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The 7 wildest moments from opening weekend of the NCAA tournament

March Madness was in full effect this weekend.

If only for a moment, it looked like this NCAA tournament might be a little boring. The opening Thursday was straight chalk and the following Friday wasn’t much more dramatic. The games were still close and everyone was having fun, but compared to the insanity of the last few years, the opening weekend felt tame.

Where were the buzzer-beaters? Where were the upsets? WHERE WAS THE MADNESS?

It was coming, of course — we just had to be patient. The second round opened with the tournament’s first big shock: No. 8-seeded Wisconsin prematurely ending Villanova’s bid at a national title repeat. UNC and Kentucky would get scares too before the day was over, but both survived.

Duke wasn’t as lucky against South Carolina.

The lesson here is that the NCAA tournament never lets you down. This is America’s greatest sporting event for a reason. With that in mind, here are the wildest moments from the opening weekend.

1) Vanderbilt’s very bad foul vs. Northwestern

With under 20 seconds left, Vanderbilt’s Riley LaChance drove through the Northwestern defense and hit a layup to put the Commodores up one in the opening round. That’s when teammate Matthew Fisher-Davis made a costly mental error by fouling Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh while the Wildcats were in the bonus:

Fischer-Davis must have thought his team team was trailing at the time. McIntosh hit both free throws and Northwestern got the win in its first ever NCAA tournament game. It was nice to see that Vanderbilt refused to blame the loss on Fisher-Davis after the game.

2) Seton Hall tries to intentionally foul Arkansas and gets called for the flagrant

Seton Hall had the ball down one with 20 seconds left against Arkansas in the first round. Arkansas trapped Pirates ball-handler Kadeen Carrington, and he was called for a travel. That meant Seton Hall had to foul on the next possession. Unfortunately, they did it a little too enthusiastically:

This was called as a flagrant foul, which meant Arkansas got two free throws and the ball. Game over.

Should this really have been a flagrant with the game on the line? If nothing else, it’s not the way you want a great NCAA tournament game to end.

3) A non-call that changed everything for Northwestern

Northwestern was making a furious second-half comeback in the round of 32 against Gonzaga. The Wildcats trailed by 18 at halftime but trimmed the lead down to five with 4:54 remaining. The deficit should have been down to three but the officials missed an easy goaltending call on Gonzaga’s Zach Collins:

Northwestern coach Chris Collins exploded on the sidelines and promptly received a technical foul. The Zags got two shots and the ball and the suddenly the game had a massive four-point swing in crunch time.

The NCAA released an apology to Collins in the press conference after the game and his reaction was priceless:

Northwestern didn’t lose just because of that call, but the refs still have to be better in crunch-time situations.

4) Everyone missing dunks

So far, the NCAA tournament’s leading shot-blocker is the rim. Everyone is missing dunks is spectacular fashion:

This is just a small sampling, too. Check out all of them here.

5) The year of the put-back dunk

Not everyone missed their dunks. There were some vicious put-backs on opening weekend. Let’s start with SMU’s Semi Ojeleye, who absolutely detonated USC with this one:

You can always count on Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges for a big dunk. He didn’t let us down:

Also joining the dunk contest: Northwestern’s Vic Law.

Since we put Josh Jackson in the missed dunk section, we should note that he did this, too:

6) Down goes Nova

College basketball hasn’t seen a repeat title winner since Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer did it at Florida a decade ago. From the beginning of this season, it felt like Villanova would have a great shot at joining them.

Nova was near the top of the polls all year. Josh Hart emerged as a national player of the year front-runner, Jalen Brunson filled in admirably for Ryan Arcidiacono and the Wildcats again had the balance at both ends of the floor that every championship team needs. Then they ran into Wisconsin in the second round.

The Badgers were uniquely equipped to take advantage of Villanova’s weakness inside. Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown were eating inside. Bronson Koenig was was hitting shots from outside. Nigel Hayes was feeling like MJ.

In the end, this all felt like déjà vu for Jay Wright’s Wildcats. Aside from that national title, there have been a lot of second-round exits for Villanova.

7) South Carolina upsets Duke

Duke losing early in the NCAA tournament isn’t technically a national holiday, but it feels like it. Try telling these UNC fans that Christmas is better than this:

The faces! So many good faces:

If you would have said at the beginning of the season that Duke would lose in the opening weekend to the third-place finisher from the SEC, no one would have believed it.

Duke was really, really talented this year. In the end, this season will go down as one of Coach K’s biggest disappointments ever.