Norfolk State

Norfolk State tamed the Missouri Tigers in just one of many upsets on Friday. Photo courtesy Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

‘Twas the best of times, ’twas the worst of times. I pull that from A Tale of Two Cities because what we witnessed in the world of basketball all day Friday was very French Revolution-esque. The “peasants” revolted and, in many cases, overthrew the establishment. No one was beheaded — thank god — but dreams were crushed while others were realized.

With half of yesterday’s games going to the underdog seed, we could just as easily start with who DID survive the Mid-Major inquisition; and we will. Both #1 seeds that played yesterday, North Carolina and Michigan State, advanced and neither came down to a nail-biter like Syracuse. #2 Kansas handled Detroit just fine, but they were the ONLY #2 seed to advance yesterday. Well get to that a little bit later, though.

Georgetown, who fell victim to the Cinderella VCU Rams a year ago, beat Belmont handily in one of only a few impressive Big East performances thus far in the tournament. Jason Clark had 21 points for the Hoyas and was supported by 15- and 16-point performances from Henry Sims and Otto Porter respectively.

The other #3 seed in play yesterday, Florida State, barely survived an assault from the A-10 champion, St. Bonaventure. The 14th-seeded Bonnies had FSU on the ropes for much of the game before the Seminoles pulled ahead for the first time with only 5:15 left in the game. Bernard James led Florida State with a 19-point performance in a game that seemed to exhaust the entire squad. They’ll much appreciate tomorrow’s day off before they take on Cincinnati on Sunday.

Speaking of Cincinnati — what a perfect segue — they were another team avoid an upset Friday. The Bearcats, who made a huge run to the Big East finals, kept #11 Texas at arm’s length for most of their early afternoon game. The Longhorns really didn’t threaten until late in the game and it never really felt like they had the momentum to beat the Big East runners-up.

Doug McDermott

Doug McDermott ended up carrying his Creighton Jays over Alabama. Photo courtesy Gerry Broome/AP

The last two higher seeds to win their games Friday were Florida and Creighton. While Florida, perhaps the most hot-and-cold team in the tournament, were on their game and handled the Cavaliers just fine, Creighton took SEC at-large bid Alabama down to the wire. In fact, at times during the second half, it seemed almost certain the Crimson Tide was going to prevail. Alabama led by as much as 11 during the half thanks in most part to the three-pronged attack of Trevor Releford, Trevor Lacey, and JaMychal Green. However, Creighton’s fair-skinned savior Doug McDermott was determined to end a decade-long winless streak in the NCAA tournament for the Jays.

McDermott posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds as he put Creighton on his shoulders and carried them to victory. He and guard Grant Gibbs played almost the entire game clocking 37 and 38 points, respectively.

Somewhere in between those games, however, absolute chaos occurred. Just as UNC-Asheville tried desperately to become the first #16 seed to beat a #1 seed in tournament history two days ago, Norfolk State and Lehigh became fifth and sixth #15 seeds ever to beat a #2 seed.

Let me reiterate that in case you missed it. Before this year’s tournament, only four 15th-seeded schools had ever beat a #2 seed. On Friday, it happened TWICE. In the first upset, Norfolk State came out of the gates swinging and proved to the high-octane offense of #2 Missouri that they were ready to go toe-to-toe when it came to scoring. And score they did.

Kyle O’Quinn, who was recruited by only one program out of high school, had 26 points for the Spartans and guards Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin backed him up nicely with twin 20-point performances. Meanwhile, Tigers guard Kim English, a shining light for Missouri in the Big 12 tournament, struggled mightily all game. He finished with only two points and won’t get a chance at redemption.

But as shocking as the Tigers loss was, the wave of upsets wasn’t done there. To rip a pun off an overused phrase, it turns out Missouri loves company.

Just as the Missouri-Norfolk State game went final, most people at home began to realize that fellow #2 seed Duke was also in trouble. Playing lowly Lehigh, the Blue Devils appeared to simply refuse to play defense against the Mountain Hawks. In the end, that might’ve been their downfall. After trailing by 2 in the first half, Lehigh outscored Duke by seven in the second period to win by five.


Lehigh jumped on the trend started by Norfolk State and took down #2 Duke. Photo courtesy Chuck Burton/AP

Scoring almost half of Lehigh’s points was C.J. McCollum with 30. The crowd was behind the underdogs almost the entire game and it certainly didn’t help the Blue Devils that UNC fans were in the arena after their team’s victory to help cheer the Mountain Hawks on against their arch nemesis.

And somewhere in between, a flurry of other upsets occurred. #4 Michigan lost to #13 Ohio and #11 N.C. State knocked off #6 San Diego State, sending home yet ANOTHER Mountain West school. In between those games, #12 South Florida also knocked off #5 Temple. And after Florida won, the other two #7 seeds playing Friday were upset as Notre Dame lost in a heartbreaker to Xavier and Purdue outlasted St. Mary’s.

In the last upset, even though it wasn’t a big one if you go by the seeds, #9 St. Louis became the A-10’s only shining light in this tournament and knocked off #8 Memphis who a lot of people, including CBS Sports’ Seth Davis, liked to knock off top-seeded Michigan State in the next round.

Some might say that yesterday’s results bordered on the edge of ridiculous. Even though it’s called March Madness, the number of upsets in the round of 64 rarely culminates in a 50-50 split. But you have to take in the fact that only two upsets occurred on Thursday (VCU over Wichita State and Colorado over UNLV). So, all in all, the upset percentage was just over 30%; a much more manageable statistic.

It was more the MAGNITUDE of the upsets in the first round that made seem so astonishing. Not one but TWO #2 seeds were upset and they were sent packing with a #4 and two #5 seeds to boot. As we head into the third round, at least two double-digit seeds are guaranteed to make the Sweet 16 and as many as five others could join them. If #11 Colorado can upset #3 Baylor, we will even have a double-digit seed guaranteed to make the ELITE EIGHT. And then were immediately talking about another Final Four Cinderella.

Speaking of Final Four Cinderellas, last year’s — VCU — is one of those double digits seeds still alive and looking to put a hurting on some more big name schools as games get underway today.

NOTE: This article was originally published on SportsHead. To read this story and others
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When Bryan isn’t studying bracketology, he is on twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!

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