Tournament madness ensues, surprise teams getting hot


The Appalachian Online

Nick Joyner

“Just another weekend of March Madness,” college basketball fans are saying after a wild opening weekend of elimination hoops.

Underdogs were well-represented, as usual, during the NCAA tournament this past weekend.

No. 14 seed UAB shocked the world with a victory over No. 3 seed Iowa State 60-59 to kick things off Thursday. Shortly after, Sun Belt champion and No. 14 seed Georgia State took out Baylor on a game-winning three-pointer by senior guard RJ Hunter, son of Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter.

Power conference teams Oklahoma, Maryland and Louisville survived scares from lower-seeded underdogs Albany, Valparaiso and UC Irvine by a combined 14 points on Friday.

March Madness has always been filled with heartwarming stories and underdog victories, especially during the opening weekend. But, lost in the magic of March, and all of the school’s that many people need a map to even find, are teams that finally begin to click on all cylinders.

Even an ACC school like No. 8 seed N.C. State should be proud of the turmoil it overcame this weekend.

Down 14 points at half to No. 8 seed LSU, the Wolfpack rallied back behind tremendous efforts from Cat Barber, Malik Abu and Trevor Lacey.

A similar story for State fans who never know what to expect from their team – the Wolfpack overcame a slow start against LSU and the ball kept rolling.

N.C. State controlled much of the game in Saturday’s third round matchup with No. 1 seed Villanova.

Unlike recent N.C. State teams, this year’s squad outlasted its opponent and is moving on to the Sweet 16 to play ACC foe Louisville on Thursday.

Similar to N.C. State, the No. 7 seed of the East region, Michigan State, has played with a lot of talent all year but has failed to put many teams away – not this weekend.

Michigan State fans often wondered if the Spartans, an NCAA tournament regular for 18 consecutive years, would even make the field of 68 this season.

Despite uncertainty, Michigan State handled No. 10 seed Georgia in its opening game 70-63, and like the Wolfpack, that momentum saw it upset No. 2 seed Virginia in the third round, 60-54.

The Spartans will take on Oklahoma Friday in the Sweet 16.

Overall No. 1 seed of the tournament and general favorite Kentucky cruised to two victories over Hampton and Cincinnati. The Wildcats take on West Virginia on Thursday night.

No. 4 of the South region, UNC, regained form and earned two victories over No. 13 seed Harvard and No. 5 seed Arkansas.

UNC matches up against the South’s top seed Wisconsin Thursday, in a game of contrasting styles that should be a great one.

The Badgers will look to keep the Tar Heels out of transition all game and maintain a slower pace, while Carolina head coach Roy Williams will likely want the game played at a blistering speed to take advantage of the Tar Heels’ athleticism against the Badgers.

Expect even more close games and unpredictable moments come next week when the Sweet 16 begins.

For fans of great matchups and unpredictable results, however, this is great news.

Action resumes Thursday night when No. 3 seed Notre Dame takes on No. 7 seed Wichita State at 7:15 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

Story: Nick Joyner, Senior Sports Reporter