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March Madness Round One Takeaways: Refs save Kansas, SEC and Big Ten Overrated, Plus Much More!

Publish Date: 03/23/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament is in the books, and as always, we had upsets and surprises that nobody thought could happen. The biggest upsets were Oakland’s over Kentucky’s and Yale’s over Auburn’s. What will the second round bring? Your guess is as good as mine, but for now, let’s look back on an exciting round one of action.

1) The SEC is overrated

The SEC had six teams in the first round, and all were favored to win, but only two teams won. That winner was Tennessee, and while the Vols are an excellent team, they lack the consistency to make a legit final-four push.

Kentucky has only won one Tournament game since 2019, but John Calipari currently appears safe in his job.

Mississippi State should not have even been in the tournament, and they proved it by being dominated by Michigan State, who also did not deserve to be in this tournament.

2) A bad call saves Kansas

Kansas held off Samford’s comeback attempt and won 93-89, thanks mainly to a contentious call with 14 seconds remaining. As Kansas cracked Samford’s press with a 90-89 lead and Nic Timberlake attempted a dunk attempt, it was dislodged by Samford’s A.J. Staton-McCray, who dislodged it from him. Staton-McCray appeared to commit a foul, sending Timberlake back to the free-throw line for two free throws. A replay showed an undisturbed block and suggested Timberlake himself had caused his fall instead of contact from Staton-McCray.

Timberlake hit both free throws to give Kansas a 92-89 edge, and Samford missed a possible game-tying three-pointer. Samford missed their shot to tie things up on the other end, allowing KU to advance and face No. 5 seed Gonzaga on Saturday in Round Two of NCAA play. Samford would’ve had more numbers on their transition opportunity had there been no questionable foul call, allowing for a chance to possibly when the game at the buzzer.

The bad call continued the Kansas run of first-round victories dating back to 2006.

3) It’s looking like 1983 all over again at N.C. State

Back in 1983, North Carolina State had to make a magical run through the ACC Tournament to even make the tournament, and this season, they found themselves in the same situation. The Wolfpack got hot and beat Duke and North Carolina to advance to the NCAA tourney.

NC State appeared destined for an early exit from postseason play when they entered the ACC Tournament with a 17-14 (9-11 ACC) record on March 12. Their seven straight defeats had seen them slip out of consideration for at-large consideration for NCAA Tournament bids and into irrelevancy. NC State was so embattled that they were forced to play alongside the league’s bottom teams on Tuesday of their conference tournament.

Yet after winning five games in five days at the ACC Tournament and earning a bid into the NCAA Tournament, the Wolfpack found themselves in the tournament! NC State defeated Texas Tech 80-67 and will next play Oakland, the No. 14 seed. Just one more win is needed before reaching the Sweet 16 stage of tournament play.

4) Geeks with Pocket Protectors beat Auburn

Yale may have achieved one of its most iconic victories in 128 years of basketball – its only NCAA Tournament victory before this came against Baylor as a No. 12 seed in 2016. Friday night in Spokane saw Yale score an upset victory thanks to junior guard John Poulakidas scoring 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-9 from deep and Bez Mbeng, August Mahoney and Poulakidas all matching up well, along with 7-foot sophomore Danny Wolf providing size and mobility advantages that gave them a chance to pull off this upset.

The Ivy League is an under-appreciated league that sees its league champion at least put up a fight seemingly every year. Yale, who won their league’s tournament championship this year, once again defeated a Power 5 champion just like last year when Princeton advanced all the way to the Sweet 16 with only 15 seed status seed last season and now with their win over Auburn as Ivy League champs, it may provide evidence that Ivy League doesn’t need to be seen as a one-bid league?

5) Indiana State got screwed

While watching Virginia on Tuesday night, it was hard not to wonder how the Sycamores got left out of March Madness while Virginia was playing. The Cavaliers were horribly bad in a loss to Colorado State. The Sycamore dropped 101 a night later in the NIT against SMU. The Sycamore have outstanding players like Robbie Avila, Isaiah Swoopes and Jaydon Kent. They would have been exciting to watch. Virginia was horrible to watch as they struggled to score 50 points.

Leagues like the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten have too many teams that get way too much respect, while the Missouri Valley Conference and the IVY League are ignored. At least we don’t have to worry about why this happens—we all know it’s all about the money!

6) Welcome to the big-time Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon won its inaugural NCAA tournament victory on Thursday, as the Antelopes had previously reached but then exited in round 64 each time they went. They left no doubt this time around; winning guaranteed them a matchup against Alabama, who breezed by the College of Charleston 109-96 to set up an intriguing showdown between stylistically dissimilar teams.

7) Utah State aiming straight at Purdue

The Boilermakers are the class of the Big Ten, but over the last twenty years, the Big Ten has been largely irrelevant come tourney time. The Boilermakers are known for falling apart against what, before the game, looked like inferior competition. This year it is different as Utah State stands in the way of Purdue advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

Utah State won the Mountain West regular-season title and was ranked a top 50 team, according to They made quick work of TCU, which beat Houston earlier in the year; especially impressive was center Isaac Johnson, who has shown his ability to score inside as well as knock down 3-pointers from long range. That long range ability could be key in forcing Purdue center Zach Edey onto defense out to the three-point line. Utah State will need a great performance to beat Purdue, but they matchup well with the Boilermakers.

8) James Madison has Final Four capabilities

JMU dominated the Wisconsin Badgers, stealing the ball 14 times and forcing Wisconsin to play at its tempo. JMU is rolling with 14 consecutive wins, and Duke is next up in a game I expect JMU to win. The Dukes are well-coached and one of the fastest teams in the country, and that speed destroyed Wisconsin.

James Madison is a deep athletic team, and maybe more importantly, they are well-coached. Duke is a good team, but James Madison can play with any team in the country.

9) UCONN is the best team in the country, again

I know they just beat Stetson; it was not that they beat Stetson, it was how they beat them! UCONN toyed with them, if felt like they just named the score in this game. There are few teams out there that can hang with UCONN, and I would be surprised if they don’t win it all for a second consecutive season.

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