5 noteworthy developments from Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament
Was that fun?
Day 1 of the 2022 NCAA Tournament is in the books. We had historic upsets, brackets ripped apart and a whole lot in between.
Shoot, we even had a cheerleader saving a stuck basketball to continue a game. Madness.
Jokes aside, the first non-bubble tournament in 3 years lived up to the billing.
Before we turn the page to Day 2, let’s break down everything from a wild first day.
1. Kentucky … just wow.
I’d rank it among one of the top 5 Round 1 upsets we’ve ever seen. It truly felt like Saint Peter’s took down a 1-seed. It wasn’t, but it was the 10th time we’ve seen a 15-seed take down a 2-seed.
I mean, Saint Peter’s hadn’t beaten a single NCAA Tournament team all year and Kentucky hadn’t lost to a non-NCAA Tournament team all year.
March, in a nutshell.
At this time last week, we wondered if Kentucky could get a 1-seed in the SEC Tournament. A week later, gone. Adios. It was hard to process just how Saint Peter’s, which lost 11 games as a school from the MAAC, even kept it close.
Saint Peter’s has an enrollment of 2,355 students. Shoot, it isn’t even verified on Twitter!
— Saint Peter’s Men’s Basketball (@PeacocksMBB) March 18, 2022
Call it a bunch of things. Call it poor guard play, call it bad perimeter defense, call it a lack of urgency for a team with legitimate national title aspirations … it was a hot mess. John Calipari looked beside himself watching his squad in a dog fight with a team in a different galaxy.
One of the top national title contenders is gone. Nobody else will have to handle Oscar Tshiebwe. That’s a massive win for everyone else in the field.
As for Kentucky, this will absolutely impact Calipari’s legacy. This was his best team since 2015. By the way, that was the last time he went to a Final Four. That’s a long time to whiff on that stage at Kentucky. Angst will be high in the Bluegrass State.
We spent all year talking about how this wasn’t a one-and-done Kentucky team. Well …
2. White-hot Iowa reminds us that conference tournaments don’t necessarily equal a deep NCAA run
I heard a lot about how Iowa was the hottest team in the country entering the week. I heard that winning a conference title in the Big Ten, who sent 9 teams to the NCAA Tournament (again), was a sign that Fran McCaffery’s team was ready to make a deep run. I even heard that Iowa had potential to get to New Orleans and claim a Final Four spot.
And then I was reminded why none of that mattered. March doesn’t care about any of that.
Let me rephrase that. It’s not that March doesn’t care about any of that. It’s that March punishes anyone who fails to show up for an afternoon. Iowa, scorching hot Iowa, failed to show up. Yes, officials someone missed several foul calls on shooters in the final minute of that game. Still, though. Richmond only got into the tournament by virtue of making a run through the A-10 Tournament and upsetting Davidson.
Of course, that’s why winning a conference title is by no means a death sentence, either. Lord knows Tennessee looked plenty alive on Thursday in a rout of Longwood. The difference between Tennessee and Iowa, both of whom were among the 3-4 hottest teams entering the NCAA Tournament, was that one team made shots and worked for high-percentage looks while another looked lost offensively at times and didn’t exactly have an all-world defense to fall back in during those scoring droughts.
The Hawkeyes busted plenty of brackets before dinnertime on Thursday. Getting a high-powered offensive team with an All-American like Keegan Murray out of the field certainly had to be a win for Midwest Region top seeds Kansas and Auburn.
They can thank the Spiders for cooling off the Hawkeyes.
3. The 5-12 upset never fails
Richmond did something we’ve now seen in 12 of the last 14 years. That is, watch a 12-seed beat a 5-seed. It’s a tale as old as time. In fact, we’ve seen 18 teams win as 12-seeds against 5-seeds in the opening round since 2010.
That included New Mexico State taking down a UConn team who got an extremely favorable draw by getting sent to Buffalo as a 5-seed. Teddy Allen dropped a Day 1 high of 37 points fo fuel that upset.
As for Indiana against St. Mary’s? Well, let’s just say that 12-5 upset was a little less likely with the Hoosiers playing their 5th game in 8 days.
Still, though. This year served as a reminder that even if you know nothing about college basketball, you can always default to picking a couple 5-12 upsets.
4. Which teams indirectly benefitted the most from Thursday’s madness?
It’s gotta be Purdue and Kansas.
I know. In the immediate future, Kentucky and Iowa losing benefitted Murray State and Providence. But we’re talking big picture here. If the goal is to get through a regional to New Orleans, well, I think it’s absolutely the teams who would’ve potentially faced them in the Sweet 16.
Purdue-Kentucky would’ve been an electric matchup, but the idea of facing Tshiebwe and TyTy Washington probably wasn’t something Matt Painter would’ve enjoyed. Not with that defense. Does this now mean that Purdue is in position to make its first Final Four since 1980? Let’s just say Jaden Ivey is now undoubtedly the best player in the region.
And Kansas, well, you almost wonder if Iowa could’ve busted the Jayhawks like a mid-major. We know the Hawkeyes can shoot it from deep and go on scoring surges in a hurry. Even though McCaffery has as much experience in the Sweet 16 as you and me combined, that still would’ve been a fun matchup against an Iowa team who appeared to be playing its best ball of the season.
5. Conference bragging rights belong to …
Well, probably nobody yet.
After 1 day, here’s the conference breakdown (including the First 4 matchups):
- SEC — 2-1
- Big Ten — 2-3
- ACC — 2-0
- Pac-12 — 1-0
- Big 12 — 2-0
- WCC — 2-1
- Ohio Valley — 1-0
- MAC — 0-1
- Atlantic 10 — 1-0
- Summit League — 0-1
- Mountain West — 0-4
- AAC — 1- 0
- Horizon League — 1-0
- NEC — 0-1
- WAC — 1-0
- MAAC — 1-0
- Big East — 2-2
- Sun Belt — 0-1
- America East — 0-1
- SWAC — 1-1
- Southland — 0-1
- MEAC — 0-1
Nobody has more than 2 teams moving on so far. And keep in mind that one of those Big Ten victories was Indiana taking down Wyoming in the First 4.
I suppose the Mountain West was easily the biggest loser of Day 1 with all 4 of its teams getting ousted by Thursday. But man, the Big Ten really had a tough start to the week by losing 3 teams by the end of Thursday. That’s partially the byproduct of getting 9 teams into the field.
Whatever the case, fingers crossed that Friday delivers just as much madness as Thursday did.