After a ridiculously unpredictable regular season, it was only natural to expect a bevy of unexpected outcomes in the NCAA tournament. Without question, the first round of 32 games fulfilled that desire - and at times exceeded our imaginations.How much more? Compiling this list meant excluding remarkable performances like Makai Mason’s 31-point outburst to lead No. 12 Yale past No. 5 Baylor for the first NCAA tournament victory in school history. Or overlooking the sweet inbounds play Providence ran with 1.5 seconds remaining that led to a Rodney Bullock lay-in off the glass. Nevertheless, here are the six most memorable moments March Madness delivered in the opening round.
Northern Iowa's amazing buzzer beater
You had to stay up past midnight on the East Coast, but the most amazing single moment had to be Paul Jesperson's half court shot at the buzzer immediately following a shot by Texas which tied the game in the waning seconds.
Middle Tennessee State stuns Michigan State
Let the experts discuss whether No. 15 Middle Tennessee State’s 90-81 upset over No. 2 Michigan State was the best in NCAA tournament history. The Blue Raiders created an indelible March moment all the same. Reggie Upshaw Jr. led MTSU, the Conference USA champions, with 21 points, but Giddy Potts forged the unforgettable images. The nation’s best 3-point shooter buried a jumper and blocked a shot down the stretch to lift the Blue Raiders to a the first ever opening round upset of a team ranked No. 1 during the regular season. And just like that, the Spartans, who were picked to win the national championship by 21 percent of Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge entrants, were eliminated from the tournament in the opening round. MTSU became just the eighth 15 seed in tournament history to win a first round game.
Hagins lifts Little Rock
The possession was going nowhere, time was running out and Little Rock trailed Purdue by three points. Then, Little Rock senior guard Josh Hagins stepped back and buried a 24-foot jump shot to send the game into overtime. He delivered another clutch basket to make a second overtime necessary and scored 10 of his career-high 31 points after regulation to lift the 12th seeded Trojans to an 85-83 win over No. 5 Purdue on Thursday in the Pepsi Center in Denver. The shot capped an amazing turnaround for a program with a first-year coach and 10 new players.
Iowa wins at the buzzer
What makes the opening days of the NCAA tournament special? Buzzer beaters, of course. Iowa, No. 7 in the South entered March Madness heading in the wrong direction. The Hawkeyes had lost five of six and about one-third of brackets pegged the Temple Owls to knock Fran McCaffery’s team from its perch. After a back-and-forth battle ended in overtime, Adam Woodbury emerged from a crowded lane and pushed through a putback at the buzzer to lift Iowa to a thrilling 72-70 first-round victory.
The Rainbows make history
Hawaii, the No. 13 seed in the South, entered Friday afternoon’s battle with No. 4 California as a decided underdog, 3,000 miles removed from the nearest home game and seeking the first NCAA tournament victory in program history. The Rainbows dominated throughout and left the session opener in Spokane, Washington with a thorough 77-66 dismantling of the Golden Bears. Roderick Bobbitt led a solid team effort for Hawaii, which held the lead for the final 32 minutes of the game, and won in coach Eran Ganot’s rookie season on the sidelines and in its fifth trip to March Madness.
Such a great hairstyle and even better game for the Stephen F. Austin star. The Lumberjacks’ senior forward was the centerpiece of his team’s 14-over-3 upset of West Virginia in a battle of two teams who force turnovers better than anyone else in the nation. Walkup hit 19 of 20 free throws as Stephen F. Austin never let the Mountaineers threaten in the second half. He scored 12 points in a row at one point for coach Brad Underwood and produced 27 of his game-high 33 points in the second half. The Lumberjacks shot 31 percent from the field but fed off 22 West Virginia turnovers, while committing only six.