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NCAA Tournament: first weekend winners and losers

Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire

The first weekend of the 2017 NCAA Tournament is in the books. It was a wild ride full of every narrative being pushed, with a sprinkle of backtracking, topped off with a dash of doom.

With many people parachuting in on the sport for the first time this season, the first weekend also resulted in suggested reforms from these newcomers on NCAA Tournament seeding, referees, and more. It was all, apparently, fair game.

The first round lacked upsets, which reinforced the belief in some precincts that we should be leery of the entertainment factor, but those worries were wiped away on Saturday and Sunday.

Here are some of the opening weekend’s winners and losers.

Winner

The Big Ten: Was it a down season for the conference? Probably… but nuance be damned! With Purdue toppling teams it should probably topple, with team of destiny Michigan doing its thing, and Wisconsin emerging from the dark recesses of a slump, the Big Ten’s fan base is able to switch the narrative in its favor.

Loser

The Big East: Fire off your jokes while you can. It is easy to do so after the first two rounds, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a good league.

Winner

Illinois: Technically, this is not NCAA Tournament-related, but athletic director Josh Whitman was able to steal some headlines this weekend. In what was a surprising hire, Illinois landed the services of Brad Underwood, who has been a head coach for only four years, and has made the NCAA Tournament in each of his seasons manning the helm.

Loser

Nuance: Hot-take this is not. With people being able to express their opinions in only 140 characters or less, if you have a thought regarding a topic, it best be expressed incredibly well. The cold-take monsters are ready to come at you from all sides — even if your thought is taken out of context.

Winner

Chris Mack: Already a beloved figure, Mack is once again resurfacing as one of the nation’s better coaches. He was already that, but Xavier’s first two games were a powerful reminder for those who forgot. The Musketeers, even without Edmond Sumner, are in the Sweet Sixteen.

Loser

(My friend) Jon Rothstein: Folks are killing Rothstein for his strong ACC takes from the season. He believed the ACC was the deepest conference in the history of the sport. I might not fully agree, but let’s not act as though he’s the only one who thought it. For those taking the time to crush him, while pretending they have no bad takes themselves, that sincerely is the epitome of insecurity.

Winner

Steve Lavin: Man, Lavin has been connected to both the Washington and California job openings. Washington hired its new head coach, but Lav’s name is still rumored to be involved with the Cal gig. His agent needs a raise.

Loser

Duke preseason experts: This isn’t exactly their fault. Very few people began the season believing the Blue Devils were going to be anything other than excellent. Yet, here we are, and this Duke team ended up having no depth, with glaring flaws, and is a sore reminder that John Calipari does far better with one-and-done talent than Coach K.

John is happy (John Sommers II/Icon Sportswire)

Winner

Bob Huggins: Press Virginia.

Loser

Leonard Hamilton: Did Florida State actually underachieve this season? I don’t think so, because the talent would have not been there if not for Hamilton, but a nation is yearning for the return of #FireHam.

Winner

Oregon: A number one-seed last season, the Ducks keep trucking along without as much fanfare as they probably deserve. Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey are not to be trifled with.

Loser

What’s wrong with the NCAA Tournament think-pieces: At first, people were whining about a lack of upsets in the first round of the Big Dance. These people, magically, claimed that it created a worse experience. I am not going to tell you what — or how — to enjoy, but these things have a way of working themselves out. Also, if you hate it so much, go away.

Winner

People who like fun: This has been fun, right?

Loser

Anyone who watched Virginia play: So, uh, that was awful. Listen, no one in their right mind would slander Tony Bennett, but this has the feel of a John Thompson III at Georgetown situation. A program can play such aesthetically deficient basketball for only so long before the nation’s best high school players decide to go to a more offense-friendly system. I’m not saying that is going to happen, and Bennett is capable of adjusting, but Virginia’s offense is offensive.

Winner

The end.

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