Whose March Madness bracket wasn’t busted this year? This year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament consisted of all sorts of shocking upsets, buzzer beaters and last-minute heartbreakers.
The festivities kicked off with perhaps one of the biggest upsets in tournament history when national champion favorite No. 2 seed Michigan State lost to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State 90-81. Most experts and fans had Michigan State going to the final four, if not winning it all.
Later on during the second night of the tournament, No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin also pulled off an amazing upset over No. 3 seed West Virginia, a team that was considered an Elite 8 favorite. Unfortunately for Stephen F. Austin, they suffered a wild buzzer beating tip-in loss to No. 6 seed Notre Dame. Stephen F. Austin was one second away from being the third No. 14 seed of all time to make the Sweet 16.
Another pair of great upsets came in the traditional No. 12 over No. 5 matchup. The Ivy League champions, 12th seeded Yale, prevailed over Big 12 powerhouse Baylor. Yale sent a message by proving to the nation that Ivy League teams can compete. It was Yale’s first tournament win in the school’s history. It was also only Yale’s fourth appearance in the program’s history and their first since 1962. Then there was No. 12 seed Arkansas Little Rock who upset No. 5 seed Purdue in a late-game thriller, 85-83, in a game which needed two overtimes to settle it.
Northern Iowa hit one of the most epic buzzer beaters in NCAA tournament history when Paul Jesperson drilled a half court shot as time expired. Jesperson banked one off the glass on a last-second heave for the 75-72 win over Texas. This win was only to blow a 12-point lead to Texas A&M in the second round with just 44 seconds left in regulation. Northern Iowa suffered the worst collapse in recent memory for any level of basketball. At least the Northern Iowa fans got to enjoy every possible emotion a fan can in March over a two day span.
Last but not least is the Cinderella story of 10th seeded Syracuse, who snuck themselves all the way to Final Four in Houston this year, busting millions of brackets in the process. Historically, they’ve been known for their basketball and enjoyed recent success in tournament play, but this year they took on the role of the underdog. Syracuse lost 13 games this year and lost in the first round of their ACC Tournament to Pittsburgh. Nonetheless, they snuck into the tournament and knocked off Dayton, Middle Tennessee State, Gonzaga and Virginia. Their Cinderella run ended to the University of North Carolina in the Final Four. Experts were outraged that Syracuse got a bid over Monmouth but were proved completely wrong, as the selection committee found something in this Syracuse squad that no one else could find.
It was great to see the amount of parity amongst college basketball in this year’s tournament. The unpredictability of the tournament, the upsets and clear pattern of inconsistency is the beauty of college basketball and is the exact reason why we all make brackets and pretend we’re experts come March. It is the most thrilling tournament in all of sports, and once again this year, it didn’t let us down.