The men’s March Madness bracket has been shaken up by the Princeton and Furman upsets. The action this year started early, with Furman’s 13-seed advancing due to an improbable game-winning 3-pointer by JP Pegues against 4-seed Virginia. Before dinner, 2-seed Arizona blew a 10-point lead in a loss to 15-seed Princeton. The South Region of the 2023 men’s March Madness bracket, and Alabama’s control of it, has been altered.
ESPN’s expert panel comprising Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, and Myron Medcalf analyze the upsets and the impact on the South Region of the bracket.
According to Myron Medcalf, Arizona’s loss was due to a lack of effort in the last ten minutes of the game. He noted that the team played with arrogance, which is always dangerous. Arizona led by double digits at the 11-minute mark, but as Tosan Evbuomwan and Co. rallied, the Wildcats seemed shocked and never responded properly. He gave credit to the Tigers’ coach, Mitch Henderson, for the win. Furman’s determination also shone through. The team responded well to playing without top scorer Mike Bothwell, who fouled out in the second half. Jalen Slawson became a real nightmare for Virginia as a 6-foot-7 ball handler, and then, late in the game, they played over the top of that Virginia defense, which opened up the floor, putting them in a position to make a late play to win the game.
Jeff Borzello explained that Arizona’s guards were as bad as they have been all season. The team got their typical production from their bigs, with Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo combining for 35 points and 17 boards. However, Kerr Kriisa, Courtney Ramey, Pelle Larsson, and Cedric Henderson Jr. combined to shoot 1-for-12 from 3, totaling just 15 points. The Wildcats only had ten assists to 13 turnovers, which was unusual for one of the best teams in the country at sharing the ball. Virginia struggled shooting the ball and was unable to make 40% of their 3s in a game since January.
John Gasaway noted that the Wildcats were a woeful 3-of-16 on their 3s, with Kriisa personally being 1-of-7. Teams have off shooting nights all the time, but the fact that the Ivy League tournament’s No. 2 seed was able to keep an NCAA No. 2 seed from getting second chances was even more surprising. As for Virginia, it ran into a similar March dead end, converting only two 3s in 40 minutes, while Furman hit ten.
Regarding how far Princeton and Furman could go in the tournament, John Gasaway thought the Tigers would draw inspiration from another New Jersey team. Princeton would play the 7-seed Tigers of Missouri, and Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge would be a handful. He also believed that Mitch Henderson’s group may have a better chance than oddsmakers give Furman against 5-seed San Diego State. To this point in the season, the Aztecs have been even better than Virginia on defense.
Jeff Borzello had Furman in the Sweet 16, and he rode with the Paladins again in the second round against San Diego State. However, Mike Bothwell would have to avoid foul trouble since the Paladins are not the same team without him on the bench. San Diego State is elite defensively and imposes its style of play on opponents, much as it did against Charleston after the opening minutes. Borzello predicted Princeton would lose