The first two full rounds of NCAA March Madness action featured some real lunacy. There were multiple upsets, more than a few buzzer beaters and some really nutty finishes.
5 best moments 2015 march madness first rounds
5 best moments of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament
5. Kentucky’s Trey Lyles dunks over Hampton
If we want to start this off strong, we should probably kick it off like Kentucky kicked off its tournament, with a strong drive to the basket, or rather a huge dunk.
Kentucky freshman forward Trey Lyles cut through the lane and received a pass from fellow forward Willie Cauley-Stein. Lyles then took to the air and dunked over Hampton guard Quinton Chievous.
To say that the 6-foot-6 Chievous was at a height disadvantage against the 6-foot-10 Lyles is a bit of an understatement, but he wasn’t alone. Kentucky features two 7-foot players, a 6-foot-11 forward, the 6-foot-10 Lyles and two 6-foot-9 forwards.
Hampton has one 6-foot-10 center a 6-foot-9 forward and a whole bunch of guys 6-foot-8 and under.
So yeah, height disadvantage.
For what it’s worth, Chievous had a good day otherwise, putting up 22 points and 10 rebounds and hitting 7-of-8 free throws.
Unfortunately, he was the only one on Hampton as nobody else scored double-digits or had more than 4 rebounds. Lyles ended up with just 10 points, but had three other teammates score double-digits. Kentucky shot better from the floor (45.9 percent to Hampton’s 28.8 percent), out-rebounded Hampton 49-30, and had 15 assists on 28 baskets – often a good indicator of a team with great offensive flow. Hampton had 2 assists on 17 baskets.
Kentucky just had too much depth on their bench, so even when they put in substitutes – nine other players got significant minutes, though the Wildcats used 15 players overall – Hampton just couldn’t match them. Of course, Kentucky is the favorite on most people’s bracket sheets, so this outcome wasn’t unexpected.
The only way Kentucky can really shock us is by losing. Still, Lyle’s dunk wasn’t the first basket of the game (that was a Willie Cauley-Stein free throw) but it was an impressive one and possibly the best dunk we saw in the opening round.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
4. William Lee’s key three points in the UAB win over Iowa State
You kind of take note when the Big 12 Tournament Champion gets escorted out of the first round by a 14 seed even if it comes on the day the conference is beaten in three games they were favored in (this game, Baylor-Georgia State – more on that later – and Texas-Butler).
Especially when they are favored by 13.5 to win. Iowa State faced a young team – UAB was the third youngest team in the tournament according to an article in The Denver Post and had zero NCAA Tournament experience. They were the No. 3 seed in the South bracket while UAB was the lowly 14 seed. Of course, those are the pairings you have to watch out for.
The Blazers’ Robert Brown had hit a 3-point shot to put UAB up 56-55 with just 50 second left but the Cyclones responded with a Monte Morris basket to regain the lead. Trailing 57-56 with just 38 seconds left despite outscoring the Cyclones 9-4 down the stretch when William Lee took an inbound pass at the top of the arc, cuts around a defender and let’s fly with a shot from the foul line which finds the net and gives UAB a 58-57 lead with just 23 seconds left.
Lee would then hit two free throws to give the Blazers a 60-57 lead which Iowa State could not overcome, but ultimately Lee’s bucket with 23 seconds left was the dagger in the heart of the Cyclones. Lee, a freshman, scored 14 points overall and gathered 12 rebounds as well for his fifth double-double of the season.
On a day when a ton of teams lost in the closing seconds by either taking a poor 3-point shot or wasting too much time looking for one, Lee showed some basketball intelligence by leaving the arc and finding the higher percentage shot.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
3. Cincinnati’s very long buzzer-beater in the win over Purdue
Have you ever wished a moment could last forever? Well, the Bearcats sure as heck didn’t as Troy Caupain’s last second layup hung on the rim for something resembling an eternity.
Not to take anything away from Cincinnati’s win, as they played very well in overtime, but the Purdue Boilermakers seemed bound and determined to give the Bearcats every chance to win this game. Every time Purdue pulled ahead and could have put the game away, they seemed to make some really dumb decision with the ball. A badly thought-out shot, a poor pass, a mishandled ball – the Boilermakers had all of it.
In the final minute of regulation alone, they gave the ball away with errant passes and other mistakes four times. That’s no way to win a game. With a 59-57 lead and just 7.4 seconds left though, it looked like the Boilermakers were going to pull this one out. After all, the Bearcats had the length of the court to go.
All Purdue had to do was play decent defense. Or any at all. Caupain inbounded the ball, then immediately got it back. He took it into Purdue territory and then with 3 seconds to go, drove the lane towards the basket. With .7 seconds left, he released the ball and it hit the rim. And sat there. For almost 3 seconds. After way too long for the sake of either team’s nerves, it dropped in to send the game into overtime.
This probably would have made the list even if it had missed, given how long it hung on the rim. Because it would have been completely heartbreaking for Cincy and wonderful for Purdue. Either way, it was a tremendous moment and about as exciting a few seconds as you will see in college basketball during the tournament.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
2. Wichita State ‘upsets’ Kansas
For a long time, Kansas has declined to play the in-state Wichita State Shockers and maybe we know why now. The reason the word ‘upsets’ is in quotes for the title of this slide is because I never thought the Shockers were the underdog and always thought they had a better-than-average chance to beat the Jayhawks. That’s not to say Wichita State was under-seeded. It might be more Kansas was over-seeded. Certainly, the Shockers played far better than the Jayhawks, wire-to-wire in the first meeting between the two teams since 1993.
After some back and forth, Wichita State took control of the game with a 25-8 run which spanned nearly 10 minutes, beginning at 5:08 in the first half and wrapping up at 15:48 in the second. That’s a dominating run and it just got worse from there as Kansas struggled to cut the lead and never retook it after they lost it during that huge run.
All five starters for Wichita State scored double-digit points, while Kansas had just three players do the same. The Shockers also shot 49 percent from the floor including a ridiculous 50 percent from long range. We always like to see the ‘little guy’ take it to the ‘big guy,’ especially during March Madness, and there is certainly a little schadenfreude to be had in this case, but to me Wichita State was never that much of an underdog.
So maybe that might keep them off this list, if it were run by someone else. For me, it’s more than a little satisfying to see a team which has struggled for a long time to gain credibility as a program have the success they have had in the last few years. And to see them make the Sweet 16, especially over an in-state rival.
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
1. Georgia State coach Ron Hunter falls from chair after son scores game winning basket
I told you we’d get here. And what other moment from the first weekend can we end on but this tremendous sequence of events. It’s the fall that launched a thousand (or a dozen) Photoshops JPEGs.
With 13 seconds left in the game and down 56-54 to Baylor, Georgia State took the ball down the floor looking for a game-tying basket. While the announcers yelled for them to attack the rim, and noted that with just nine seconds left, the Panthers were running out of time, the Georgia State players moved the ball around looking for an open shot.
An open 3-point shot as it turned out. As mentioned in an earlier slide, more than a few teams took 3-point shots instead of driving to the rim and lost because of it. So you can excuse the announcers and most onlookers if they were wondering what the Panthers were thinking.
It turned out they were thinking “Screw this, win or go home!”
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
They were thinking “Let’s give the ball to R.J. Hunter for a 3-point shot.”
Hunter would be Georgia State coach Ron Hunter’s son.
Which would be why he fell out of his chair, because if he was your kid why wouldn’t you?
Hunter Sr. was in the chair, by the way, because his kid hurt his leg while the two were celebrating their conference tournament championship according to CBSSports.com’s Chip Patterson.
Hunter the Younger wasn’t a one-trick pony, either. With just under two minutes to play and with the Panthers down by 10, Hunter (who had struggled all game) scored seven points and cut the lead to three points.
Then the Panthers hit a free throw and Baylor choked on a layup and the rest will be a highlight every March from now until the end of time.
While the Panthers got shellacked by UCLA (a nice little story themselves regardless of a bad call in the first round) in the next round, this was a tremendous moment both for the shot and for the losing battle with gravity.
(Mike Ehrmann via Getty Images)
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The great thing about most NCAA Tournaments is that they usually have no shortage of fun storylines. This year appears to be no different. Whether it was the snubs on Selection Sunday which caused people no end of frustration, or the teams which stumbled into the tournament and showed us all how wrong we were to doubt them (I'm sorry UCLA), there has been a lot to process.
We've also seen some tremendous performances by players who might well be in the NBA before long. Guys like Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell, Villanova's Daniel Ochefu, Duke's Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns have played well and given us a look into what could be in store as they get better and better.
It's the great moments which bring us back over and over again each March though and this year has had a lot of them.
So much so that it's a bit tough to cut down the list to five.
But that's the dedication we show here at FanSided, picking the best of the best of the best.
While there have been some bracket busting moments early (what did you do Villanova?) and some expected losers (sorry Belmont, Northeastern and Harvard), there are still some moments which break themselves out above the rest.
These moments aren't necessarily just about who won or lost, what seeds they had or what we expected them to do. They aren't even all about the last minute shots, though those are well-represented here.
No, these moments all have something unique and fun about them, usually because of some combination of all of the above.