A dark secret of March Madness is that teams don’t need to play well to produce entertaining encounters. This was the case on Thursday, when No. 5 seed Auburn met No. 12 seed New Mexico State in the first round. Despite their best efforts, Auburn won, 78-77.
After throwing away a double-digit lead in the second half, Auburn presented the Aggies with plenty of opportunities to pull off the tournament’s first upset. Most of those came in the final eight seconds, and the game’s conclusion amounted to a lightning round of self-sabotage. Let’s pick up there, after the Aggies sunk a 3-pointer to cut Auburn’s lead to one. I counted eight mistakes combined from both teams, which comes to an impressive one-mistake-per-second average.
1. New Mexico State fouls Auburn sophomore Samir Doughty. Doughty misses one of two free throws, making the score 78-76 and leaving the door open for the Aggies to tie or take the lead.
2. After the ensuing inbounds, Auburn inexplicably gives Aggies point guard A.J Harris a wide-open lane to the hoop.
3. Rather than tie the game with what looks to be a sure-thing layup, Harris attempts an extremely difficult wrap-around pass that somehow makes it into the hands of his teammate Terrell Brown.
4. The Tigers’ Bryce Brown fouls the shooter. Auburn alum Charles Barkley is upset.
5. Brown misses two of his three free throw attempts, leaving New Mexico State behind by 1.
6. Auburn fails to secure the rebound and gives New Mexico State one last chance to win.
7. Auburn forgets to play defense during this rather important play and leaves Trevelin Queen—who, up until that point, had gone 4-for-7 from deep—completely unguarded in the corner.
8. Queen airballs. Auburn wins.
Buzzer-beaters are nice, but, in terms of excitement, sometimes an airball will suffice. March Madness can do no wrong.