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March Madness ’22: From 68 to Sweet 16

We’ve been there, we’ve seen this movie before. Nothing should surprise us, but it continues to do so. We know that anything goes in March Madness as these student-athletes, coaches, universities and fan bases try to cover the “CHIP.” That’s the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

It didn’t take long. In a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday night, it took Notre Dame two overtimes to knock out Rutgers, 89-87.

And once the 64-team bracket was set, the first-round games on Thursday and Friday — spread across four regions and eight venues throughout the country — did not disappoint.

Here are my takes on some of those games:

THURSDAY:

— Colorado State blows a 15-point lead to Michigan and is the first team eliminated from the round of 64.

— The first upset is 12 seed Richmond, a double-digit underdog, defeating 5 seed and Big Ten champion Iowa, 67-63.

— In an 8-9 game, 8 seed North Carolina hits 13 three-pointers in a 95-63 rout of Marquette.

— The 12-5 upset is always a popular bracket pick, and this year didn’t disappoint as 12 seed New Mexico State notches the second such upset of the day, beating 5 seed U-Conn, 79-63.

— Upset of the tournament: 15 seed Saint Peter’s knocks out blue-blood Kentucky, a 2 seed, 85-79 in overtime. Saint Peter’s is a small Jesuit college in Jersey City, New Jersey, with less than 3,000 undergraduates. The Peacocks are making only their fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

— San Diego State plays great first-half defense but blows a nine-point lead late in the second half and loses to Creighton in OT, 72-69. The Aztecs’ Achilles heel all year was free throw shooting and it came back to bite them, as they made only 10 of 17 from the foul line. This was a game they had and they let it slip away.

FRIDAY:

— Much more sedate compared to Thursday, but still some close, hard-fought games, including 10 seed Miami over 7 seed USC, 68-66, and 13 seed Chattanooga leading for all but 25 seconds of its game to 4 seed Illinois before losing 54-53.

— No Saint Peter’s-like upsets, but a pair of 11 seeds, Notre Dame and Iowa State, knock out a pair of 6 seeds from the SEC, with the Fighting Irish beating Alabama, 78-64, and the Cyclones topping LSU, 59-54.

— San Diego State’s Viejas Arena hosts four games on Friday, with four double-digit results. In addition to Notre Dame’s win, 3 seed Texas Tech destroys Montana State, 97-62; 1 seed Arizona eliminates Wright State, 87-70; and 9 seed TCU sends Seton Hall packing, 69-42.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY:

— The second round is usually somewhat more relaxed than the Thursday-Friday madness. I said usually.

— Most impressive is Saint Peter’s over 7 seed Murray State, 70-60, on Saturday. Saint Peter’s is in the Sweet 16 for the first time — only the third 15 seed in NCAA history to reach the Sweet 16.

— Among the high seeds not reaching the Sweet 16 are 1 seed Baylor, 2 seed Auburn, 3 seeds Tennessee and Wisconsin and 4 seed Illinois.

— Even though the higher seeds won, Sunday features a couple of classics, with 2 seed Duke keeping Coach K’s final season alive vs. Michigan State and 1 seed Arizona outlasting TCU in overtime, 85-80, at Viejas Arena.

THE SWEET 16:

Arizona – Arkansas – Duke – Gonzaga – Houston – Iowa State – Kansas – Miami – Michigan – North Carolina – Providence – Purdue – Saint Peter’s – Texas Tech – UCLA – Villanova

 

THURSDAY’S GAMES:

(My picks in ALL CAPS)

Gonzaga (-8½) vs ARKANSAS

VILLANOVA (-5) vs Michigan

TEXAS TECH (-1) vs Duke

Arizona (-2) vs HOUSTON

 

FRIDAY’S GAMES:

UCLA (-2) vs North Carolina

PURDUE (-12½) vs Saint Peter’s

Kansas (-7½) vs PROVIDENCE

MIAMI (-2½) vs Iowa State

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