The anticipation for an extra mad March Madness seemed to be at an all-time high this year following a season that saw unprecedented turnover at the top of the AP rankings each week. After an opening day that had some nice moments, but nothing I would categorize as mind-blowing (not even Yale's win), Part II of the opening round was as mad as madness gets. Here are my five best moments from the opening round.
5. Octavis Ellis' late dunk prevents Cincinnati from forcing OT
This has to be one of the most brutal ways to end your collegiate career. Senior Octavius Ellis thought his dunk at the buzzer forced overtime against St. Joseph's, only for the referees to waive off the bucket because the ball left his hands just a fraction too late. A layup probably would've made it, and Ellis went as close as you could get to being a hero while actually not...becoming a hero.
4. Adam Woodbury snags an air-ball and lays it in at the buzzer to help Iowa escape Temple in OT
The Iowa Hawkeyes have been trending in the wrong direction for the last month, losing 5 of their last 6 games heading into the tournament. For the majority of their opening round game, it looked like Iowa had gotten their act together. However, an awful foul on a Temple 3-point attempt--WHILE LEADING BY 3 POINTS--with 2 seconds left in regulation put the Hawkeyes in jeopardy of squandering such a strong season. Then, Adam Woodbury saved their season.
3. Josh Hagins' game-tying shot that helps lead Arkansas Little-Rock past Purdue
From the final five minutes of regulation through the end of double overtime, Josh Hagins outscored the entire Purdue team 21-20. His step-back to his shooting side (much more difficult than stepping back to your left for a right-handed shooter) from 30-feet to tie the game at the end of regulation catapulted Hagins to fame, and the Trojans past the Boilermakers.
2. Paul Jesperson's halfcourt buzzer beater beats Texas
This was vintage March Madness, and Jesperson's half court heave will surely be part of every NCAA Tournament montage for the rest of time. If Texas had scouted Jesperson back to his high school days, they might have realized that he has a penchant for hitting these outrageous shots.
And because you can't get enough of this shot.
Yes I was that idiot. Do it for the vine Northern Iowa https://t.co/mr0SEZaeHV— Sam Duren (@Sam_Duren) March 19, 2016
1. Middle Tennessee upsets Michigan State 90-81
While Jesperson's shot is probably the singular best moment from the tournament so far, I couldn't in good conscience put Middle Tennessee's unbelievable upset over the Spartans anywhere but #1. Despite their designation as a 2-seed, Vegas betting lines gave Michigan State the second-best chance of winning the tournament just behind Kansas. About 40% of the brackets filled out on ESPN's Tournament Challenge placed Michigan State in the Final Four. Give Middle Tennessee credit, their 57.9 3PT% (11-19) tied for the highest mark given up by MSU in the last five years. The Blue Raiders came out and punched MSU (figuratively) in the mouth immediately, jumping out to a 15-2 lead. Michigan State was never quite able to overcome their extremely poor opening minutes. After the game, the players and Tom Izzo were unsurprisingly emotional.
When asked what he would say to thank Denzel Valentine, Tom Izzo was nearly brought to tears. https://t.co/xOaVz1JHlE— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) March 18, 2016
Despite being an Izzo-coached group laden with upper-classmen, it looks like no one is immune from March Madness.