NCAA Tournament: Round 1 & 2 Takeaways

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament lived up to the hype as usual. Here are the main takeaways from the first two rounds.

Wait, you didn't watch every second of every game in the first two rounds? That's probably because you don't have a problem and are a better decision-maker than I am. Well, don't worry because I have you covered for anything you missed this weekend with the top takeaways from the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Stop betting on anything Rick Barnes is or has been associated with

While Rick Barnes was Texas's coach, it was almost a given that they would lose far earlier than their talent suggested. Unfortunately, the curse of Rick Barnes has followed him to Tennessee. This Tennessee team has two freshmen who could be lottery picks, Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson, and two other upperclassmen also could be drafted, Yves Pons and Josiah-Jordan James.

Tennessee should have been a legitimate second-weekend team. Instead, Tennessee didn't break double-digit points until the 6:57 mark in the first half. They shot 33 percent from the field and 19 percent from three. Oregon State is proving to be one of the hottest teams in the country, but Tennessee's performance was inexcusable.

To make matters worse, Barnes apparently left a sliver of his curse with the Texas Longhorns program. I will never understand how this Texas team that is loaded with talent, experience, and athleticism lost to this Abilene Christian team that was a Division II program a few years ago.

The experienced trio of Longhorns guards combined for 15 turnovers and 8-26 shooting. It was an embarrassing performance that this Texas program will struggle to recover from.

Big Ten… Yikes

Biases on the table, I was born and raised in the heart of Big Ten country. I grew up a diehard Michigan fan, went to Minnesota in college, and firmly believe the Big Ten is the country's toughest conference. With all that said, this tournament has, how to put this nicely, not been great for the Big Ten.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the collapses by Michigan State and Ohio State. We got our yearly clip of Tom Izzo losing his mind on a college player. The Michigan State Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage, decided to enter modern basketball with the foul while up three philosophy.

Unfortunately for them, they waited for UCLA to take a shot and gave up a three-point play in the final seconds. Whoops. The next day we were blessed with Ohio State losing to now Cinderella candidate Oral Roberts who got 79 percent of their points from two players.

The rest of the conference also struggled as the tournament progressed. Purdue failed to show up and get much production from anyone not named Jaden Ivey. Maryland had a quality first-round upset against UConn but proceeded to get run out of the gym by Alabama.

Rutgers earned a first-round upset over Clemson but then promptly choked away what should've been a program-altering win against Houston. Iowa fell victim to a complete dismantling by Oregon, but it sparked the age-old debate of rest vs. rust. Which matters more? Will we ever know?

So much for Illinois being the hottest team in the country. I guess everyone forgot about Gonzaga, who has yet to lose a game. Illinois became the most recent victim of Sister Jean and a Loyola team that is yet again quite good. It's a shame that the 101-year-old (good for her) fan gets more shine than the team does, but Loyola and Cameron Krutwig proved they're the real deal.

Now, the Big Ten's lone remaining hope lies fully on Michigan's shoulders. After a predictable but unconvincing first-round win, the Wolverines hung with and eventually pulled away from a very talented LSU team. Michigan weathered the storm early on before resorting to their ball movement, team defense, and late-game execution to seal their fourth straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

Are we sure Buddy Boeheim isn't the best basketball player ever?

Classic coaches kid benefiting from nepotism and getting playing time. This take would be applicable if Boeheim wasn't setting the world on fire with his absolutely absurd shooting. Over his last four games, Boeheim is averaging 28.3 points on 56 percent from three. WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!?!?!?

It's no secret that I despise zone defenses. They are gimmicky and don't prove how good a team actually is. I also cringe at people who only watch the tournament and base their draft grades off of that. So far, not great for Boeheim. However, if we continue to get Buddy Boeheim making Steph Curry's shot look average, I'm all for it.

PAC-12

It's the PAC-12's conference, and we're just along for the ride. Despite being considered one of the weaker Power Five conferences, the PAC-12 only has one loss in this tournament and will represent a quarter of the Sweet Sixteen. All of this comes after not having a team ranked lower than a fifth seed.

That fifth seed was Colorado, who is also the lone PAC-12 team to lose a game. To their credit, though, the Buffalos demolished a red-hot Georgetown team in the first round before getting bullied in the second round by Florida State.

Oregon State may be the hottest team in the country. After winning the PAC-12 Tournament, the Beavers embarrassed Tennessee and then sent home the NBA's top draft pick and the rest of a tough Oklahoma State team. Seeding-wise, Oregon State has a favorable draw against eighth seed Loyola and could find themselves in the Elite Eight after not being considered a tournament team before their conference tournament.

On the other side of the bracket, Oregon just thrashed an Iowa team who starred the National Player of the Year. USC and Evan Mobley quickly crushed any Cinderella hopes Drake had. The Trojans then dominated Kansas as if they were, well as if they were Drake.

Finally, UCLA is cruising after having to win a play-in game just to make the tournament. (That's right, I don't consider those play-in games as actual tournament games. Hence the term "play-in.") After being derided as a meager conference all season, the PAC-12 has a legitimate chance to have three representatives in the Final Four.

COVID

The ugly shadow looming over everything this past year has been COVID. Its presence and impact have already been felt in the tournament as well. Most notably, the highly anticipated VCU vs. Oregon game was canceled due to virus issues in the VCU program. It robbed fans of the Nah'shon Hyland vs. Chris Duarte matchup, but more importantly, it affected the health of young players and gave them a horribly unsatisfactory end to their season.

Before the tournament beginning, we also saw programs like Kansas and Virginia recently affected as positive tests forced them to withdraw from their conference tournaments. Kansas barely squeaked by Eastern Washington. David McCormack was on limited minutes, and their versatile forward Jalen Wilson still wasn't cleared to play.

Virginia was not so lucky to avoid upset as they lost to a surging Ohio team. Ohio played a tremendous game, but Virginia's inability to practice and restrictions on arriving in Indianapolis only a day before their game had to have had an impact on their performance.

This virus has turned our world upside down, and you've read and heard wiser words by smarter people than I, so I won't go on a diatribe, but let's hope that COVID isn't a factor from now on.

College referees continue to be the absolute worst

In the first two rounds, there have been approximately 4,000,000 charges called. I've made it rather clear that I believe the charge call is the absolute worst foul in basketball. It rewards and encourages dangerous play. To be clear, I'm fine with the charges called where the on-ball defender moves his feet and is in a legitimate position.

It is when a secondary defender slides under a shooter at the last second and falls over. This play is dangerous and teaches players that good defense consists of getting in the way and falling over. The rule on its own is bad enough, but once we introduce college referees who enjoy nothing more than punching the air in the opposite direction, we get a complete abuse of power. The rule needs to be changed, but referees must be educated that not all contact in the paint is a charge.

Besides the bad charge calls, college referees appear to think people are tuning in to watch them and not the players. Every action they make is as if they are auditioning for a Broadway production. If the ball goes out of bounds off a player, the referee points at them as if they are identifying a criminal in a lineup. Any hard foul is now reviewed as a flagrant foul.

The term "excessive and/or unnecessary" is extremely subjective. Did the point guard foul the seven-footer a little hard? Probably, but that's what happens when you have to stop a guy from getting a shot off who is a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. Did the center's armpit graze the head of the smaller guard when the center pivoted back towards the rim? Yea, but he can't help that he is as big as he is. I understand that refereeing is not an easy job. However, these referees continue to make themselves part of the story and insert themselves into situations they have no right to be a part of.

Yikes, I sounded a thousand years old there. Appreciate you sticking with me.

Upsets

Holy upsets, Batman! This tournament was the first time four teams ranked 13 or lower advanced after the first round. Heading into the Sweet Sixteen, only fifteen seed Oral Roberts remains, but what a first round for the underdogs. These shocking upsets included Ohio over Virginia, Oral Roberts over Ohio State, North Texas over Purdue, and Abilene Christian over Texas.

While the Round of 32 had fewer eye-popping upsets, there was still plenty of chaos. We have four double-digit seeds in the Sweet Sixteen in Oral Roberts, UCLA, Syracuse, and Oregon State.

We also have a six-seeded seed in USC, a seven-seeded seed in Oregon, and an eight-seeded seed in Loyola. While I'm generally not a fan of upsets in the long run (gives us worse basketball but fun at the moment), in a year where nothing has made sense or gone to plan, why not keep this chaos going?

Eric Musselman

It has been a few years, but remember that crazy Nevada coach who was celebrating tournament wins by ripping his shirt off? Well, he's back and just led Arkansas to the Sweet Sixteen. Once the final buzzer sounded, Musselman's celebration did not disappoint. Musselman immediately sprinted across the court, mounted the table, and emulated Maximus Decimus Meridius, challenging the crowd, are you not entertained!?

For the cherry on top, Musselman gave us this gem in his post-game interview:

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