Fairleigh Dickinson junior forward Sean Moore really didn’t know how he should feel in the minutes after the Knights made history Friday night.
Moore’s emotions wouldn’t let him decide if he wanted to scream or cry after FDU became just the second No.16 seeded team in NCAA Tournament history to knock off a No.1 seed after upsetting Purdue, 63-58, during the first round in Columbus, Ohio.
“I can’t even explain it,” Moore told reporters. “I’m shocked right now. I can’t believe it. It’s crazy. But it feels amazing.”
The Knights, who lost to Florida Atlantic in the second round, easily pulled off the biggest upset of the first two rounds as they joined University of Maryland-Baltimore County as the only 16th seeds to beat a No. 1 seed. But they were far from alone in a Tournament opening weekend that was defined by close games and upsets. Two No. 1 seeds didn’t make it out of the first weekend after No. 8 Arkansas stunned defending national champion Kansas in the second round of the West Region, making it just the fourth time since the NCAA expanded in 1985 that multiple No. 1 seeds failed to reach the Sweet 16.
Overall No. 1 Alabama and University of Houston are the only two No. 1 seeds remaining as the Tournament moves to the Sweet 16 this week.
“Wonderful win, feels unreal right now,” said Arkansas junior guard Devonte Davis, who scored 25 points during the Razorbacks’ in the 72-71 win over the Jayhawks. “I don’t know how to react, you know, but I know it does feel good and I know the guys that haven’t been a part of something like this, I know we feel like we’re at the top of the world and we want to continue and get better.”
Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament upset special
It was the second year in a row the Razorbacks knocked off a No. 1 seed in the Tournament after they beat Gonzaga last year. Arkansas coach Eric Musselman went shirtless out on the basketball court shortly after the Razorbacks secured the win over a Jayhawks team that was playing without coach Bill Self on the sideline.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, that’s as great of a win as I’ve ever been a part of,” said Musselman, whose team takes on fourth-seed UConn in the Sweet 16. “Again, because of the history of Kansas, because of some of their veteran players that were part of a championship team last year. A lot of people didn’t think we were going to win our first-round game.”
While Fairleigh Dickinson and Arkansas shocked the world and No. 13 Furman shocked fourth-seed Virginia, it was the 15th seeded Princeton Tigers, of the Ivy League, who emerged as this year’s Cinderella team after upsetting the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats, 59-55, in the opening round and then following that up with a dominating 78-63 win over seventh seed Missouri in the second round. The Tigers, who will play No. 6 seed Creighton in the Sweet 16 on Friday, are just
the fourth 15th seed to make it to the Sweet 16 in the men’s Tournament history.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing deep into the tournament,” said Princeton coach Mitch Henderson, who also played at Princeton. “As a player, got to the second round a couple times. Never got beyond it.
“I feel like these guys, it’s unbelievable.”
Some of the early round upset losses – particularly Purdue and Kansas – perhaps got the attention of some of the higher seeds that found themselves on the ropes like Houston and even the No. 2 Texas Longhorns, who had to hold Penn State in the second round to make their first Sweet 16 in 15 years. Texas senior forward Timmy Allen admitted after the Longhorns’ 71-66 win over Penn State that the upsets in other games served as a motivator in a difficult second round matchup.
“We’re conscious of what’s happening around the tournament, obviously,” Allen said. “We’re a bunch of ball players who are invested in the game and the tournament. I think we just try to learn from what’s happening around us and try to be better because of that.
“We pay attention and try to learn from what’s happening around the tournament and try to do the opposite of that and come out with wins like we did today.”
While it seemed that most teams had some challenges at various points of the weekend, the Crimson Tide seemed to be in control throughout their first two games, running by 16th seed Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the first round and then handling No. 8 seed Maryland, 73-51, without much trouble in the second round.
Alabama made it through the first round without freshman star Brandon Miller scoring a point in 19 minutes.
“I think they have done a really great job for two straight games here,” said Alabama coach Nate Oats, whose team takes on No. 5 seed San Diego State in the Sweet 16 round. “First two rounds focusing on what they need to focus on when they are at practice, video, games, whatever it is. And then, you know, the appropriate big picture stuff will take – you know, our guys know they are dealing with on that other stuff.”