2019 NCAA Tournament: The Madness Begins


Theme of the Day – Mid Majors Belong

Next year, when everyone argues about the 67 and 68th team and the argument is between a mediocre Big East team, a mediocre ACC team, and a 4-5 loss mid-major? Let’s just remember that mid-majors belong. Murray State won and many others played well enough to win. Next year, instead of debating St John’s, TCU, Alabama, a 16-16 Texas, or 17-15 Indiana, just give me UNC-Greensboro, okay?

Thursday was a day filled with close losses and near-upsets. And while teams like Belmont, Vermont, Bradley, and Yale couldn’t seal their respective deals, they managed to remain competitive with very good power conference teams. More on those games below.

Big East’s Very Bad Day

St. John’s flopped hard in the play-in game, losing to Arizona State Wednesday night. On Thursday, Marquette, the co-regular season champions got blown out by Murray State as a 5 seed, the highest seeded Big East team.

Many felt Seton Hall should be favored over 7th seeded Wofford. Well, thanks to Fletcher McGee (a name everyone should be aware of now), Terriers took it to Seton Hall to advance.

If you really want to have fun with the Big East – former members Louisville and Syracuse also lost as higher seeds.

Villanova is the only Big East team to survive and advance

Near Upsets

Murray State is the only team to really pull off a major upset, thought it never really felt that shocking given the trajectory of both teams coming into the tournament.

Belmont was a trendy upset pick over Maryland and lost by 2 as Belmont failed to convert in the final seconds.

New Mexico State was another trendy upset as a 12 over 5, vs Auburn. Tigers tried hard to let NMSU win, but the Aggies failed in the final seconds. They had a wide open layup opportunity and instead of taking the shot kicked it out, obviously thinking they were down three, and on the three point attempt, would get fouled! They hit 1 of 3 FTs but would get possession on an out of bounds play. Final shot was missed and Auburn survived. Tough break.

Yale lost by 5 to LSU but kept scrapping and hanging around. Yale was 8-37 from three. That will help contribute to a loss, for sure.

I’m not sure anyone expected Bradley to keep it close with Michigan State, but the Missouri Valley champs hung around until the final few minutes when they seemed to simply run out of gas.

Same for Vermont, who hung around with Florida State for about 35 minutes, before the Seminoles took control of the game.

Fun facts

Minnesota beat Louisville 86-76, with all 86 points coming from their starters. They only got 18 minutes worth of bench play in the game. Gophers improved to 2-6 in tournament games since their 1997 Final Four appearance

Coming into 2019, Wofford was 0-4 in NCAA Tournament games, before picking up the school’s first victory.

Per Darren Rovell – Why Fletcher Magee, who is two makes from being the NCAA’s career three-point leader, chose Wofford over Kansas State & UCF. “They would send me these handwritten notes rather than those mass mailings.”

Ja Morant

The next section is about top performers, but Morant deserves his own section for his outstanding game, helping lead Murray State to their first tournament win since 2010.

Morant had 17 points (5-9 shooting), 16 assists, 11 rebounds

Here is what he accomplished with those numbers

  • Fourth player in NCAA tournament history to get 15 points and 15 assists in a game. First since Earl Watson in 2000 (via @ESPNStatsInfo).
  • First triple-double in the tournament since Draymond Green did it for Michigan State in 2011
  • 8th triple-double all-time in the NCAA Tournament

Top Performers

Dylan Windler, Belmont – 35 points, 11 rebounds wasn’t enough as Bruins fell just short of beating Maryland

Fletcher McGee, Wofford – 24 points on 7-12 shooting from three in Wofford’s first ever tourney win

Markus Howard, Marquette – 26 points in loss to Murray State

Dedric Lawson, Kansas – 25 points, 11 rebounds as Jayhawks cruise past Northeastern

What’s Next

Florida vs Michigan – a rematch from every college football season ever. Amazing how these teams always seem to play each other, including most recently in CFB’s Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Last time on the hardwood was 2013, in the Elite 8, a game Michigan won to advance to the Final Four.

Wofford vs Kentucky – This is going to be awesome. This game is in the 2:00 slot, which means it’s the only game at this time. You’re going to see 49 states and 16 countries rooting for Wofford to win this game. No PJ Washington could be a factor for Kentucky.

Gonzaga vs Baylor – Zags are 4-0 all-time vs Baylor

Minnesota vs Michigan State – Spartans won the lone meeting in 2019 and have won 5 of 6 overall vs Gophers

Villanova vs Purdue – Boilermakers try for their third straight Sweet 16, while Villanova tried for a third National title in four years

Kansas vs Auburn – Auburn is seeking their first Sweet 16 since 2003

Maryland vs LSU – LSU hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2006

Murray State vs Florida State – Murray State has never won more than 1 game in a single NCAA Tournament

What to Watch For Friday

UC Irvine, UCF and Liberty are among the teams seeking their first NCAA Tournament wins

Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, winners of Wednesday’s play-in game, face Hurley’s former team, Buffalo. He went 42-20 in 2 years at Buffalo and is still seeking his first official (field of 64) NCAA Tournament win as a head coach.

Cincinnati is making their 9th straight tournament appearance, vs Iowa. Bearcats are just 6-8 during that run with one Sweet 16 appearance. They have won 3 of their last 4 first round games.

Virginia looks to snap their one game losing streak to 16 seeds, this time against Gardner Webb, who is making their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

For Oregon vs Wisconsin, something has to give. The Ducks have won at least 1 tournament game in each of their last 5 tournament appearances and have gone to, at least, the Sweet 16 in each of their last two (2016, 2017). From 2014-2017, Wisconsin has made (at least) the Sweet 16 each year, including two Final Fours and a National Championship game loss. 

15th seeded Colgate is 2-0 all-time vs #2 Tennessee. Now granted, they haven’t met since 1960, but the Vols look for their win over win over the tooth paste brand.

Utah State, since the 1971 tournament, are just 1-15, with the lone win coming in 2001 vs Ohio State. Aggies have lost 6 straight Tournament games overall. They face Washington, who is in the tournament for the first time since 2011.

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