There’s no denying that the first two days of the NCAA tournament lacked much of the drama of past years. Where were the buzzer-beaters, overtimes thrillers and bracket-busting upsets? Only one of the top 20 seeds (fifth-seeded Minnesota) failed to advance to the round of 32, and a couple of the double-digit seeds (USC, Xavier) that did pull off “upsets” hardly qualify as Cinderellas.
But once you’re done belly-aching, take the time to notice that the glass actually is half-full. In fact, it’s more than half-full. After all, isn’t the ultimate goal to watch great basketball? If so, that’s what we are about to get.
Three reasons why you should thankful for all that first-round chalk:
USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
Because 26 of 32 higher seeds advanced to the round of 32, we are anticipating weekend matchups that include Wichita State-Kentucky, Michigan-Louisville, Kansas-Michigan State and Villanova-Wisconsin. That’s a pretty amazing second-round schedule.
And then there are the potential Sweet 16 matchups to salivate over: Villanova-Florida, Baylor-Duke, Florida State-Arizona, Oregon-Louisville, and UCLA-Kentucky. Did you really want to miss out on this?
USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock
The NCAA Tournament already has been robbed of enough superstars because of the NBA Draft; we need to cherish every opportunity we get to see the one-and-done studs and the other underclassmen who are using college as a brief layover to the pros. And each game also could be our last look at several upperclassmen.
No tournament would be more enjoyable without the likes of Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Hart, Frank Mason, Malik Monk, Dillon Brooks, Lauri Markkanen and Justin Jackson bowing out after the first round (or even the second round).
And the same goes for the men on the bench. March is much more fun with Coach K, Roy Williams, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and Bob Huggins storming the sidelines.
USA TODAY SportsKelley L Cox
Midnight almost always strikes
Sure, there are exceptions (VCU in 2011, George Mason in 2006), but it’s extremely rare for a double-digit seed to reach the Final Four (and that 2016 Syracuse squad doesn’t exactly qualify). After an upset or two, order is usually restored and the impossible dream is dashed for each Cinderella. In reality, each upset is merely delaying the inevitable.
Plus, it’s not like this year’s tournament is devoid of underdogs. Among the remaining darlings: Northwestern is in its first tournament, Rhode Island is in its first since 1999 and Middle Tennessee is carrying the banner for mid-majors everywhere. And then there are those who have graduated from Cinderella status but still have that party-crasher feel – teams such as Gonzaga, Wichita State and Butler.