(Remember when I said that March Madness was both euphoric and vexing at the same time? The vex was real during yesterday's opening salvo of games as two teams that shouldn't have lost did so to teams that shouldn't have won.
TWO TEAMS. DOS TEAMOS. DEUX EQUIPES. DURING THE FIRST DAY. WHAT.
I don't think that I would be so surprised/frustrated about this if I predicted Baylor and Purdue being upset. In fact, I'd probably gloat about it because really, who would think that the athletically gifted Baylor would lose to Yale and the tweed jacket brigade?
Well, who besides 20.3% (actual percentage) of people participating in ESPN's Tournament Challenge who are probably clairvoyant mutants?
It just doesn't make sense. On paper, it looks like Baylor simply got outplayed near the end. Taurean Prince (hilariously) made that clear during the post-game press conference. But forgive me if I'm still a little suspicious about this whole thing. This is like when Medfield beat Rutland in Flubber. Medfield's roster was a bunch of nerdy, out-of-shape herbs who had no business playing collegiate athletics, and Rutland looked like Stretch's squad in NBA Street Vol. 2.
Medfield won that game because Professor Brainard outfitted the players shoes with Flubber on the soles, which gave them incredible jumping ability. In other words, he cheated. I'm not saying that Yale has developed an incredible polymorphic substance that can drastically alter the athletic prowess and skill of their athletes, but I'm also not saying that the NCAA shouldn't at least check into things to make sure that wasn't the case. You can never be too safe these days.
As for Purdue/UALR, the end of regulation was an all-out comedy of errors – From the defensive breakdowns that allowed Little Rock to tie it all up, and then whatever this was. Did dude stop to think whether he left the hot water running at home? Someone hit the pause button? The Monstars take his talent? I could go on, but I've honestly ran out of silly, hypothetical reasons for stopping in the middle of a play.
Either way, as the great Bomani Jones would say, those games, were prime examples of first round lemon booty. Both teams had chances to put their competition away, and for some reason – whether it be nerves or bad coaching decisions, etc. – they both puckered up and blew it. Be prepared for more of that as we get deeper into the bracket.
Now for the euphoric portion of yesterday's games. Wichita State beating Arizona shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone who has ever seen the Shockers play basketball. I've witnessed them slice, dice, and filet Bradley for the past few years during our match-ups with them, and was always left amazed at how good Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and formerly Cleanthony Early were. I mean, it's not really an impressive feat to beat Bradley at anything outside of speech these days, but the talent those guys have is unbelievable. Plus, they got me 10 points in my bracket last night, so I ain't mad at them.
Arizona's performance, on the other hand, was lemon booty. The dampness of Sean Miller's shirt in the first half was an obvious sign that it was only going to get more sour from there. That dude looked like me whenever I try to eat five mango habanero wings with no celery.
There's usually more tears and loud gasping for air involved whenever I do that, but trust and believe that I've ruined many a shirt with sweat.
Kids, today's blog is brought to you by the letter "L" and the number 6.
"L" as in LORD ALMIGHTY MICHIGAN STATE LOST TO SOME SCHOOL I'VE NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE and 6 for SIX UPSETS IN ONE DAY.
Michigan State, Cal Berkeley, Texas, Dayton, West Virginia, and Oregon State all got bounced like a basketball to Shaq's dome. It was merciless, and there were no survivors. This was the Red Wedding of college basketball, and everyone's brackets was Robb Stark.
"Middle Tennessee sends its regards," Reggie Upshaw said to my bracket. He stabs it in the heart, and smiles. I wail for my loss.
This was supposed to be Tom Izzo's year. Denzel Valentine was going to walk away with Most Outstanding Player honors. Magic Johnson probably would have built like seven movie theaters in East Lansing out of jubilation.
That was all before they descended into the madness, and now, they're headed home to prepare for next year. That's just the way it is, and now, the tournament won't be the same.
Enough about all of that though, let's talk about that UNI game winner against Texas. Paul Jesperson has probably become the most beloved student athlete at Northern Iowa since Kurt Warner. His mentions on Twitter (if he has one) are probably off the charts, as they very well should be. That was an incredible last-minute heave.
What make this kind of thing special is the fact that we probably won't see anything like it from the Panthers again this tournament. Jesperson doesn't normally hit shots from Jimmer or Curry ranges – his career percentage from three is 38 percent. That's not terrible, but it's not good enough to see that kind of play from him on a regular basis.
I watched a bit of the post-game show after the game. Charles Barkley said it was a lucky. Kenny Smith said God was with that shot. Personally, I think it was combination of both of those reasons, plus an Antoine Tyler assist from the great beyond. (Have y'all seen The Sixth Man? Great college hoops flick. Kadeem Hardison deserves more fame than what he has now.)
The tournament has also been a great testament to the strength and skill of the Missouri Valley Conference. Both Valley teams in the tournament, UNI and Wichita State, "overcame the odds" and made it to the second round. Let's keep it 100: both of those teams were greatly underseeded. Evansville didn't even get a seed at all this year, yet a stank U of Michigan team somehow snuck in? That's absolutely asinine.
If things keep going the way they have, the Valley will one day be on the same level of respect and prestige as the Big Ten or ACC. If either the Shockers or the Panthers are able to get to the Sweet Sixteen or even the Elite Eight, that day may come sooner or later.