A plane, officiating, and upsets headline 1st weekend of NCAA Tournament
There should be no awkward silence at the water cooler the Monday following the first weekend of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Schools such as Michigan, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill were the topics of discussion during the program’s wins.
Michigan moves on to the Sweet 16 after upsetting Louisville in the third round of the midwest region. The Wolverines entered postseason play as a squad on the bubble to even make the tournament, as they finished the regular season as the eighth-best team in the Big Ten Conference. On March 8, the team prepared to leave Michigan to arrive at Washington, D.C., via plane. There was a bad takeoff on the plane and the entire team aborted the flight. There were no serious injuries to any of the players, but when Michigan finally got to the D.C. area for the conference tournament, the school’s game jerseys were unavailable, due to the accident. So after playing in their practice jerseys during the first game of the conference tournament, the Wolverines won. Then they won again. They ended up winning the entire tournament for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The two upsets over Oklahoma and Louisville add more weight to the feel good story about the team.
Wisconsin is the team that is responsible for stopping the defending champion, Villanova, reach this year’s Sweet 16. Villanova along with Gonzaga are two teams that have been doubted all season long as both schools that were No. 1 in the rankings at some point during the regular season.
UNC made headlines in its win over Arkansas because there were a couple of questionable calls late in the second half that went against the Razorbacks. With the Tar Heels up one with 49 seconds remaining in regulation, guard Joel Berry II drove to the basket in a play many observers are calling a travel and charging foul. Neither one of those calls was made on the play, and forward Kennedy Meeks grabbed Berry’s rebound and scored, which pushed UNC’s lead to three. There was also a play where Meeks blocked an Arkansas players’ shot out of bounds and the ball was still given back to the Tar Heels late in the second as well. UNC moves on, but not without the criticism of the public.
South Carolina advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament was arguably the biggest upset of them all. Late Sunday night, the Gamecocks of the SEC defeated the Blue Devils of the ACC, 88-81. The win marks the first time South Carolina men’s basketball team has made the Sweet 16. Senior Sindarius Thornwell led the Gamecocks with 24 points, six rebounds, and five assists in the win, while Blue Devils freshman Jayson Tatum finished the night with 15 points and five turnovers in what is likely to be his last game at Duke before declaring for the NBA Draft in about a month.
Tournament spectators will have to wait almost a full work week until the Sweet 16 begins on Thursday, but if next weekend is anything similar to last weekend’s games, then the wait will be worth it.