March Madness 2016

By Nick LeBlanc

March is the season for madness.  Especially with teams hitting buzzer beaters to advance to the next round, like Wisconsin and Northern Iowa, or teams completely breaking down to end their journey to the title, also like Northern Iowa. The madness also resides with this year’s upsets, which have created busted brackets and a busted morale.  Just talk to any Michigan State fan.

The biggest upset of this year’s March Madness, which I briefly mentioned already, was when No. 2 seed Michigan State lost to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State. MSU was the co-favorite to win the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans’ loss led to busted brackets and busted dreams of thousands of people hoping to finally win a March Madness pool.

This upset wasn’t the only one that led to shattered brackets.  Almost every year a No. 12 seed beats a No. 5 seed.  This year, No. 12 seed Arkansas-Little Rock beat No. 5 seed Purdue, and No. 12 seed Yale defeated No. 5 seed Baylor.  Both No. 12 seeds would go onto lose in the next round to a No. 4 seeded team. 

Similarly, nearly all No. 11 seeds managed to beat the No. 6 seeds.  Three out of the four No. 11 seeds this year won their matchups (Michigan was the only one to lose, falling to Notre Dame after blowing a lead in the second half). For Michigan fans, it has become a common site this year to witness Michigan athletics not be able to hold their lead.

Besides the insignificant upsets, like a No. 9 seed beating a No. 8 seed, there were two other major upsets. One of the upsets yielded the fall of No. 3 seed West Virginia, which lost to No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin by 14 points.  Also, No. 4 seed California fell to No. 13 seed Hawaii by 11 points. The upsets were especially surprising because of the margins in which the lower seeds were victorious.

After a predictable and uneventful Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight brought about the unexpected fall of three of the four No. 1 seeds.  No. 1 seed Kansas lost to No. 2 seed Villanova, No. 1 seed Oregon lost to No. 2 seed Oklahoma, and No. 1 seed Virginia fell to No. 10 seed Syracuse.  Oregon losing to Oklahoma wasn’t a surprise as Oklahoma’s shooting guard Buddy Hield, who scored 37 points, is one of the most dominant players in the nation. 

What was a surprise was Virginia falling to Syracuse. The highest seed that Syracuse played before defeating the No. 1 seed was No. 7 seed Dayton.  Now Syracuse, a team that arguably shouldn’t have made the tournament, is in the Final Four.

With the Final Four settled, it is finally time to make a realistic prediction on who will win the NCAA Tournament.  Out of the four teams, the one that has the best chance to win it all is North Carolina. UNC’s ability to play stout defense on top of playing superbly on offense will be too much for any of the three remaining teams to handle.  Syracuse won’t stand a chance against North Carolina in the semifinals, and the overall athleticism of North Carolina will be too much for either Villanova or Oklahoma.  Despite having Buddy Hield, I predict North Carolina will defeat Oklahoma 86-79 and cut down the nets in Houston.