March Madness right on course again

SPORTSBEAT
Greg Ceilley • REVIEW SPORTS EDITOR

They call it March Madness for a reason. Once again, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament has provided fans all the drama, thrills and excitement one could ask for, and we’re only through the first two rounds.

We’ve had buzz-beaters, improbable comebacks, outstanding individual performances, and tremendous energy and effort on display in a very competitive tourney field. The tournament has shown how much parity there is in college basketball, with all the upsets and down-tothe wire games. The NCAA tournament is so unpredictable which makes it exciting and fun for the fans.

Among the stunning upsets in the first round were No. 15-seeded Middle Tennessee State over No. 2 Michigan State, and No. 14 Stephen F. Austin over No. 3 West Virginia. Oregon, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, survived a scare from No. 8 St. Joseph’s in the second round Sunday night to win, 69-64.

The No. 7-seeded Wisconsin Badgers pulled off a big upset Sunday night, 66-63, over No. 2 Xavier on Bronson Koenig’s three-pointer at the buzzer. The Badgers, who earned a berth in the Sweet 16 with the win, are playing with a lot of confidence and could be a tough out.

The key for the Badgers will be if standout forward Nigel Hayes can find his offensive game again after struggling in the first two games of the NCAA tourney. If Hayes has a good game on offense against Notre Dame Friday night, the Badgers have a good shot at winning.

My alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa, experienced the ecstasy of victory and then the agony of defeat. In Friday night’s firstround game, the No. 11-seeded Panthers, stunned No. 6 Texas, 75-72, on a half-court, three-point shot at the buzzer by Paul Jesperson. The shot ranks as maybe the greatest in NCAA tournament history.

Sunday night, the Panthers lost a heartbreaker in double-overtime to No. 3-seeded Texas A&M, 92-88. UNI blew a 12-point lead in the final 44 seconds of regulation. So, in the span of 48 hours I and fellow UNI fans experienced incredible jubilance on their team’s amazing victory and then utter disappointment after the Panthers’ shocking loss.

I am very proud of the Panthers who made a strong run to just get into the NCAA tournament but what an emotional roller-coaster for the Panthers and their faithful last weekend.

Several tourney brackets are busted, including mine. Maybe next year I’ll just flip a coin to decide which teams to pick.

I picked Kansas, Oregon, Kentucky and Michigan State in the Final Four. Kentucky lost in the second round to Indiana. My championship prediction was Oregon over Kentucky.

For the Sweet 16, my other teams still alive are Maryland, Miami, Villanova, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Virginia and Iowa State.

Look for more thrilling games in the remaining March Madness.


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