The bouncing orange basketball did not bounce the way of the Spartans, or Wolverines, over the weekend in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, the Wolverines won the play-in game against Tulsa on Wednesday night, but the next game against Notre Dame was a loss.
The Michigan State Spartans, the choice of many to win the entire tournament, were stunned by the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders 90-81. I think the entire country was shocked by the Spartans’ loss to the No. 15-seeded Blue Raiders. I do know brackets were busted and papers crumpled up and disposed of into the trash can when that game went final.
In the pools I participated in, at least half of the players picked Michigan State to win it all. I filled out eight brackets and only picked Sparty one time to win it. The Spartan loss, I cannot lie, has helped propel me at a chance of winning some pools. I guess there is a silver lining in every cloud.
Here is the reason Sparty lost to Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders jumped out to 15-2 lead and never looked back. They shot 55 percent from the field and were a sizzling 11-19 from three-ball land. The Spartans were also 55 percent from the floor and 11-24 from three-ball land. The Spartans’ defense simply let them down. The rebounding totals were close to even and Michigan State committed 14 turnovers to the Blue Raiders’ 10. MSU seniors Matt Costello, Bryn Forbes and Denzel Valentine were poised to end their careers cutting down the nets and becoming NCAA champs. The fickle finger of March Madness waved its finger and said, “Not this year, Sparty!”
I hated to see Sparty go out in the first round, as did its alumni and fans. The Michigan Wolverines played a great first half and a lousy second half, blowing a 12-point half-time lead. Michigan shot a lousy 39 percent while the Irish shot a blistering 58 percent. How about Notre Dame from threeball land a stellar 53 percent. Those numbers are why the Wolverines went home early!
Let’s look at this weekend’s hoop action.
The South Region games are No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Maryland and No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 3 Miami Florida. These games are on Thursday with the Villanova game at 7:10 p.m. followed by the Kansas game. I really look for Kansas to lay a wood shed hoop beating on the boys of Maryland. Kansas is the best team left in the tournament, I believe. I also look for Villanova to beat the Hurricanes. Kansas goes to the Final Four.
The West Region also takes place Thursday night. It’s No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 4 Duke and No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas A&M. The tip for this game is 7:37 p.m. The Oregon game will follow. How about the top four seeds all advancing? I like the Ducks to advance over the Blue Devils of Duke in a high-scoring affair. The Texas A&M team will down the Sooners of Oklahoma. I am sticking to my original prediction of Texas A&M to the Final Four!
The Midwest Region games will be Friday night as No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Iowa State is at 7:10 p.m. The next game is a pair of underdogs with No. 10 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Gonzaga. I can’t believe anyone had these two match up against one another in their brackets. I like Syracuse to win and Virginia to win. The Virginia Cavaliers will be headed to the Final Four.
The East Region has No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Wisconsin at 7:27 p.m. Friday night followed by No. 1 North Carolina vs No. 5 Indiana. The Badgers, fresh off a buzzer beater over Xavier, will take down the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I am sticking with the Indiana Hoosiers to the Final Four, so down goes North Carolina. It will be a Big Ten battle and Indiana will be the victor. The March Madness in the opening weekend was filled with madness, as always. That is why we love the month of March because no one ever knows where the upset is or who will hit the buzzer beater! Brackets have taken a busting here in 2016! firstname.lastname@example.org