Your bracket is blown, but there are still reasons to watch March Madness
Bracket busted? Don’t feel too bad. You’re part of the 99%.
According to NCAA.com, only 1% of the more than 1 million brackets in the NCAA March Madness Capital One Bracket Challenge heading into Friday’s games were still perfect. ESPN and Yahoo each also reported that 99% of entries in their bracket games were busted.
What did most people in: As in previous years, the No. 12 seeds came through again with upsets. On Thursday, No. 12 Yale stunned No. 5 Baylor 79-75, while No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock mounted an epic comeback to defeat No. 5 Purdue 85-83. Just 13% of participants in the Bracket Challenge picked Arkansas-Little Rock to win Thursday, while 20% of entries had Yale.
After Thursday’s madness, what should you watch for this weekend? Here are four storylines heading into Saturday:
1. No. 12 Yale vs. No. 4 Duke: The rematch (2:40 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS).
Despite recent controversy with expelled team captain Jack Montague, the Yale Bulldogs, in their first NCAA tournament appearance in 54 years, pulled off the first major upset of this year’s big dance, stunning No. 5 seed Baylor in the round of 64 Thursday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. It was Yale’s first men’s NCAA tournament win in the history of the program.
Montague, a senior who was the team’s fourth-leading scorer, was expelled from the university February 10 after being accused of nonconsensual sex with another Yale student, according to his attorney. On Monday, Montague’s attorney announced that his client will sue Yale. The university has not confirmed Montague’s expulsion, citing confidentiality.
But Yale found itself surrounded by supporters Thursday in Providence, with the game 90 minutes from campus, something the Bulldogs could once again count on Saturday.
Next up is Duke, who defeated No. 13 UNC Wilmington 93-85 Thursday. It will be a rematch for the Bulldogs and Blue Devils; Duke escaped with a 80-61 win November 25 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. It was a close game, with Yale leading much of the first half before Duke pulled away late in the second.
Yale head coach James Jones didn’t offer any immediate insight about the Duke matchup following the Baylor win.
“No thoughts at all,” Jones said Thursday. “I’m too happy.”
2. No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock vs. No. 4 Iowa State: Can the Trojans keep dancing? (6:10 pm ET Saturday on TNT).
It looked like a lock. No. 5 Purdue had a 13-point lead over Arkansas-Little Rock with less than four minutes to go in regulation Thursday evening. Time to change the channel, right?
Never assume anything in March.
A 3-pointer from deep by Trojans senior guard Josh Hagins with four seconds left capped a furious comeback and forced overtime. Hagins came through again to force the second extra period with the tying layup with 18 seconds to go. He would finish with 31 points.
“We’re not done yet,” Arkansas-Little Rock head coach Chris Beard said Thursday. “I’ve always thought there’s different kinds of teams that go to tournaments. Teams that are happy to be in the tournament and teams that go to try to win the tournament. That’s kind of our objective right now.
“We think we have a team that can advance in this tournament.”
On Saturday, Arkansas-Little Rock will face Iowa State, who defeated No. 13 Iona 94-81, in the round of 32. The Cyclones have reason to be wary as they have fallen victim before to the upset bug. Last season, Iowa State, then a No. 3 seed, was shocked by No. 14 Alabama-Birmingham 60-59 in the round of 64.
“Now you got the pressure to go to the Sweet 16,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said Thursday. “There’s a constant pressure in this business. But you want to be at jobs where there’s pressures and expectations, or really what are you coaching for and what are you playing for?
“This is a great tournament. We’re blessed to be here, and we’re really excited about our opportunity on Saturday.”
3. No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 4 Kentucky: Classic powerhouses collide (5:15 p.m. Saturday ET on CBS).
This is a game worthy of a later-round matchup. Instead, we’re treated to a potential classic early in the tournament in storied programs of Indiana vs. Kentucky. It reignites a dormant rivalry. The two teams used to play each other annually but stopped after the 2011-2012 season.
“There has been a lot of great history with Indiana and Kentucky over the years, and we’ve been privileged to be a part of it,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “There’s been a lot of tremendous games. Obviously it’s a rivalry because of the history of it, because of the proximity of the two states, but because the two basketball teams have been good when it’s been at its best.”
This season, Indiana won the Big Ten Conference regular-season title, while Kentucky took the Southeastern Conference tournament title and shared the regular-season conference title with Texas A&M.
“You know, it’s kind of unfortunate that this game is being played this early,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said Thursday night. “This should be another round or two later. But it is what it is, so both of us are going to have to play. Tom knows the respect I have for him as a coach and as a leader and what he does. They’re really, really good.”
4. Will any of the No. 1 seeds bow out early?
Heading into Friday’s games, three No. 1 seeds safely advanced to the round of 32. The only one that hasn’t played yet is Oregon, which faces a No. 16 seed with a losing record, Holy Cross (14-19), on Friday (at 7:27 p.m. ET on truTV).
So far, none of the top seeds has been threatened. Top overall seed Kansas had no issues against No. 16 Austin Peay, winning 105-79 Thursday. North Carolina had a first-half scare but went on to defeat No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast 83-67.
There was a frightening moment on the sidelines Thursday when Virginia head coach Tony Bennett collapsed in the first half against No. 16 Hampton. The team said it was because of dehydration. Bennett returned to the sidelines for the second half in the Cavaliers’ 81-45 win.
Bennett said Thursday that his collapse may have been related to being under the weather for the last couple of days.
“I think I was a bit dehydrated, and when you’re squatting down and get up quick, I just grayed out or blacked out a little bit,” Bennett said.
A look ahead to Saturday’s games:
• No. 1 Kansas will play No. 9 Connecticut in Des Moines, Iowa (7:45 p.m. ET on CBS).
• No. 1 Virginia faces No. 9 Butler in Raleigh, North Carolina (7:10 p.m. ET on TBS).
• No. 1 North Carolina takes on No. 9 Providence in Raleigh (9:40 p.m. ET on TBS).