There’s a reason it’s called March Madness and Friday’s 2nd round games from Raleigh lived up to the billing.
Game 1: Mercer 78 Duke 71
It only took one game from the PNC center for us to witness arguably the biggest upset of the tourney thus far when the 3rd seeded Blue Devils were knocked out by 14th seeded Mercer.
A stunned crowd waited patiently on the edge of their seats for a patented Duke run that never happened and would only come to terms with what they witnessed when the final buzzer sounded.
The Bears, led by 5 senior starters, played excellent defense against the Blue Devils and held their top players, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, to 20 points combined on 6 for 24 shooting from the floor.
The Bears’ victory over Duke marks only the second time in their tournament history that they’ve been eliminated in their first game and twice in the span of three years (remember Lehigh). Mercer improved to 23-0 when holding its opponent to 74 or fewer points this season and it’s the 12th time they’ve shot over 50% from the field this year.
Game 2: Tennessee 86 UMass: 67
Lost in the aftermath of the Duke upset (and rightfully so) was the Tennessee/UMass game. This contest wasn’t close from the start and the Volunteers, who had to win a play-in game to compete in the round of 64, beat the Minutemen in every statistical category except three-point shooting.
Tennessee continues its perfect record against teams when they score more than 86 points (6-0) and will play Mercer on Sunday for a chance to go to the sweet sixteen.
Game 3: Memphis 71 George Washington 66
9th seeded George Washington remained within striking distance for the majority of the game, but in the end they just didn’t have enough firepower to beat 8th seeded Memphis.
The 71-66 victory by Memphis gives the Tigers their first win in postseason action over an Atlantic 10 conference team since the 2000-2001 seaon.
Game 4: UVA: 70 Coastal Carolina 59
For the entire 1st half and half of the 2nd gamewatchers in Raleigh thought they might be witnesses to history when 16th seeded Coastal Carolina threatened to beat top seeded UVA.
Coastal, fueled by a nearly perfect half where they shot 52% from the field including 5-10 from three, lead the Cavaliers by 5 at half. In the 2nd half it would prove two good to be true that we would witness two outstanding upsets in one day.
The Cavaliers came out of the half a different team and although Coastal stuck around as long as they could, UVA’s 3’s finally started falling and with them went all of Carolina’s hopes of pulling off the ultimate upset.
The Cavaliers play Memphis Sunday for a chance to head to the sweet sixteen.