The Top 5 Plays From The Men’s NCAA Tournament Opening Weekend

March Madness. We love it all. Excitement, intensity and unexpected successes are a part of the best three weekends in sports. Here at TSFJ, I’m going to highlight the best five plays from each weekend. These are not in order, and you are welcome to leave any others that are not on the list in the comments section below. We start with the five best from the opening weekend.

Ja Morant’s two-handed poster dunk against Marquette. Players dunking on defenders will always be exciting. It is the most primal display of competition with literally one player rising over another. That situation is made better if the dunking player is much shorter than the defending player. It is amplified even more when the shorter, dunking player uses two hands. That is what sophomore standout and future lottery pick Ja Morant did in the Round of 64 against Marquette. On a quick back cut, Morant took one dribble and elevated to flush with two hands over the Marquette defender. It was a statement play in a statement win for the the Racers. The highlight of Morant notching a triple-double was that amazing dunk.

Tremont Waters’s game-winner against Maryland. LSU needed all 40 minutes of their opening round game against the Maryland Terrapins to come away with a victory. Sophomore guard Tremont Waters says his teammates trusted him to take the last shot. They were right in doing so, as Waters drove right and scored a beautiful scoop layup amongst intense defense. It was a case of great offense beating better defense, keeping the Tigers in the Tournament.

Oregon’s Kenny Walton finishing an alley oop over a UC Irvine defender. Sometimes, people are in the right place at the wrong time. This is the case for the UC Irvine defender who was trying to defend the pick and roll then recover to his man. His man, Oregon’s Kenny Wooten, leapt to receive a lob from his teammate and dunked it over the defender with two hands through the incidental contact. All the defender could do was what he was taught to do: raise his arms and be vertical. The unfortunate thing for that is that it makes for an incredible poster for the dunking player. As for Wooten, that play overshadows his seven blocks in the game, helping the Ducks continue their winning ways into the second weekend.

Grant Williams’s two-handed block against Iowa. The Tennessee Volunteers and Head Coach Rick Barnes almost lived up to that negative perception of being so talented but not winning at the level that talent suggests. Against 10th-seeded Iowa, the Vols squandered a 25-point lead only to hang on and win in overtime. One of the reasons why the team was able to regain composure and not completely buckle is senior leadership–led by First Team All-American forward Grant Williams. Clinging to a three-point advantage, Williams made a terrific two-handed block on the Iowa player, forcing a jump ball and the possession arrow to change on the next one. While Iowa did eventually force overtime, that continuous effort despite things collapsing is why Williams and Tennessee were able to escape to the Sweet 16.

Zion Williamson’s “and one” layup against Tacko Fall and UCF. If there is any doubt that Zion Williamson is the most important player among the title contenders in college basketball, he removed it with his performance in the Round of 32 against UCF. Scoring 32 points and playing the entire game, Williamson was the main reason Duke was able to hang around and eventually beat the very game Golden Knights. Basketball fans were anticipating what would happen if Williamson and 7’6″ UCF center Tacko Fall met at the rim. They clashed several times, as closely contested as the entire game was, with neither player backing down. Late in the second half with Duke trailing by three, Zion dribbled into the lane and spun towards the front of the basket. There, Fall met him in order to protect the rim. At the summit, they make body to body contact and Williamson finished an absolutely tough layup plus the foul.

Our Tournament field is down to 16, but there won’t be a shortage of amazing plays on the way to deciding this year’s Men’s NCAA Basketball Champion. Enjoy the Tournament, folks!

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