Leading up to the Sweet 16, there were too many moments to count. But let’s count down a top 10 anyway!
Iowa makes the list despite slumping late in the season to register a seven seed and not showing up for the Villanova game. But we digress. Check out this buzzer beater to lift the Hawkeyes above the Owls in a classic first round battle.
Normally-safe-leads disappearing within a shot clock’s time was the trend of the first weekend. And, in the Providence USC game, guarding the baseline is the lasting lesson.
8. University of Arkansas Little Rock
6-11 non-deep threat Lis Soshi’s three pointer will live in Little Rock lore. Down four points with thirty seconds to go, Soshi got an opportunity to jack one up. It hit the back rim, popped straight up and dropped. The undersized team from Little Rock slayed the Big 10 giant. How apropos!
7. Wichita State
Go to your google search. Start typing “Fred Van Vleet.” Google will jump ahead to suggest “and Ron Baker.” The 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament marked the end of an era. Guards Van Vleet and Baker began their fantastic run in 2013 as freshmen when they played key roles in a 9-seed run to the Final Four. The run ended in 2016, but not before thrashing a larger Vanderbilt team and a dismantling of a taller and more experienced (than the Commodores) Arizona bunch.
6. Saint Joseph’s
This moment will be lost because neither of these teams advanced to the Sweet 16, which is exactly why we’re sticking this finish smack-dab in the middle of our list. If Cincinatti coach Mick Cronin moves onto UNLV, or anywhere, can we really blame him? His team lost consecutive times to finish the 2016 campaign. Both were on reviewable plays. Once was in a quadruple overtime loss to UCONN in the American Conference Championship. The other moment was a play that will redefine how dunks are viewed for the rest of end-game history:
Saint Joseph’s moved on to give the 1-seed Oregon Ducks a real scare. For a moment, that moment being 4:49 left in the game and a 5 point lead, the Hawks had the Ducks on the ropes. Saint Joseph’s looked like the Cinderella Final Four candidate. What could have been…
The Badgers went from a team that couldn’t win a home court game against Wisconsin (RPI 173) earlier in the season, to a team that knocked off a near 1-seed. Xavier was a sexy pick to make at least the Elite 8 after returning the favor against Big East foe Villanova late in the season. Wisconsin, meanwhile, was a team that had lost its longtime coach, Bo Ryan. Ryan effectively stepped aside so that his longtime assistant, Greg Gard, could get a season-long on-the-job interview. After also suffering losses to Western Illinois (RPI 262), Georgetown (RPI 106) and Marquette (RPI 111) earlier this season, Bronsin Koning reminded us that he has game, especially in March.
For this year’s One Shining Moment montage, an entire stanza should be dedicated to Makai Mason highlights. Luther Vandross’s velvety voice could play as we see Mason’s sikly smooth jumpshot. This guy scored a career high 31 points as Yale upset Baylor. The brains behind this website didn’t see it coming. Yes, the 12 seed has been a frequently common and notorious predator of the 5 seed. But this was a sweeter upset given another factor. Yale was without its senior captain point guard, Jack Montague, who had been excused from the school. It didn’t matter. Let it fly, Makai…
Never have we ever seen such a turn of events for a program. The University of Northern Iowa registered both the most unbelievable win this tournament, and it’s most unbelievable loss. And, let’s not forget, UNI got into the Big Dance with a buzzer-beater in the MVC Championship game against Evansville. But that was a shot within the half court set.
2. Texas A&M
As we mentioned, UNI suffered the worst loss in this tournament. We had to juxtapose the two mentions in back-to-back slots on this countdown. What we can’t do, however, is to replay that meltdown for you. You will have to find it on YouTube for yourselves. We don’t want to see it again. Let’s just say they let an 11 point lead slip away within 58 seconds. You got to tip your hat to those boys at Texas A&M!
1. Middle Tennessee
Just when the month of March was rumored to be renamed “Izzo,” madness happened again. Tom Izzo’s Spartans were the darling of this field, yet again. Their 2-seeding seemed odd to some, but no one was crying foul. Denzel Valentine was runner-up as player of the year and “they got this.”
Until Conference USA struck for a second consecutive season (see UAB vs. Iowa State). It made Vegas underdog wagerers “Giddy” and had them counting new fortunes in their “Potts.”
In all seriousness, this was a display by the Blue Raiders akin to what Florida Gulf Coast did in 2013. They were a 15 seed that not only won the contest, but dominated wire-to-wire.