MARCH MADNESS, OH MY!
The legendary Man o’ War has always been considered one of best racehorses in history. Yet even the great horse lost one race. In fact, the horse to beat him has become just as famous, but many people don’t even know who he is. The horse’s name was Upset and yes, that is where the term comes from when an individual or team that is not supposed to win, does just that. In this year’s version of March Madness there have been upsets galore!
The NCAA’s men’s basketball tournament began with MAC champion Buffalo drilling Arizona. This was a #13 v #4 matchup and if this had been the only upset of the tourney it would have been considered huge. But that was just the beginning. There would be eight more upsets (by my definition) on the first weekend of the tournament and no offense to the Bulls, but your 20 point drubbing of the Wildcats does not rank #1. Let’s take a look.
Loyola of Chicago (and yes I do remember Jerry Harkness and his Ramblers winning the whole shebang back when I was in high school) beat Miami (11v6) before taking down #3 seed Tennessee. The 11th seeded Syracuse Orangemen had to survive a play in game before knocking off #6 TCU. They followed that up with a win over #3 seed Michigan State. Syracuse has an established program and a Hall of Fame coach whose matchup zone defense does tend to baffle many teams, but these are still upsets.
Want more? How about #7 Texas A&M whipping #2 seed and defending national champion North Carolina by twenty. Is that the top upset? No way. How about #7 seed Nevada dropping #2 seed Cincinnati after falling behind by 22 points. #1? Nope. Well then, it must have been #9 Florida State beating top seeded Xavier in the West bracket. That was the biggest upset, yes? Not even close.
The biggest upset has to go to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County knocking off the top ranked team in the country, the Virginia Cavaliers, again by a big margin. A tie game at halftime, the Retrievers dominated the second half and did something that has never been done in men’s play before. Never has a #16 seed beaten a #1 seed. Well, until now that is. I’m guessing Upset is rolling over in his grave.
Virginia is no stranger to upsets. Yes, I also remember the Chaminade Silverswords upsetting the Ralph Sampson led Cavaliers in a preseason Hawaii tournament game. The Cavs were #1 in the country and I still remember a Silversword player sitting on the rim after the game with his arms outstretched in glee. That was the biggest upset in history until UMBC’s performance two days ago.
Don’t feel too sorry for Virginia. To be involved in the two biggest upsets in NCAA basketball history means that your program is doing something right. You have to be ranked #1 to qualify for this stature, though I doubt that soothes the feelings of Cav fans right now.
The view from my seat is that the Madness is probably just beginning. More is yet to follow and that’s what makes this time of year special.