Ranking the First Round NCAA Tournament Games

Never a good Christmas when one’s own team is the victim of the only big first round NCAA tournament upset. I had this same feeling in 2010 when Wake Forest lost to Cleveland State, and even though that game mattered more to me than this one, Kentucky’s loss to St. Peter’s was definitely the bigger upset of the two. Nevertheless, there were still some great games and storylines to emerge from the tournament’s first two days. Let’s now rank the games from best to worst and compare how my pre-tourney intrigue rankings compare to how the games actually played out.

Ranking the NCAA First Round Games (Postgame)Pre-Tourney RankDifference
1(7) Murray State vs. (10) San Francisco (Th- 9:40)- CBS (5)– the only game of the first round that was an instant classic. Let’s go Racer’s!1716
2(5) Iowa vs. (12) Richmond (Th- 3:10)- Tru TV (246)– the biggest upset of the first round besides the aforementioned Kentucky vs. St. Peter’s game. This game seemed bigger than a 12 over a 5 because of the double digit point spread and how Iowa had become a trendy Final Four pick.86
3(5) UConn vs. (12) New Mexico State (Th- 6:50)- TNT (245)– the third of the big three first round upsets129
4(2) Kentucky vs. (15) Saint Peter’s (Th- 7:10)- CBS (5)– if St. Peter’s had beaten anyone other than Kentucky, then that game would be at the top of this list. However, a game that causes me that much anguish can’t be in the top 3.73
5(8) San Diego State vs. (9) Creighton (Th- 7:27)- Tru TV (246)– an overtime slugfest with several twists and turns2520
6(7) Michigan State vs. (10) Davidson (Fri- 9:40)- CBS (5)– a truly epic game that Davidson just refused to concede148
7(7) Southern Cal vs. (10) Miami-FL (Fri- 3:10)- Tru TV (246)– a back and forth war decided in the final minute that almost featured one of the great halfcourt buzzer beaters we had ever seen.2417
8(3) Wisconsin vs. (14) Colgate (Fri- 9:50)- TBS (247)– this was my biggest upset pick of my bracket and it almost came to fruition. Colgate battled their hearts out but came up just short. 1-7
9(4) Illinois vs. (13) Chattanooga (Fri- 6:50)- TNT (245)- all four 13 seeds could have won their first round game, and in the case of Chattanooga and Akron, they really should have pulled off the upsets. 5-4
10(4) UCLA vs. (13) Akron (Th- 9:50)- TBS (247)– see comment above about Ilinois/Chattanooga game3020
11(4) Arkansas vs. (13) Vermont (Th- 9:20)- TNT (245)– the Catamounts played a great game, but like South Dakota State and Colgate, they weren’t good enough defensively to spring the upset.4-7
12(4) Providence vs. (13) South Dakota St. (Th- 12:40)- Tru TV (246)- the Jackrabbits were buried in the game but then game back to make it exciting. Like the Miami/Southern Cal game above, the outcome was decided by a controversial foul call in the final minute of regulation.3-9
13(6) LSU vs. (11) Iowa State (Fri- 7:20)- TBS (247)– huge win for the Cyclones in what was a relatively close game throughout.2815
14(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Georgia State (Th- 4:15)- TNT (245)– the final score ended up being lopsided but any game where the 16 seed is leading a 1 in the second half has to be featured in the top half of the rankings.11-3
15(6) Colorado State vs. (11) Michigan (Th- 12:15)- CBS (5)– strange game where Colorado State got a big lead and then fell apart, as Michigan won with relative ease.183
16(6) Alabama vs. (11) Notre Dame (Fri- 4:15)- TNT (245)– close game for a little over a half that saw the Irish pull away down the stretch and end Bama’s disappointing season.13-3
17(7) Loyola Chicago vs. (10) Ohio State (Fri- 12:15)- CBS (5)- the biggest “bust” of first round games. Everyone was then enthralled with this matchup when the brackets came out, and then Loyola came out and put forth one of the worst offensive performances in tourney history.2-15
18(8) Boise State vs. (9) Memphis (Th- 1:45)- TNT (245)- another game that seemed like a great matchup on paper, but ended up being a mop out, thanks to a horrendous start by Boise.9-9
19(6) Texas vs. (11) Virginia Tech (Fri- 4:30)- TBS (247)– great first half, second half not so much.10-9
20(5) Saint Mary’s vs. (12) Indiana (Th- 7:20)- TBS (247)– this game was a blow out from the very start and would be lower on the list if it wasn’t for the epic highlight of the Indiana cheerleader retrieving the ball from behind the shot clock.19-1
21(8) Seton Hall vs. (9) TCU (Fri- 9:57)- Tru TV (246)– an historic win for TCU, as they ended their 35 year drought without a tourney win, but it wasn’t ever close. 16-5
22(5) Houston vs. (12) UAB (Fri- 9:20)- TNT (245)– Blazers dug a huge hole early that they could never quite get out of. 6-16
23(1) Arizona vs. (16) Wright State (Fri- 7:27)- Tru TV (246)- the outcome was never really in doubt but Wright State did have the game within single-digits in the second half.21-2
24(3) Tennessee vs. (14) Longwood (Th- 2:45)- CBS (5)- the heavy underdog kept it close for the first 10 minutes and then got blitzed20-4
25(2) Auburn vs. (15) Jacksonville State (Fri- 12:40)- Tru TV (246)- see comment above about Tennessee/Longwood game. This game also featured the dunk of the tournament from Jabari Smith15-10
26(2) Duke vs. (15) Cal State Fullerton (Fri- 7:10)- CBS (5)– every now and then you have a game that wasn’t a blowout but also wasn’t really close and nothing memorable happened in it. This was that game.22-4
27(2) Villanova vs. (15) Delaware (Fri- 2:45)- CBS (5)- the underdog came out hot in this one but then faded quickly and defiantly.292
28(3) Purdue vs. (14) Yale (Fri- 2:00)- TBS (247)- see comment above about Villanova/Delaware game313
29(3) Texas Tech vs. (14) Montana St. (Fri- 1:45)- TNT (245)- shockingly, Montana State’s men’s team got beat by 35 points in this one but still outplayed their school’s women’s team who lost by 41 in their NCAA tournament opener and didn’t score a single point in the first quarter.27-2
30(8) North Carolina vs. (9) Marquette (Th- 4:30)- TBS (247)- this game was supposed to be close but Shaka Smart forgot to tell his team to try to not play horrendous basketball for the second consecutive NCAA tournament.23-7
31(1) Baylor vs. (16) Norfolk State (Th- 2:00)- TBS (247)– this game felt over (and ultimately was) as soon as the tip off happend.26-5
32(1) Kansas vs. (16) Texas Southern (Th- 9:57)- TruTV (246)- see comment above about Baylor/Norfolk State game320

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