Upsets in NCAA First Round lead to exciting Second Round matchups


Photo used with permission of Wikimedia Commons.

Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis usually houses the NBA’s Pacers, but it became home of the upset on Thursday with both Michigan and St. Peter’s getting wins over higher seeds. On Saturday, it will play host to games to see if those upstarts can continue their runs.

Nate Albin is a senior and editor-in-chief of the Fishers Tiger Times. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

     Tipoff of the first game of the 2022 NCAA Tournament signaled that this may be an insane First Round. While 11-seed Michigan besting six-seed Colorado State is not surprising, the fashion in which they did it coming back from down 15 was. As the day continued, the upsets grew in magnitude, as 12-seeds Richmond and New Mexico State took down five-seeds Iowa and Connecticut (UConn). The night of upsets hit its climax when 15-seed St. Peter’s shocked the East Region favorite, two-seed Kentucky. The four Second Round games these teams play this Saturday will headline the weekend slate.


South Region

11 Michigan vs 3 Tennessee – March 19 – Indianapolis, IN – 5:15 PM CBS

     Michigan’s season has been a mess. After starting the year as the Big Ten favorite and a consensus preseason top 10 team, the Wolverines quickly took a nosedive. Michigan battled their own inconsistency as much as anything. They blasted Tournament teams like Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Rutgers, but also fell to Central Florida and Minnesota, and blew leads against teams like Indiana. In their last 11 games, they have alternated wins and losses. Enter, SandmanTennessee. The Volunteers have been heralded as the most egregious underseed of the Tournament, being a three, not a two. Winners of eight games in a row, the Vols are undeniably hot, but the other team discussed as being similarly hot, Iowa, lost. This game will essentially be a question of which team can break the trend: can Michigan win multiple games in a row or will Tennessee be able to keep their hot streak alive?


Midwest Region

12 Richmond vs 4 Providence – March 19 – Buffalo, NY – 6:10 PM TNT

     Iowa was the third-most popular pick to win the Midwest Region in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge. Oh, how quickly things change in the Tournament. A10 champs Richmond overcame Keegan Murray and the Hawkeyes by never letting their shooters get going. Controlling the tempo and the lead, the Spiders won 67-63. In this Buffalo quartet, it was Providence, the Big East regular season champions, who were supposed to be upset. In a close game, the Friars prevailed against South Dakota State 66-57 by employing a similar game plan and slowing down the tempo and three-pointers. The Friars are fine with a close game; they have played 19 games decided by 10 points or less and are 17-2 in said games. This was perceived as a sign of weakness, but also shows that despite a willingness to play a close game, they will still get the job done. According to KenPom’s efficiency metrics, this looks to be a tight game. Neither team has any imposing strength, but also no glaring weaknesses. One thing both teams have is seniors. These teams are experienced and, as these two’s track record shows, ready for an incredibly tight game.


West Region

12 New Mexico State vs 4 Arkansas – March 19 – Buffalo, NY – 8:40 PM TNT

     So much for UConn being a sleeper to beat Gonzaga. Once again, the Aggies of New Mexico State gave the blueprint for an upset win: control. They were able to keep the Huskies at arm’s length until they inevitably ran out of time. In the 70-63 win, the Aggies were up 10 at half. Despite being outscored in the second half, Teddy Allen went 13 for 13 at the free throw line and iced the game. Arkansas, their opponent, will be a tough match. The Razorbacks excel at defense. If it were not for Tennessee, people would be talking about how hot Arkansas was closing out the season. They finished the season on a 16-3 run following a three-game losing streak in January. This game will have a key factor to watch: three-point shooting. In upsetting UConn, the Aggies shot an absurd 64.3% from three. This season, they shot 32.6% from range, 245th in the nation. Arkansas is somehow worse, shooting 30.7%, 308th in the country. If either team can hit, it will be the edge.


East Region

15 St. Peter’s vs 7 Murray State – March 19 – Indianapolis, IN – 7:45 PM CBS

     Wait, the plan was for Murray State to play Kentucky in an all-Bluegrass State showdown? St. Peter’s had other plans. The Peacocks from New Jersey committed more turnovers, got out-rebounded and got run over in the paint by SEC Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe, who had 30 points and 16 rebounds. The common theme continued: St. Peter’s shot 52.9% to Kentucky’s 26.7%. The main beneficiary of the massive upset could be Murray State. The Racers are 31-2, dominated the Ohio Valley Conference and have junior KJ Williams. Williams is a 6’10” forward who will get buckets and boards at a high level. The Peacocks are not the tallest team out there, so containing him will be a priority. While 15 seeds do not often do much (only 10 have ever beaten a two), two have made the Sweet 16: Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 and Oral Roberts last year. Can the Peacocks upset the Racers and continue a shocking run?


     The first day of action brought four major upsets and those teams will be back on the court on Saturday. Winning the first game is a step in becoming a true NCAA Cinderella team, but reaching the Sweet 16 is getting into the range of college basketball immortality.