The 11 Most Memorable March Madness Moments From The Men’s Opening Weekend
The amount of basketball is part of what makes March Madness’ opening week so special. With a total of 32 Thursday/Friday games and another 16 Saturday/Sunday games (not to mention the top four earlier in the week), the NCAA Tournament is like a high-stakes basketball tidal wave hitting you. in the face.
It’s great, but it can also be a bit overwhelming.
Don’t feel bad if your support is already in shambles. You are not the only one. Whether it’s Kentucky’s historic upset at the hands of No. 15 Saint Peter’s, Auburn’s abysmal performance against Miami, or Baylor’s inspired comeback short of North Carolina, the tournament field has been shaken to an extreme degree by the time we get to the Sweet 16.
The first four days of the NCAA Men’s Tournament once again lived up to the hype. Here are the 11 best moments from opening week.
Arizona’s chaotic end against TCU
Arizona was the second most popular pick to win the national championship in ESPN’s Pools, but the Wildcats suddenly had their season on life support in the final minutes of their Round of 16 against TCU. With the Horned Frogs leading with less than 20 seconds left, sophomore star Ben Mathurin punched a logo three-pointer to tie the game:
What happened next was even wilder. Arizona blitzed the TCU ball screen for point guard Mike Miles. Miles took a bump near the half-court line and fell to the ground, but the referees did not call a foul. Arizona’s Dalen Terry collected the ball and raced for the basket as the final seconds of regulation ticked away, but his dunk came just past the buzzer.
Arizona would win in overtime with Mathurin making huge play after huge play in the streak. There’s a reason we named him one of the top 10 NBA draft picks this year. Beyond that, if you’re picking a player to ride with for the rest of this tournament, it’s hard to pick anyone over Mathurin.
Kudos to TCU, who gave Arizona one hell of a challenge after winning the NCAA’s first men’s tournament game since 1987. We’ll never forget Eddie Lampkin’s ‘too small’ taunts directed at real giant Christian Koloko after scoring on him several times. Also, know that March Madness is the biggest because for a brief period, someone like Lampkin can become America’s most important athlete.
Saint Peter’s stuns Kentucky in the first round
Yes, we saw a #15 seed plant Sweet 16 last year. Yes, we’re just a few years away from UMBC winning the first game in NCAA Tournament history for a No. 16 seed. Never mind: Victory for No. 15 seed Saint Peter against No. 2 seed Kentucky could truly be the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history. wild cats spent 12.5 times more money on their program than the tiny MAAC champion from Jersey City who plays in the equivalent of a high school gymnasium as the UK regularly fills the Rupp Arena.
John Calipari has gone from confident to building through transfers this year, but the added experience hasn’t helped him avoid the most humiliating loss of his career. There is no scenario where a Kentucky team with national championship aspirations should lose to Saint Peter’s.
While Doug Ebert’s clutch shot and ’70s mustache have been the subject of viral buzz, the real star here is head coach Shaheen Holloway. The Peacocks executed some fine offensive sets late in the game while defending and rebounding at an incredible level considering their lack of size. With rumors of a bigger job, Holloway feels like March Madness’ biggest winner so far.
“I’ve got guys from New Jersey and New York. You think we’re scared of anything? You think we’re worried about guys trying to muscle us in and tough us out? *We* do this. This is who we are.”
-Shaheen Holloway pic.twitter.com/1TH93jyyNa
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 20, 2022
Bruce Pearl and Auburn ignite
It was easy to see Auburn’s potential downfall even when the team was riding 22-1 overall while reaching No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time in program history. While the Tigers had an elite field with the potential of the first NBA draft pick in Jabari Smith Jr. and perhaps the best defensive player in the sport in sophomore center Walker Kessler, their guards were ineffective and often lost control of matches.
Auburn fans’ worst fears came true in the Round of 16 against No. 10 seed Miami. The Tigers didn’t just exit the tournament early, they exited in embarrassing fashion with a sweeping loss. It’s a rough look for Pearl who signed a contract extension this made him one of the five highest paid coaches in college basketball in January.
Guards Wendell Green and KD Johnson combined to shoot 2 of 12 from three-point range, many of their attempts being too bold at the time. Meanwhile, Smith and Kessler combined to shoot 3 of 19 from the field. It was up to Pearl to slow play and get the ball to his forward court stars offensively. It was up to Pearl to find a way to counter Miami’s isolation-heavy perimeter attack when he had two big, elite defensive backs. Instead, Pearl showed little situational awareness or tactical adjustments. His team seemed totally unprepared for the onslaught of Miami.
It was a tough night for Smith. He first got soaked by Isaiah Wong:
Then he was packed to the edge by Sam Waardenburg.
There are better days ahead of Jabari Smith. Pearl, on the other hand, will regret wasting such a talented squad with an early exit from the tournament.
The ridiculous technical foul pronounced against Illinois
No. 4 seed Illinois led No. 13 seed Chattanooga for exactly 25 seconds before somehow escaping with a first-round victory. A Round of 16 matchup against No. 5 seed Houston was always going to be tougher, but the Illini did well to keep the game competitive in the second half.
With just over eight minutes left in regulation time, Illini’s defense got a steal that led to a breakaway dunk for rookie RJ Melendez to cut the Cougars’ lead to four points. Unfortunately, he was called for one of the most false technical fouls in the history of the sport for hanging on the rim.
Ridiculous and unacceptable. Melendez was just trying to shield himself from his forward momentum so he wouldn’t hurt himself, but the referee thought it was showboating.
Houston made a huge run from there to clinch their ticket to the Sweet 16. That stupid technique feels like it changed the tide of the game.
Baylor’s historic comeback bid fails against UNC
No. 1 seed Baylor edged No. 8 seed North Carolina by 25 points with 10 minutes left in regulation. Then Tar Heels star Brady Manek was sent off on a stupid and blatant 2-call for inadvertently catching Jeremy Sochan with an elbow. Baylor made a massive run from there, using an all-court trapping defense and a few questionable calls from officials to force OT.
The Bears had all the momentum in overtime, but UNC had enough shots to take control. RJ Davis iced the victory with this circus lay-up:
It felt like the whole world was complaining about how many contacts the Baylor defense was getting away with, but thanking UNC for holding on in a game that looked set to end in historic defeat.
Gonzaga must dig deep against Memphis
There weren’t many teams in the country that played better ball entering the tournament than Memphis. There aren’t many teams with more talent either. This combination meant No. 1 seed Gonzaga was going to have his work cut out for him in the Round of 16, and for the first half it really looked like the Tigers were going to upset.
What changed in the second half? Veteran center Drew Timme went crazy, scoring 22 of his 25 points in the final 20 minutes. It was an old school clinic, inside. With seemingly all of their top bigs in trouble, there was nothing Memphis could do to stop him.
Gonzaga would be sitting at home right now if not for Timme’s scoring explosion. Memphis made them sweat.
Murray State vs. San Francisco was a mid-major shootout for the ages
College hoops diehards immediately moaned when a matchup between No. 7 seed Murray State and No. 10 seed San Francisco was announced. They were two of the best mid-majors in the country, and it would be so much fun to see them each take a shot at one of the big boys in the sport. Regardless: Murray State’s overtime win over San Francisco was nothing short of one of the most entertaining games we’ve seen in the entire tournament.
Senior Dons goalkeeper Jamaree Bouyea was phenomenal in the loss, starting for 36 points highlighted by several cold-blooded daggers late. Tevin Brown and the Racers were just a little better. I wish I could have watched a seven-game series.
A near-winner of the half-court game in USC against Miami
Before Miami overcame Auburn in the Round of 16, they earned a blow against No. 7 seed USC. Trojans forward Drew Peterson caught fire late in the top, hitting two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds to give his team a chance to win.
As USC tucked the ball under their own basket with three seconds left, Peterson fired a half-court shot that almost entered.
Shades of Gordon Hayward at Butler. Of course, our friends at Secret Base have a video about it:
The Indiana cheerleader who saved the day
Bless the Hoosiers cheerleaders for giving us a perfectly wholesome March moment:
Kelvin Sampson went shirtless in the locker room
Houston has quietly become one of the top programs in college basketball. The Cougars topped the first weekend for the third straight year by beating the Illini, and when it was over, head coach Kelvin Sampson took off his shirt to party with his team in the locker room.
Duke was on the ropes against Michigan State
Was Coach K’s Last Dance really going to end in the Round of 16 against Tom Izzo? It looked like it.
Duke trailed No. 7 seed Michigan State by five points with five minutes remaining. With their season on the line, the Blue Devils rose to the occasion. Freshman star Paolo Banchero made several big plays during the streak, and point guard Jeremy Roach – whose play was maligned throughout the season – hit the most important shot of the night for Duke moves in support:
The second weekend of the tournament has so much more intrigue knowing that every game could be Coach K’s last. Will he get the storybook ending Duke fans want, or the haters will get- they one more moment in the sun?