There is still one more day of games to play this weekend, so there is a chance that this can change. As of right now, though, the image that is going to stick in my mind for years to come when I think about the first weekend of this tournament is the late three pointer by Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh. You know exactly the one I’m talking about. Kansas was looking like they were going to pull off a win that they really didn’t deserve when Farokhmanesh found himself oddly uncovered during a break. You could see the moment of thought crossing his eyes – he knew that he should dribble off some time, or pass the ball away because he was ice cold in the second half, but he was so wide open that he just pulled up and sank a dagger into the hearts of every Kansas fan on the planet. It was ruthlessly brilliant and totally unforgettable.
The game has been over for several hours now, so I have had some time to reflect on what I saw. What stuns me most about that game isn’t that Kansas lost – though that’s way too bizarre to consider. It’s that Northern Iowa looked from the very start like they honestly believed that they could win. The further into the game they got, and the higher the temperature got, the more confident and composed they looked. No one watching could believe what was happening, but their eyes told us that they weren’t concerned at all. Absolutely incredible. I don’t even want to think about how to handicap this team next weekend.
The impact of this loss is hard to comprehend. According to ESPN.com 98 percent of the 4.8 million people who filled out a bracket on the site had Kansas making the Sweet Sixteen, 59 percent had them in the Final Four, and an unbelievable 42 percent of people had them winning it all. This is the biggest possible bracket buster. Wow. My favorite part is that 1,546 people have Northern Iowa winning the whole thing. How in the world do you come to that conclusion?
The rest of the days had highs and lows, though it was unquestionably better than yesterday – much, much better. I was thrilled that Saint Mary’s played their game and dispatched a team that deserved to be dispatched. I was very disappointed that BYU couldn’t replicate their earlier performance and were never really a factor against Kansas State. I was extremely disappointed that New Mexico played so poorly, and frustrated that Washington chose to play now after being so unpredictably average all season. I was again impressed by Butler despite their shooting issues – they have a lot of room to improve, and I have high hopes for them – and gained an incredible amount of respect for Murray State in that loss. I like what I saw from Baylor. I was incredibly impressed by how good Kentucky was, and have to wonder if some of their great play was a result of joy caused by the realization that the only team they probably couldn’t beat in this tournament had just been knocked out. All in all, it was a very good day, though not a great one for my bracket. Or anyone else’s for that matter.