It was one of the most shocking upsets in recent NCAA history.
Unheralded Middle Tennessee was seemingly going to have a very short run in the NCAA tournament. The 15th-seeded Blue Raiders had the most difficult of assignments against second-seeded Michigan State.
The Spartans had won the Big Ten conference tournament and had a brilliant senior-dominated lineup led by Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine. Many observers expected them to win the national championship.
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But Middle Tennessee just wanted to play basketball in St. Louis, and the Blue Raiders didn't care about reputations.
Led by Reggie Upshaw and Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee blazed out of the gate to a 15-2 lead and was never headed. The Blue Raiders met every Spartan surge with one of their own, and when the game came down to the final few possessions of the second half, they outplayed and outexecuted Tom Izzo's Spartans.
The story will live on in the annals of college basketball and will give every 15th seed hope for the future, but now the Blue Raiders have to try to build on that experience as they get ready to play Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orange.
|Matchup||Time (ET)||Point spread||Prediction|
|Maryland-Hawaii||7:10 p.m.||Maryland -6.5||Hawaii*|
|Iowa-Villanova||12:10 p.m.||Villanova -6.5||Villanova|
|Virginia Commonwealth-Oklahoma||5:15 p.m.||Oklahoma -8||Oklahoma|
|Syracuse-Middle Tennessee||6:10 p.m.||Syracuse -6||Middle Tennessee*|
|Oregon-St. Joseph's||9:40 p.m.||Oregon -6.5||Oregon|
|Northern Iowa-Texas A&M||7:40 p.m.||Texas A&M||Northern Iowa|
|Wisconsin-Xavier||8:40 p.m.||Xavier -4.5||Wisconsin|
|Notre Dame-Stephen F. Austin||2:40 p.m.||Notre Dame -1||Notre Dame|
|* Will cover point spread but lose game|
NCAA.com; Odds Shark; Silverman selections
Middle Tennessee has been a strong offensive team this season, and the Blue Raiders were clearly at their best against Michigan State. Now they must play at the same level if they hope to pull off another upset and get to the Sweet 16.
Head coach Kermit Davis is going to need Upshaw and Potts to be as strong and consistent as they were against the Spartans. Upshaw ran the court with purpose and scored 21 points, took down four rebounds and had four assists against Michigan State, while Potts contributed 19 points and five rebounds.
Potts also showed his toughness by battling hard for every loose ball, and he came away with more than his share of 50-50 balls throughout the game.
More than anything, Middle Tennessee had a brilliant shooting day, making 33 of 59 shots from the field and 11 of 19 from beyond the arc.
The Blue Raiders will attempt to come close against the Orange, a team that has been noted for playing a hounding zone defense for years.
Syracuse is coming off an impressive 70-51 win over Dayton, and it was led by guard Malachi Richardson, who connected on five of 12 shots from the field and eight of nine from the free-throw line as he scored a game-high 21 points.
Syracuse had three other players in double figures, including Tyler Roberson, who scored 10 points and pulled down an impressive 18 rebounds.
The Blue Raiders are going to have to come up with another peak performance if they are going to defeat Syracuse. The Orange have been installed as six-point favorites, according to Odds Shark, and its difficult to see Middle Tennessee playing at the same level for a second consecutive game.
However, 56 percent of the betting public believes that Middle Tennessee is going to cover the spread. That's a legitimate possibility, but look for Boeheim's team to survive in the end and move on to the Sweet 16 after earning a close victory.
After beating Temple in the first round, Iowa will once again be playing its version of the Philadelphia story.
The second act may be even more difficult for the Hawkeyes than the first one was.
Iowa held on with all its might to beat Temple 72-70 in overtime, and now the seventh-seeded Hawkeyes get to take on second-seeded Villanova for a chance to move on and claim a spot in the Sweet 16.
Iowa struggled badly down the stretch in the regular season, losing four of its last five Big Ten games before losing to an underwhelming Illinois team in its first Big Ten tournament game. However, the Hawkeyes put all that losing behind them and got the best of the Owls.
Iowa went hard to the glass against Temple, and Adam Woodbury's offensive rebound and putback at the buzzer gave the Hawkeyes their first-round win.
They are going to need more rebounding and big plays from Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok if they are going to upset the Wildcats. Uthoff had a big game against Temple, with 23 points and five rebounds, while Jok had 16 points and seven boards.
Villanova appeared to have a legitimate shot at coming in with a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday, but they had to settle for the No. 2 spot in the South Region. The Wildcats started the tournament with an impressive 86-56 victory over UNC Asheville.
The Wildcats had a brilliant shooting day as they connected on 33 of 57 shots for 57.9 percent, and they held UNC Asheville to 36.8 percent from the field.
That kind of offensive consistency along with a hounding style of defense is tough to beat, and Villanova will challenge Iowa quite a bit.
Daniel Ochefu connected on seven of nine shots, scored 17 points and collected 10 rebounds for the Wildcats, and he will try to do at least as well against the Hawkeyes. Three of his teammates also reached double figures in that first-round victory, including Ryan Arcidiacono (14 points), Kris Jenkins (12 points) and Jalen Brunson (10 points).
The Wildcats have skill, athleticism and depth, and they have been installed as 6.5-point favorites over the Hawkeyes.
Iowa may be regaining its confidence after beating Temple, but the Hawkeyes' second Philadelphia-based opponent is too strong and confident. Look for Villanova to pull away in the second half and win by double digits.