People crave the madness that this tournament is supposed to bring.

But after the first round, many sat in front of their brackets, instilled with the utmost confidence and thinking to themselves, “I’m a shoo-in to win the office bracket pool this year.” And those bracketologist gurus had every reason to believe that–Thursday and Friday were filled with very little drama. Only six lower seeds won their first game, and even then, some of those wins can’t be considered upsets–Middle Tennessee, Wichita State, and Rhode Island were all favored in their games. All 1-4 seeds advanced to the second round. We’re still waiting for that elusive buzzer beater. The first two days were, dare I say, a letdown.

But on Saturday, the Madness Clock struck 12. Wisconsin took down number one overall seed Villanova, and brackets were set aflame. Xavier then proceeded to wallop Florida State, and people began to laugh at their brackets. On Sunday, Michigan ousted Louisville and South Carolina took down the mighty Blue Devils, which effectively ruined every single person’s bracket in the country. Here’s what we learned from the first weekend.

The Committee’s mistake?

The moment the bracket was released, chatter surfaced about the egregious seeding mistakes that the committee made. As it turns out, the public was correct–Wisconsin and Wichita State proved they were much better than their seeds, and Minnesota and Florida State showed that they were not worthy of their higher seeds. But one has to sense that members of the selection committee under- and over-seeded teams to provide us with better second round games. It would be a cruel trick, but Wisconsin-Villanova and Wichita State-Kentucky were two of the best games of the tournament thus far.

The whistles

To preface this section, it must be noted that being a referee is one of the hardest jobs in the books–it’s a high pressure situation that gets no thanks and lots of boo’s. But at the college level, and especially in the NCAA tournament, there is a much higher standard that officials are held to. And thus far, they are not meeting that standard. To name some of the big errors of the first weekend:

  • The Gonzaga goal tend: If Chris Collins could see Zach Collins’ hand go up through the basket, then surely one of the three officials could as well.
  • The Seton Hall flagrant: Was it an aggressive foul? Absolutely. Did it look worse because Barford tripped over Desi Rodriguez’ foot? Yes. No way can a flagrant be called in that situation.
  • Joel Berry’s late-game drive: Charge, block, foul, travel, something has to be called here, right? No whistles allowed Meeks to put back Berry’s wild shot and go up three.

Now of course, calls are missed all the time–the officials can’t be expected to be perfect–but these are game-changing calls, which poses the question as to whether or not all the blame should be placed on the refs–is it time to expand replay, or possibly implement some sort of coaches’ challenge? Whatever the case may be, something has to change.

The feel-good stories

Northwestern, South Carolina, and Michigan. Arguably the biggest stories of the tournament so far, each has brought something different to the table. For the Wildcats, it was their first time in the tournament, and they WON! For the Gamecocks, it’s their first time ever in the Sweet 16, and to arrive there by knocking off Duke makes it that much sweeter. And for the Wolverines, they already have a great story going for themselves, but should they go on to the Final Four or even win the title, we’d be touting it one of the greatest sports stories of all time–from playing their first Big Ten tournament game in their practice jerseys to a match-up with Oregon in the Sweet 16, this team is playing loose and with nothing to lose.

“They can’t calculate heart…They can’t put that into a formula.”

This quote from Nigel Hayes is fantastic because it epitomizes the NCAA tournament–you can run predictions, analyze scenarios, but in the end it comes down to who wants it more. And so far, the Big Ten, Big 12, and the Pac 12 have wanted it more than the ACC. Largely considered the premiere conference, the ACC has one team in the Sweet 16. And Hayes showed us that while the regular season is fun, you can throw it all away once March hits.

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