Can you feel the Madness, yet? It only took 28 games in 28 hours to rid the world of any perfect brackets. Eight double-digit seeds remain, Loyola-Chicago has the power of the Holy Spirit, and Oral Roberts is getting fitted for a glass slipper.
I know nothing. You know nothing. And that’s what makes it great.
Can You Feel the Madness?!
NCAA Tournament Sees Record-Setting 1st-Round Upsets, and Opening Weekend Isn’t Over Yet
That didn’t last long. My bracket was in the trash early on Friday. And it just kept getting worse. Eventually, we learn to let go and just enjoy the Madness. I just didn’t expect to let go so soon.
The NCAA Tournament lit up the weekend with one shocking upset after another. Indy played host to a record-setting list of underdog storylines with 15-seed Oral Roberts leading the way. The Golden Eagles became the second 15-seed ever to reach the Sweet 16 (Florida Gulf Coast, 2013).
Not a single bracket in the world was perfect after Saturday night, and the bracket-busting continued into Sunday with 8, 11, 12 and 15 seeds reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Think this is typical? Think again.
Upset History: Nine double-digit seeds advancing to the Round of 32 was tied for the 2nd-most all-time. And while that’s historic, it’s the first time ever that four teams seeded 13 or lower won in the opening round.
#13 Ohio def. #4 Virginia (62-58)
#13 North Texas def. #4 Purdue (78-69, OT)
And Oral Roberts is still going. The Golden Eagles beat #7 Florida on Sunday.
Other NCAA Tournament Notes
The Pac-12 is on Fire
The highly disrespected Pac-12 conference came out with a bang on opening weekend. They’re 7-0 through three days, including #7 Oregon’s walk-over due to #10 VCU’s COVID-19 issues. 11-seed UCLA and 12-seed Oregon State have won two games apiece. #5 Colorado and #6 USC both won opening-round games by double-digits.
Sister Jean & The Ramblers
Three years removed from their Final Four run in 2018, Loyola-Chicago made noise again by taking down #1 Illinois (71-58). The Ramblers led from wire to wire to knock off the first 1-seed of the tourney thanks to 101-year-old Sister Jean and another pre-game prayer.
First 8 Advanced to Sweet 16
#12 Oregon State
#15 Oral Roberts
Today’s 2nd-Round Schedule
#2 Iowa vs. #7 Oregon (12:10 pm ET)
#1 Gonzaga vs. #8 Oklahoma (2:40 pm ET)
#14 ACU vs. #11 UCLA (5:15 pm ET)
#5 Creighton vs. #13 Ohio (6:10 pm ET)
#1 Michigan vs. #8 LSU (7:10 pm ET)
#4 Florida State vs. #5 Colorado (7:45 pm ET)
#2 Alabama vs. #10 Maryland (8:45 pm ET)
#3 Kansas vs. #6 USC (9:40 pm ET)
(The Sportsletter’s Bracket Challenge)
Women’s Tourney: Chalk Rolls in Round 1
No Upsets on Day 1 of NCAA Women’s Tournament as 1-Seeds Shines
Down to San Antonio we go where the women’s bracket did not produce the upsets we saw in the men’s tournament. In fact, not a single lower seed played spoiler in the tourney’s first 16 games. All four 1-seeds were in action on Sunday, and they won by a combined 123 points. That’s an average margin of 30-plus in Round 1. The upsets may not come early, but we’re dancing all week long in Texas.
Notable 1-Seed Performances
#1 Stanford def. #16 Utah Valley (87-44)
#1 NC State def. #16 NC A&T (79-58)
#1 S. Carolina def. #16 Mercer (79-53)
#1 UConn def. #16 High Point (102-59)
Star Player Watch
UConn’s Paige Bueckers (24 pts, 9 rebs, 6 asts) set a school record for most points in an NCAA Tournament debut on Sunday. She’ll no doubt have more chances to put her stamp on the record books before the tourney ends.
Remaining Round 1 Schedule (Today)
FiveThirtyEight: The Top Picks & Sleepers to Watch in the Women’s NCAA Tournament
Running Into Week 2 of Free Agency
Giants Land WR Kenny Golladay to Headline Weekend’s Biggest Moves
More free agency signings over the weekend helped shift the balance of power ever so slightly in the NFL. Two star wide receviers — Kenny Golladay and JuJu Smith-Schuster — signed new deals. JuJu is staying in Pittsburgh, though. There are still some hidden gems as we head into Week 2 of free agency, so don’t give up yet if your team is dragging their feet.
Latest NFL Free Agent Signings
WR Kenny Golladay → Giants
Deal: 4 Years, $72 Million
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster → Steelers
Deal: 1 Year, $8 Million
DT Sheldon Rankings → Jets
Deal: 2 Years, $17 Million
CB Kyle Fuller → Broncos
Deal: 1 Year, $9.5 Million
WR DeSean Jackson → Rams
Deal: 1 Year, TBD
Top Remaining Free Agents: CB Richard Sherman, OT Mitchell Schwartz, WR T.Y. Hilton, DE Jadeveon Clowney, CB Malcolm Butler, WR Sammy Watkins, LB K.J. Wright
LaMelo’s Rookie Season is Over
Projected Rookie of the Year Will Miss Rest of Season With Fractured Wrist
It looked like LaMelo Ball had the Rookie of the Year award in the bag, and just like that, his season is over. The Hornets’ first-round pick suffered a wrist fracture in Saturday’s loss to the Clippers (125-98). Ball shined in his first NBA season averaging roughly 16 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds per game despite playing limited minutes off the bench for the first month of the year. Charlotte had ascended all the way to 4th in the East at one point this month. They’re now in 8th place after a three-game skid.
Other NBA Highlights
Rockets Lose 20th Straight: The Houston Rockets nearly broke their miserable losing streak on Sunday, but Thunder guard Luguentz Dort made a game-saving block. Rockets lose (114-112), and that’s 20 in a row.
Here Come the Hawks?: Atlanta fired their head coach last month, and interim play-caller Nate McMillan has the team rolling in March. The Hawks won their league-best eighth-straight game on Saturday against a LeBron-less Laker team (99-94).
Blake Griffin’s Nets Debut: Brooklyn held off Washington on Sunday night (113-106) in Blake Griffin’s first official appearance in a Nets uniform. He only had two points in 14 minnutes, but he recorded his first dunk since 2019.
The Colorado Avalanche blanked the Minnesota Wild (6-0) on Saturday for their NHL-best sixth straight win. They’ve outscored opponents 27-7 over that span.
Australian Matt Jones was victorious Sunday at the Honda Classic, and it wasn’t even close. Jones (-12) smoked the field by five strokes en route to his first PGA Tour win in seven years.
️ SOCCER: Dest Explodes on the Scene
Barcelona were 6-1 winners in La Liga on Sunday, but the story was 20-year-old American Sergino Dest. He tallied two goals to become the third American-born player ever to score a goal in La Liga play, and the future looks bright.
️ NASCAR: Blaney Steals Victory in Atlanta
Ryan Blaney grabbed his first checkered flag of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season Sunday in Atlanta’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Blaney passed Kyle Larson with eight laps to go. Larson led 269 of 325 laps.
The Wisconsin women’s hockey team captured their second straight NCAA championship over the weekend with an overtime win against Northeastern (2-1, OT).
Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer came out swinging on Saturday night and called out the NCAA for “blatant sexism” and gender inequality in a statement. She isn’t satisfied with apologies or weight room upgrades. (Sports Illustrated)
Major League Baseball throws out the first pitch in just ten days. With the season nearing, we decided now would be a good time to compile a living document that chronicles every team’s Opening Day starter situation. (CBS Sports)
It remains to be seen whether the Patriots’ free-agency spending spree is a savvy strategy or an act of desperation. What’s clear is Belichick realized his roster needed an overhaul. (The Ringer)