by Evan Bruner
Few sporting events can match the intrigue and excitement of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. The unpredictability and intensity make for one of the most entertaining spectacles in all of sports. 2023 has been no different thus far, as several high seeds have already made premature exits. With one round down and five more to go, here’s a recap of the round of 64.
Biggest Upset: No. 16 Farleigh Dickinson over No. 1 Purdue 63-58
Upsets are inevitable come March Madness, but where exactly those upsets occur on the bracket never ceases to amaze. This wasn’t the standard 12 seed taking down a 5. Instead, it was the top-seeded Boilermakers falling to 16th-seed Farleigh Dickinson. For as much credit as the Knights deserve for pulling off the improbable victory, Purdue ultimately dug its own grave. The team shot an abysmal 35.8 percent from the field and 19.2 from three.
Best game: No. 13 Furman over No. 4 Virginia
Had it not been for Princeton’s improbable, come-from-behind victory over Arizona, we would still be talking about Furman’s last-second victory over Virginia. While the Paladins showed a lot of fight, it looked like they would come up short, as Virginia inbounded up two with just seconds to go. Furman would have to foul quickly, and hope Virginia would miss one of the two free throws, giving them a chance to tie the game. However, as fans have learned, anything can happen in this tournament. Sophomore guard J.P. Pegues miraculously intercepted a long pass and nailed a three, putting the Paladins up by one to win the game. The incredible finish was just icing to go on top of what was already a thoroughly entertaining game.
Best performance: Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner
Picking the best individual performance across 32 games between America’s 64 best teams is no easy task. With that said, you’d be hard-pressed to find any that tops Ryan Kalkbrenner‘s 31 points and 7 rebounds. His length and free throw shooting were the difference in the Blue Jays’ first round victory over the Wolfpack.
Worried about: Houston Cougars
Houston entered the tournament as one of the title favorites, but questions surrounding star Marcus Sasser’s health and the team’s too-close-for-comfort victory over 16-seed over Northern Kentucky have cast doubt on their title chances. Their second-round opponent, Auburn, is no slouch, and with the game taking place in Birmingham, Alabama, it’s essentially a road game for the Cougars. If they look anything like they did Thursday night, it could spell an early exit for the Midwest’s top seed.
Excited about: Penn State Nittany Lions
From the second the game was announced, I had No. 7 Texas A&M vs No. 10 Penn State circled on my schedule. The game featured two of the hottest teams in the country. Like most fans, I was expecting a back-and-forth war between two teams that were playing their best basketball of the season. But the expected barn burner turned into a 40-minute blood bath. Penn State dominated the Aggies on both sides of the ball en route to a 76-59 victory. Senior guard Andrew Funk dropped 27, and the Nittany Lions may be a sleeper for the Sweet 16.