Middle Tennessee’s Reggie Upshaw puts up a shot under pressure from Michigan State’s Gavin Schilling (34) during the second half of a first-round men’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 18, 2016, in St. Louis. Middle Tennessee won 90-81. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The most shocking upset of the 2016 NCAA Tournament so far happened March 18 as the No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders knocked off the No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans, 90-81, in the opening round of the Midwest Region on March 18 in St. Louis.
Many pundits picked Michigan State (29-6) to win the National Championship this year after they reached the Final Four in 2015. Instead, brackets across the nation were busted as Middle Tennessee (25-9) played a perfect game against the Spartans to pull off the surprising victory. The Blue Raiders became just the eighth No. 15 seed in tourney history to beat a No. 2 seed.
The Blue Raiders never trailed during the game, thanks in large part to the supreme shooting of junior forward Reggie Upshaw and the unexpected struggles of Michigan State senior forward Denzel Valentine.
A strong candidate to win the Wooden Award, awarded annually to the best player in the nation, Valentine was the primary reason many college basketball experts predicted MSU would reach the championship. Instead, he made just five of 13 shot attempts for a mere 13 points. Meanwhile, Upshaw was scorching hot from the field, making eight of 14 shots for 21 points.
“I’m more mad and disappointed because I know what this team could accomplish,” Valentine told reporters after the game. “It kind of fell apart, and it just stinks right now because I know the capability our team had.”
Upshaw wasn’t alone in high performance for Middle Tennessee; the entire starting five of the Blue Raiders scored double digits in points, including sophomore guard Giddy Potts, who finished with 19 points.
Senior forward Matt Costello led the Spartans with 22 points.
Middle Tennessee moves on to the Round of 32 to face No. 10 seed Syracuse on March 20.
In other Tourney action:
– No. 10 Syracuse defeated No. 7 Dayton, 70-51
– No. 2 Villanova crushed No. 15 UNC Asheville, 86-56
– No. 13 Hawaii upset No. 4 California, 77-66
– No. 10 VCU knocked off No. 7 Oregon State, 75-67
– No. 7 Iowa edged No. 10 Temple, 72-70
– No. 2 Oklahoma defeated No. 15 CSU Bakersfield, 82-68
– No. 5 Maryland edged No. 12 South Dakota State, 79-74
– No. 7 Wisconsin survived No. 10 Pitt, 47-43
– No. 14 SF Austin shocked No. 3 West Virginia, 70-56
– No. 3 Texas A&M topped No. 14 Green Bay, 92-65
– No. 1 Oregon crushed No. 16 Holy Cross, 91-52
– No. 2 Xavier defeated No. 15 Weber State, 71-53
– No. 11 Northern Iowa knocked off No. 6 Texas, 75-72
– No. 6 Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Michigan, 70-63
– No. 8 Saint Joeseph’s edged No. 9 Cincinnati, 78-76