Many Upsets & Close Calls in NCAA Basketball Tourney Already

Owen Poindexter
March Madness has only just begun, and already there is no need to ask about the "madness" part of that, as many top teams have already been knocked out.

Harvard drew the disdain of the entire state of New Mexico with its upset victory in the NCAA Tournament.

Top teams are dropping like flies, and it's only Round 1 of March Madness. The single elimination format--every game is win or go home--makes the NCAA basketball tourney exciting and nearly impossible to predict, because, well, anything can happen in one game. Let's take a look at the big first round upsets:

NCAA 1st Round Upsets

Harvard (14) beats New Mexico (3) 68-62 This one was a shocker. Some people thought New Mexico might have deserved the #2 seed. Regardless, they didn't manage to earn the second round, as Harvard showed that their strong record in the Ivy League wasn't meaningless by outplaying New Mexico in the first half, then staying calm while New Mexico got more frantic as the game wound down.

California (12) beats UNLV (5), 64-61. UNLV being where it is, it's likely that a lot of money was lost on this one. The two were tied at the end of the first half, but UNLV never really got its shooting going--just 32% over the course of the game--and Cal managed to pull ahead and hold on to the delight of a whole lot of Las Vegas casinos.

Oregon (12) beats Oklahoma St (5), 68-55. Daymean Dotson, Oregon's freshman point guard was on target for 17 points, in a game with a surprising winner but a more surprising score: most upsets are close, this one wasn't. Oklahoma State coach Ford said that his team couldn't handle the hot Ducks: "We ran into a very hot team, a very hot team," Ford said. "I've watched a lot of games on these guys and how they've played the last three games compared to how they were playing two or three weeks ago, this was a hot basketball team. I was impressed with Oregon, really impressed, and they came in here playing extremely well."

Ole Miss (12) beats Wisconsin (5), 57-46. Another 12 beats another 5 by another large margin. Marshall Henderson led the way for Ole Miss by taking lots and lots of shots, missing most of them, but hitting enough for 19 points, with almost all of his points coming in the second half.

La Salle (13) beats Kansas St. (4), 63-61. La Salle dominated the first half, Kansas St. dominated the second half, but by two fewer points. An 18 point lead at the half evaporated, but when the buzzer sounded, La Salle had given themselves just large enough a cushion to withstand a second half that was more like what most people thought the entire game would be like.

Close Calls

These teams just barely avoided being in the upset column.

Marquette (3) squeaks by Davidson (14), 59-58. Marquette was down by 7 with a minute and half to go. Vander Blue hit a three, then drove in for a layup after a game killing turnover by Davidson and Marquette escaped.

Gonzaga (1) avoids making dubious history against Southern (16), 64-58. No #1 has ever lost in the first round. Gonzaga thought about it briefly. The game was tied at 56 with just over three minutes to go, but the Zags zigged past and survived.

Syracuse (4) clobbers Montana (13), 81-34. This is neither an upset or a close call, but it's kind of a close call for Montana. I mean, imagine if they had missed a few more shots, and this was more like 81-22. People would have talked about it and remembered it. Fortunately, they managed to get over 30 points, and there was bigger news to care about (see above), so they can lick their wounds in private.