Four upsets, meaning lower seeds being higher ranked teams, occurred on the opening day of the real NCAA tournament, as Harvard pulled off the biggest one with a win over New Mexico, followed by California upsetting UNLV, Wichita State destroying rather easily the Pittsburgh Panthers while Oregon beating Oklahoma State was a shocker considering the seeding, but most people weren’t that surprised.
While an Ivy league team making it into the round of 32 is quite a refreshing thing, especially one as depleted as Harvard, the first day was proof of how the Pac-12 was underrated in the selection process, while the Mountain West got a bit too much credit, except for Colorado State who did make it through the first day.
Harvard 68 New Mexico 62
For the first time Harvard win a game win a game in the NCAA tournament by upsetting what was supposed to be the best team from the second best conference in college basketball, but went only 1-3 on the first day. It’s the first time an Ivy League team has made it into the round of 32 since 2010 (Cornell). Harvard, without their two co-captains who were suspended before the season began, surprised everyone who isn’t a student or an alumni of the school, beating the Lobos who some saw as a dark horse candidate to reach the final four.
It was a tight game until 6:16 left on the clock in the second half, when Laurent Rivard, who scored 17 points, nailed a three pointer that game the Crimson the lead for good. Harvard were 8-18 from beyond the arc. Wesley Saunders led the team with 18 points as they overcame 13 offensive rebounds from New Mexico, led by Alex Kirk with 22 points, but had a terrible shooting day of 37.5% from the field.
California 64 UNLV 61
While 12 seeds beating 5’s isn’t such a shocker, with every tournament having at least one of those, California weren’t supposed to come out as the winners against the Rebels, showing that the Pac-12 was quite underrated going into the tournament, while the Mountain West a bit overrated.
Anthony Bennett, who will probably be leaving to the NBA now, did what most Freshmen do when they play their first NCAA tournament game – disappoint. He finished with only 15 points while shooting 4-11 from the field, while Allan Crabbe, probably in the NBA too next season, led the Golden Bears with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Wichita State 73 Pittsburgh 55
A defensive game is also a synanom for an ugly offensive one – the two teams combined for 3-37 from beyond the arc, but while the Shockers adjusted by being the more physical team and getting to the line (making 80.5% of their shots), Pitt extremely disappointed by folding very early in the game, not trying to change their failing gameplan.
Malcolm Armstead was the big star for Wichita State, leading them with 22 points and 5 rebounds, going 9-9 from the line. Pittsburgh had only one player in double figures as they shot a terrible 1-17 from beyond the arc. While an 8 vs 9 game is never easy to predict, no one expected a Big East team to lose by 18 points to someone from the Missouri Valley conference.
Oregon 68 Oklahoma State 55
The least surprising of the upsets, simply because Oregon are probably a better team than Oklahoma State, who have (probably had is more like it) Marcus Smart and not much else, leaving Travis Ford quite frustrated that his team got the wrong kind of #12 seed, saying even before the game the selection process came out wrong if the Ducks were ranked so low.
Oregon don’t have a future NBA superstar in their midst, but are a great defensive team, who play very physical basketball, outrebounding the Cowboys 44-30, led by Damyean Dotson, scoring 17 points while Arsalan Kazemi grabbed 17 rebounds. Oklahoma State did enjoy a good game from Smart (14 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals), but apparently not enough.