Every year on the first weekend you're really just hoping the school you root for advances. So far, so good for everyone who writes for or reads AZDesertSwarm as Arizona will not make this list of notable first round results. When you're playing in a 2-15 game, that's probably a list you only appear on if you go down. With that said, with the first round complete there's certainly some games that jump out.
We look back at the five most notable results (*note not necessarily best games*) from the first round of the NCAA tourney (a very Thursday heavy list at that):
5. East Region: #4 Louisville 57, #13 UC-Irvine 55
It wasn't so much the result (that was expected) but the way the game unfolded that put this game on the list. Louisville at no point was able to separate itself from UC-Irvine and needed a late game foul by the Anteaters to gain the final margin. Wayne Blackshear took over in the second half with a number of big buckets including the tying layup with 42 seconds left.
The presence of Mamadou Ndiaye was problematic at times for the Cardinals on the inside but ultimately it was ironically forced passes by the Anteaters into Ndiaye that helped Louisville hold off a crushing run when their offense went stagnant. The Anteaters had a chance late after two go-ahead Louisville free throws for the win but a questionable inbounds play and possible no-call sealed the deal and avoided the upset for Rick Pitino's squad.
4. South Region: #7 Iowa 83, #10 Davidson 52
In a game that largely went under the radar nationally leading up to it Iowa made one of the loudest statements on a quiet Friday. Coming in the country seemed to all be in on Davidson, perhaps a reflection of Davidson's hot finish and Iowa's ugly exit from the Big Ten tourney. However, it was the Hawkeyes who came out and looked like the three point bombers the Wildcats were built up to be.
Even more notable about this game however was the perception going forward at the bottom of the South Region. It seemed pre-ordained we were looking at a Gonzaga-Iowa St Sweet 16 matchup. It was deemed nothing would keep Gonzaga from the second weekend yet now the question must be asked what Iowa could possibly have in store for the Zags on Sunday. Did the country sleep on the Hawkeyes' potential in this region or did we simply witness a one day clinic?
3. South Region: #11 UCLA 60, #6 SMU 59
Everyone knows the deal by now with this Bruins team. The "undeserving" team of the 2015 tournament, the Bruins had a chip on their shoulder coming in and for the first 30 minutes appeared to be putting it to good use. UCLA led 44-34 with just over ten to go and defensively had done a terrific job on the SMU offense. Then UCLA fell asleep, SMU went on a 19-0 run and it appeared the Bruins would finish the season the way most of it had gone, with a frustrating inexplicable meltdown.
Then Bryce Alford happened. A barrage of threes got UCLA to within two and following a sloppy SMU turnover, UCLA called timeout with a chance to tie or take the lead. The Bruins clearly drew up a play hoping to get Alford free for a look and when the play broke down Alford improvised and
threw up a terrible piece of crap shot got off a long three that was interfered with as it dropped towards the rim. Goaltending was called (to the disputes of many) and SMU's last two looks came up short. UCLA had completed a stunning comeback and kept their season alive.
2. West Region: #14 Georgia St 57, #3 Baylor 56
When you have a 14 seed take down a number three seed on a last second buzzer beater more or less, it's almost always going to be the most notable game of the weekend. Frankly there will be some who say it was. Ron Hunter made news clips all week for tearing his Achilles in a postgame celebration after Georgia State punched its NCAA ticket. Little did he know the madness of March was just beginning. Baylor led by 10 points with under two minutes to play and the fun had just begun,
A series of boneheaded mistakes by Baylor got Georgia State to within two points when they fouled Kenny Chery, an 82% free throw shooter for a one and one. Chery missed the front end and R.J. Hunter wrote the rest of the story below. A bananas three from the parking lot put the Panthers up one, only topped in amazement by Ron Hunter's reaction to his son's game-winning shot.
Fun Fact: I lost $225 on this game just needing Baylor to win straight up. Don't gamble kids.
1. South Region: #14 UAB 60, #3 Iowa State 59
While the story of R.J. Hunter and his father will be the moment from this first round that lingers the longest in our minds, no result was more notable from the opening round than UAB's upset of Iowa State. While Baylor was a formidable Big 12 team and had the potential to make some noise, there weren't many people anywhere who thought this team was getting by Arizona and Wisconsin to make a run to Indianapolis. Iowa State on the other hand was a trendy pick to win the South Region. The Cyclones made more believers after winning the Big 12 tournament leading into the NCAAs.
The reality is there isn't much in the way of a "moment" that made this game turn out the way it did. An off-shooting night from the Cyclones and UAB simply going toe to toe with the Cyclones for 40 minutes gave UAB a chance to win it. A jumper put them ahead and after pushing that lead to three were in a prime position to play the foul game. Naz Long somehow got free for an open look at the tying three but front-rimmed the shot and the Cyclones were cooked. A mere three hours into the day and two Big 12 heavyweights were gone.
March at its finest.