Busting Brackets

JMU vs Wisconsin continues Barclays Center March Madness tradition of ghastly halves

James Madison v Wisconsin
James Madison v Wisconsin / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The James Madison University Dukes were the clear class of the CAA this winter. The Wisconsin Badgers, under Greg Gard, wavered slightly, but mostly displayed their typical brand of tenacity and back cuts.

On Friday night, both world-class teams played a first half dominated mostly by tripping on a not-very-wet floor. It was par for the course for Friday's March Madness flop-fest at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which delivered one instant classic among its first three games, as well as a perfect score in producing abysmal halves.

First came FAU-Northwestern, an 8-9 matchup that nearly entered halftime with an 8-9 score.

That one ended up in overtime thanks to some late Northwestern heroics, followed by Florida Atlantic walking the ball up the court like they'd been transported to a time before the invention of the shot clock (and somehow also the game clock).

UConn's title defense began with the Stetson Hatters, a 16 seed that Coach Dan Hurley called "a 15 seed". They didn't play like it; Stetson entered halftime down 52-19, looking like the hometown Brooklyn Nets against Jayson Tatum.

The opening 20 minutes of the Duke Blue Devils' showdown with the University of Vermont was acceptable; UVM trailed by five at half, but they were lucky to be in range. Their calories were as empty as Kyle Filipowski's shooting line (0-for-1 on the day, by the way); they missed the front end of three separate one-and-ones with a chance to really make a game of it. The second half featured an unraveling. That's more like it. That's more like the Barclays Center.

Late in the first half against Wisconsin, JMU -- a team that captured 95% of the arena's energy while making a far smaller percentage of its point-blank shots -- finally began to pull away. They wrapped the half with an aesthetically pleasing score of 33-20, which accurately reflected just how poorly prepared Wisconsin seemed for this stage. It might've been ghastly, but at least it made sense; when the Dukes led 21-16 with under 7:00 remaining, it felt like an undeserved score from an entirely different game.

Instead, both teams finished the first half in style, and that style? Steampunk. Neither squad shot over 40%; Wisconsin was below 30 (27.3%, to be exact).

What's in store for the second half? No matter what it may be, the odds are -- based on the aura of the arena -- it'll somehow be more intense than the disjointed throwback clunker that kicked things off. 4-for-4, Barclays. You did it.