The 5 Biggest Surprises From the First Weekend of the 2011 NCAA Tournament
Have you had enough college basketball yet? I love college ball just as much as the next guy, but after 96 straight hours of watching it, talking about it, arguing over it, yelling at the top of my lungs while watching it, and basically just engulfing myself in it, I need a day or two off from it.
Fortunately, the next round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament doesn’t tip off until Thursday, so I’ve got a couple of days to recover. But before I do, I wanted to take a look back at the five biggest surprises of the first four days of action. I’m not necessarily talking about sleeper teams and Cinderella stories, either. While Richmond advancing was certainly a surprise to most and Pittsburgh’s early departure turned a few heads, I want to focus on the real surprises. Here are mine…
1. VCU. What more can I say?
I know I just said this list wouldn’t just be a bunch of sleepers, but come on. If you’re anything like me, you filled out your bracket long before VCU won their first-round matchup of the tourney last Tuesday—a game they had to win just to get into the field of 64! Because of that, there’s a really, really good chance you overlooked them completely. And if you didn’t? Well, then you certainly had Georgetown or Purdue advancing a few steps too far this year and you’re paying for it now.
2. The Big East was disappointing…again.
For a conference that got a record 11 teams in the tournament field this year, there aren’t many that are still standing. Of course, a few have cannibalized one another with Marquette besting Syracuse and Connecticut taking care of Cincinnati. But, still: Why does the Big East—considered the best conference in the country the last few years—struggle in the spotlight? Best to leave the conference’s teams off your bracket next year.
3. Kyrie Irving played for Duke.
Technically, this was announced prior to the tournament starting, but it still counts. If you’re a Duke hater, you probably didn’t like seeing Irving come back for the start of tourney play, but the fact remains that if he’d been healthy all season (he missed the majority of it with a toe injury) Irving would probably be one of the top three players in the country right now. Him getting some PT in Duke’s first two games was good for the game and, if Duke manages to make a Final Four run, it’ll be great to see one of the game’s current greats play in the spotlight.
4. Considering the number of games, there were hardly any blowouts.
The tournament didn’t feature the number of unbelievable finishes that we’ve seen in the past (though, for the record, the first day in particular had plenty of buzzer beaters) but it did feature more close games than I can remember in a single weekend of college basketball in a long time. There were a few games that were over by the time the second half started, but even a bunch of the No. 2/No. 15 and No. 3/No. 14 matchups were close right up until the end.
5. The CBS/TNT/TBS/TruTV experiment worked well.
I was skeptical when I heard about how the tournament was going to be shown this year. Was I going to have to spend my whole day flipping through channels? Was every game really going to be shown? And, the most pressing question: How the hell was I gonna find out what channel TruTV was on? I thought it worked out remarkably well, though, and it was awesome to be able to see every game. A daunting challenge, for sure—but I already can’t wait for next year.