UCLA d. Western Kentucky, Xavier d. West Virginia, UCLA d. Xavier

The Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight will provide a good deal of solid basketball action. There are only two games with ‘boring’ potential, as 12-seeds take on 1-seeds, and the other six are almost guaranteed to deliver. The Elite Eight could end up being very top-heavy which, while bad for Cinderella fans, is great for fans of great basketball. I won’t get into it now, but holler at the Podcast this week for more on the Sweet 16 (and Wrestlemania, of course). Enjoy your three days off from basketball…you’ve got another 4-day weekend ahead of you.

One Response to “NCAA First Weekend Review”

  1. Your COMM 385 Prof Says:

    Don’t forget to study for that quiz, Blake.

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