Biggest surprises of tournaments' opening rounds
What surprised you most about the opening weekend of March Madness? How many of your men's and women's Final Fours are still alive?
Friday's dramatics gave Duke haters reason to cheer
By Sarah Spain
Once again March Madness has lived up to its name. Thursday was a little too chalk-filled for upset lovers, but Friday provided the kind of dramatics we've come to expect. Norfolk State and Lehigh were responsible for the two most surprising moments of the tournament, bumping No. 2-seeds Missouri and Duke in the opening round (or, as the NCAA insists on calling it, the second round). It seems every year a no-name team makes headlines with an upset then disappears from the public eye just as quickly with a loss in the next round, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a more famous (and beloved) one-off than Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks fell in the second (er ... third) round to Xavier on Sunday, but they gave all the Duke haters in America -- nay, the world -- a reason to cheer with their win over the Blue Devils on Friday.
As for my brackets, I don't have what ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike call a "Sheet of Integrity." Every year I fill out about three or four brackets to hedge my bets and up my odds of winning. For the sake of this discussion, I'll use the bracket I filled out for the espnW tournament challenge. On the women's side, I'm struggling in the standings, but my Final Four of Baylor, Notre Dame, Stanford and UConn is intact. On the men's side, I'm sitting pretty in a tie for fifth, but my Final Four isn't looking good. UNC and Michigan State are still alive, but Duke and Florida State have both been ousted. C'mon Tar Heels!
Missouri loss truly historic
By Amanda Rykoff
We just wrapped up what can be described as "The weekend that destroyed Amanda's bracket." I am having my worst NCAA tournament performance in years, and it's not even close. I know it's called March Madness for a reason, but these first two rounds (yes, I still call them the first and second rounds) brutalized me. Six of my Elite Eight are still alive and all four of my Final Four are intact, though with Kendall Marshall's broken wrist, who knows how far UNC will go. The rest of the bracket isn't pretty. I took some gambles on Long Beach State and Wichita State that didn't pay off. Ohio's win over Michigan upset me both on the bracket side and as a third-generation Wolverines fan. I did pick NC State to go to the Sweet 16, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.
Believe it or not, Lehigh's win over Duke wasn't much of a surprise to me. I had Duke bowing out after the Sweet 16 (and actually losing in the Round of 32 in a few of my alternate brackets). Vegas agrees. According to RJ Bell of Pregame.com, Vegas had Lehigh's win over Duke as six times more likely than Norfolk's win over Missouri. Like many basketball fans, I targeted Missouri as a legit Final Four contender. I never even considered Duke to make it that far. What made the Norfolk State win so surprising wasn't that Missouri lost; it was how well Norfolk played. Missouri played well, but the Spartans played the game of their collective lives. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Missouri is the first team in NCAA tournament history to make at least 10 3-pointers, shoot at least 50 percent from the field, commit fewer than 10 turnovers and lose the game. That is what we call a historic loss. Watching Florida absolutely roll Norfolk State to advance to the Sweet 16 confirmed how fluky that win was.
On the women's side, my bracket isn't doing well. But looking at the results, nothing has been a real shocker. I do wish I had looked more closely at the locations for the first round. No. 11-seed Gonzaga hosting No. 6-seed Rutgers seems a bit unfair, and thus the Zags "upset" over a team that had to travel 3,000 miles to play on a hostile court hardly qualifies as a surprise.
I still have my all No. 1-seed Final Four intact and am confident that form will hold going forward. Well, at least until tomorrow night.
Norfolk State has plenty to be proud of
By Adena Andrews
There's nothing better than seeing the pride of Historically Black College and University alumni during March Madness. We witnessed that in No. 15 Norfolk State's win over No. 2 Missouri. Not only did Norfolk State alumni get excited for the Spartans' success, but it seemed the entire HBCU nation rallied around the liberal arts school from Virginia. When the HBCU advanced in the tournament, a sense of community that stemmed beyond divisions and conferences took over. You could see African-Americans from other schools in the tournament rooting for Norfolk State. The Spartans are no longer in the tournament, but they seem proud of making it further than anyone, even me, thought they would.
While teams such as Norfolk State and Lehigh put a dent in my bracket, I'm still alive in the espnW pool and in the 70.5 percentile nationwide. As long as Louisville stays in it, and for the women Notre Dame, I'll be safe. Bragging rights are at stake, and I intend to be the queen of gloating in early April.
Big upset busted my men's bracket
By Michelle Smith
The biggest surprise of the opening weekend was not that a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2 seed in the men's bracket. It's certainly happened before, and we Bay Area folks remember the Steve Nash-led Santa Clara win over Arizona in 1993. The fact that it happened twice with Duke and Missouri both making premature exits was certainly the biggest shock.
My brackets are looking grim, but I know I'm not alone. Duke was a Final Four team for me, and I lost seven of my Sweet 16 teams. My women's bracket, on the other hand, is in pretty good shape. All but one Sweet 16 team is still alive. The only one I lost was Georgia.