March Madness First Round Recap

The annual NCAA Men’s Basketball March Madness Tournament is finally here. Thursday marked the official opening of the tournament following Tuesday and Wednesday’s play-in games. It also marked the beginning of the slow demolition of tournament brackets all across the nation.

March Madness always brings with it drama, team work, and showmanship and as we are now past the opening round, it has definitely not disappointed so far.  

Coming into the tournament it was clear that Duke, lead by Freshman phenoms Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, were the overall favorites to cut down the nets at the end of the tournament.  

But outside of Duke, it is, and has been, a free-for-all between the remaining 63 schools competing in the tournament to see who can challenge the DePaul Blue Devils for the title. However, the beauty of the tournament, and the reason it is so popular, is the extreme unpredictability that comes with it.  

Tournaments are always riddled with upsets and close finishes that truly bring out the best in basketball and as we are now two days into this tournament, it is easy to say that it is following suit.

The tone was set for the rest of the tournament when the first game between Louisville and Minnesota ended in an upset as Minnesota prevailed in a close game. This upset was echoed later in the day by what will be the biggest upset of the tournament as 13th seed UC Irvine defeated Kansas State who was a 4 seed. Regardless of seeding, you can always expect a good game in the tournament, and this was the case for most of the first round.

We saw down to the wire finishes between LSU and Yale, New Mexico State and Auburn, Florida State and Vermont, Maryland and Belmont, Saint Mary’s and Villanova, Iowa and Cincinnati,  Liberty and Mississippi State, and even a second seeded Tennessee squad narrowly avoided a first round upset as they pulled away in the final minutes against the 15 seed, Colgate.

Duke, as well as the other 1 seeds in the tournament, handled their business with some ease as they all took home wins by sizeable deficits. However, regardless of all of that, the story of the first round was the complete dominance put on display by Murray State’s Ja Morant.  

Morant, a sophomore, lead his 12th seeded Murray State squad to a blowout victory over the 5th seeded Marquette.  Morant became the first player to drop a triple-double in the tournament since Draymond Green in 2012.  

Morant displayed athleticism, scoring ability, great vision, great decision making, and a control over the entire pace of the game. He was already considered a top prospect in this upcoming NBA draft, behind the freak of nature Zion Williamson and his teammate R.J. Barrett. But after his performance on Thursday, Morant has thrown himself into the conversation of the number 1 overall pick.  

Looking forward to the draft, it will be difficult for any NBA team in the lottery to choose anybody over Zion Williamson, but Morant’s potential might just be as high as Williamson’s. My Chicago Bulls will be one of the teams in the mix for Williamson, Morant, or Barrett, and after Thursday I am praying that fate will bring Morant and the Bulls together to save us from the rebuild and our horrible General Managers.  

Round 2 of the tournament begins today as teams are now fighting for a chance to dance in the Sweet 16.  Dreams of being crowned champion are suddenly within reach, and the intensity of the games will only increase, making for what is undoubtedly the best basketball to watch on any level.