I would like to preface this article by saying that I am a die-hard Kansas Jayhawk fan. I was overjoyed when the NCAA committee selected Kansas to be its overall number one seed in this year’s Division I Men’s Basketball tournament. I was hopeful, I bragged and I felt smug when even President Barack Obama picked the Jayhawks to be this year’s National Champions.
But not even the most powerful man on earth could have predicted all the upsets, the shockers and the Cinderellas of the first two rounds of this year’s March Madness.
On the first day of the Big Dance, there were seven upsets alone and three games that went into overtime (the Florida vs. BYU game went to double overtime). These upsets meant that seven double-digit seeds advanced to the next round. To give you some perspective, only nine advanced in the entire tournament last year. And this was just the first day.
With high seeds Georgetown (#3), Vanderbilt (#4), Marquette (#6), Notre Dame (#6) and Richmond (#7) ousted so early, the tone was set for the rest of the tournament. Brackets were inevitably busted and people began filling out “second-chance” brackets.
Day two was more predictable with only two upsets (#10 Georgia Tech over #7 Oklahoma State in the Midwest and #10 Missouri over #7 Clemson in the East).
But it was day three, and the first day of the second round, when David took down Goliath. Ninth-seeded Northern Iowa in the Midwest out-played and out-coached the number one seed, Kansas, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Another less shocking upset came at the hands of #10 seed Saint-Mary’s over a weak #2 Villanova in the South.
With the first weekend wrapped up and even the second-chance brackets trashed, you can likely expect a return to reality this Thursday. The Cinderella runs have been somewhat charming, but the remaining top seeds are too good. Kentucky, top team in the East, has been impressive, winning its first two games by a combined total of 59 points.
One-seed Duke has been consistent and it helps that the Blue Devils are in this tournament’s easiest regional: the South. Guard Jon Scheyer and forward Kyle Singler will have to be at their absolute bests if they want to win the championship. And it’ll be interesting to see if they can get out of their funk – Duke hasn’t beat a team seeded higher than fifth since 2001.
One key match-up to look forward to will be between #1 Syracuse and #5 Butler in the West. Syracuse plays zone defense, but the Bulldogs of Butler have intense shooting ability. It’ll be exciting to see how the Orangemen defend beyond the arc.
The team I like the best going into the Sweet Sixteen is #2 in the East, West Virginia. The Mountaineers are tough and can beat Kentucky to make it to the Final Four. Their ability to advance hinges on Da’Sean Butler, who will need to continue making shots (he had 28 points in the game against Mizzou). If he does, I can see this team winning it all.
But as we’ve learned from the first weekend, you can never really predict what’s going to happen. That’s the beauty of the Madness: the greatest teams can fall hard and the underdogs—the teams no one has ever heard of—get a chance to shine.