When it comes to March Madness, it’s best to expect the unexpected. Some teams rise to the occasion while others don’t quite live up to March expectations. Here are the five biggest disappointments from March Madness:
5. Louisville’s Early Exit
The Cardinals didn’t have high expectations coming into the season. However, with wins over Michigan State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, many thought Louisville could be a team to make a deep run come March. Even as a seven seed in the Big Dance, Chris Mack’s squad limped into the tournament having lost nine of their last 14 games. Their stay in the NCAA Tournament didn’t last long, as the Minnesota Gophers’ hot-shooting sent the Cardinals home early.
Freshman Gabe Kalscheur led the Gophers with 24 points, including five made three-pointers. Had Louisville advanced, they would have faced a Michigan State team they had already beaten earlier in the season. The Cardinals squandered a pretty favorable chance to go deep in the tournament.
4. Marquette’s First Round Loss
Given the opponent and the star player they were going up against, it’s hard to categorize this loss as a huge disappointment. But with them having Markus Howard and the two Hauser brothers, it should be expected to at least make it out of the first round. Ja Morant put on a show with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds as Murray State blew out Marquette by 19.
Howard did his part by scoring 26 points, but they had no answer for Morant and the Racers. The Golden Eagles were a team eyeing a two seed in February. That is until they lost five of their final six games to end the regular season. Marquette had the offense and the depth to reach the Final Four.
3. Kansas’ Blowout Loss to Auburn
The final score isn’t any indication of how lopsided this game really was. The Auburn Tigers ran past the Jayhawks by a score of 89-75. Auburn led by 26 at halftime, and never let the lead slip below 17 points for the rest of the game. Bryce Brown made seven three-pointers and had a team-high 25 points for the Tigers in the victory. Kansas’ Dedric Lawson led the Jayhawks with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
This year’s Kansas team was obviously unlike year’s past, but still had enough talent and depth to advance. To not even be competitive is a disappointment, despite New Mexico State taking Auburn down to the wire a day prior. The Jayhawks are one of the most winningest programs of all time. Anything less than Big 12 titles and Final Fours is considered a failure in Lawrence.
2. Fletcher Magee vs Kentucky
In a battle of David vs Goliath to see who advances to the Sweet 16, Kentucky held on to beat Wofford 62-56. Reid Travis led the Wildcats with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the Round of 32 win. Wofford’s star guard Fletcher Magee was held in check with only eight points, including 0/12 from three-point range.
Just making it to the tournament is an accomplishment for a program like Wofford. And they beat a great program in Seton Hall in round one. Still, for college basketball’s all-time leader in three-pointers made to struggle the way Magee did against Kentucky was disappointing. And the fact the Terriers still only lost by six points makes it even more excruciating for Wofford fans.
1. North Carolina Eliminated in Sweet 16
Of all the number top seeds, most felt comfortable with claiming the Tar Heels would be in Minneapolis when the bracket was released. North Carolina had been on a tear in February and March, losing only twice to fellow one seeds in Duke and Virginia. A rematch against Kentucky awaited in the Elite Eight, as long as North Carolina took care of Auburn first.
Chuma Okeke had other ideas.
Before leaving the game with a leg injury, he led the Tigers with 20 points and 11 rebounds. North Carolina had a team with veterans in Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye, a head coach who has been to nine Final Fours in his career and one of the most talented, freshman point guards in the country. Not to mention, a lot of the guys, who were on last year’s team that fell to no. 7 Texas A&M in the second round, were back for redemption. The biggest disappointment of the tournament has to be this North Carolina team falling in the Sweet 16.