The Viral Roundup – No Bracket Is Safe Edition
Howdy! Shout out to Urkel, the Tanners and Sabrina The Teenage Witch because this is the TGIF edition of The Viral Roundup. We’re your daily outlet for all of the big news, big buzz and big transactions that are the talk of the sports world. In today’s edition: Ottawa plays host to an Atlantic Division barnburner, James Harden hits the half-century mark against the Nuggets and the Madness truly returns to March.
Did You Hear?
How’s your bracket doing? Battered? Bruised? Bloodied? Thursday’s NCAA action did not disappoint in the upset department with high seeds getting punted out of the field of 64. We’ll touch on all the major upsets below, but let’s give some shine to a game that disrupted workplaces across North America. #14 Georgia State came back from 12 points down and toppled #3 Baylor yesterday afternoon. The dagger came courtesy of RJ Hunter’s three pointer that gave the Panthers a 57-56 advantage that would go unaltered once that final buzzer hit. This was the first time Georgia State’s been in the tournament since 2001. That year the Panthers pulled off another first round upset as a #11 seed knocking off Wisconsin.
Did You See?
Seriously, check out the massive trey dropped by RJ Hunter. It was such a big three that RJ’s dad/coach Ron Hunter got sonic boomed out of his chair. (He tore his Achilles when Georgia State won the Sun Belt title.) Incredible.
Did You Know?
- The Cyclones of Iowa State could not redeem their Big 12 title for anything beyond an early exit. The #3 seed got bounced thanks to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The UAB Blazers squeaked out a 60-59 victory over their heavily favoured opponent and benefited from winning the offensive rebound game 19-9. Iowa State forward Georges Niang was held to just 11 points by a UAB team that’s ready to try their luck this weekend and possibly crack the Sweet Sixteen.
- Luck of the Irish? #3 Notre Dame were nearly dispatched by #14 Northeastern in their Thursday afternoon clash, but an inopportune Huskies turnover with 3 seconds remaining set the stage for a 69-65 Fighting Irish escape. Junior Zach Auguste exited as the game’s big hero, putting up 25 points (including the two free throws that sealed Northeastern’s fate) in triumph.
- Speaking of close calls, #4 North Carolina narrowly avoided getting knocked out of the tourney courtesy of an Ivy League school. The Tarheels squeaked by the #13 Harvard Crimson with a tight 67-65 final score. Freshman Justin Jackson provided clutch play late in the game and ended the night with 14 points. North Carolina are currently positioned as a 33/1 shot to win the NCAA men’s basketball title.
- A questionable goaltending call in the SMU/UCLA showdown has Mustangs supporters fuming. A bad 3 point attempt by the Bruins morphed into 3 points on the board thanks to a ref penalizing SMU for an alleged goaltend. The disputed call gave UCLA a 60-59 lead with 10.9 seconds remaining and that would be the final score as the #11 Bruins bumped off the #6 Mustangs.
- Not every game was an upset or a close call. Undefeated #1 Kentucky came into their tilt with #16 Hampton as a 34½ point favourite and proceeded to obliterate their underdog opponent to the tune of 79-56. The next lucky team to take on Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wildcats? #8 Cincinnati.
- College hoops got all the shine on Thursday, but James Harden put in a spotlight worthy performance in the pros. #13 cracked the half-century mark last night and went off on the Denver Nuggets for 50 points. Houston, a 7 point favourite at home, walked away with a 118-108 victory powered by The Beard’s heroics. The W provides the Rockets with their third straight positive outcome and you can find them located in third in the Western Conference standings.
- You’d think two teams slugging it out for a possible #8 seed the Association’s Western Conference would shoot a tad better, but that wasn’t the case in Phoenix. The Suns needed only 74 points (74!) to fend off the Pelicans in a 74-72 victory. (We hope you took the Under.) The win puts Phoenix 2½ games back of Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot in the conference and New Orleans now dips to one game behind the Thunder.
- The Legend of the Hamburglar grows! Actually, Andrew Hammond didn’t have the tidiest of goals against total by the end of the night, but he did stop 35 shots to improve to 12-0-1 following a 6-4 Senators triumph over the Bruins. The win pulled Ottawa to being only two points back of Boston for the East’s final playoff spot. The Sens have been hot of late winning five straight. On the other side of things, Boston’s now on a three game losing slide. Kyle Turris potted two in the winning cause and earned the evening’s 1st star for his efforts.
- The Florida Panthers are still looking to claw their way into the postseason picture and a 3-1 win over Detroit helped their cause. Roberto Luongo made his return between the pipes following a six game injury absence and turned away 26 shots in front of the crowd at Sunrise. In addition to standings based stakes, the contest also featured Jaromir Jagr moving into fifth place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. The Czech legend now has an impressive 718 career goals. Jagr passed Phil Esposito on Thursday and it’s not unreasonable to think the 43-year-old forward could roll past Marcel Dionne’s 731 goals to claim fourth spot if he sticks around another season.
- Two Central Division foes needed to take it to the skills competition for a final outcome. Winnipeg edged out St. Louis 2-1 with shootout heroics from goalie Ondrej Pavelec saving the day. Considering the nightmare goal Pavelec gave up against the Blues earlier this month, last night was a redemption story for the often maligned Winnipeg keeper. Jets star Dustin Byfuglien was out of the lineup again with injury woes but there’s rumblings he could be back for Saturday’s home clash versus Washington.
- The Wild couldn’t stop the offensive might of Alexander Ovechkin and they paid the price. Washington went into Minnesota and hung a 3-2 regulation win on their hosts. Ovi notched his 46th and 47th markers in what was the third win in a row for the Capitals. The Wild will try to get back on track on Saturday in their matinee showdown versus the Blues.
- The Buffalo Bills are set to continue their offseason personnel overhaul with the signing of Miami tight end Charles Clay. The Dolphins declined to make their AFC East rival’s offer of $38 million for five years of service. The Tulsa alum caught 58 passes for 608 yards in the 14 games he played last season. Bills GM Doug Whaley has been busy this offseason, acquiring RB LeSean McCoy, OL Richie Incognito, WR Percy Harvin and QB Matt Cassel to wear the blue and red for Rex Ryan’s squad.
- Bowe to the Browns? That was the report on Thursday which sees the longtime Chiefs wideout ply his trade in Cleveland on a two year deal. The Dawg Pound are hoping he’ll be a suitable replacement for injured wide receiver Josh Gordon who is out on a substance abuse violation. In 2014, Bowe caught zero TDs but did collect 60 receptions for 754 yards.
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