March Madness is here and living up to its name.
In the first weekend alone, there were 15 upsets, most notably among them No. 1 overall seed Virginia, who went 31-2 in the regular season and then fell to 16th seeded no-name UMBC by 20 points. This historical game stunned the sports world, marking the first time that a No. 1 seed has ever lost to a No. 16 seed in the history of the tournament.
Prior to Friday night, No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament were 135-0. The game was tied at half before UMCB, led by senior guard Jairus Lyles who scored 28 points, climbed its way to a 74-54 victory. Unfortunately, UMBC ended its Cinderella story for the ages in the next round, where they lost 50-43 to Kansas State.
On top of Virginia’s loss, No. 1 seed Xavier lost to a scrappy ninth-seeded Florida State team, giving up a 12-point second half lead. Xavier didn't score a field goal in the last 3:56 of the game, and Florida State scored the final seven points of the game, winning 75-70. This is just the Seminoles’ fifth Sweet 16 appearance, with its second under head coach Leonard Hamilton.
Two No. 2 seeds also saw the end of their tournament run, as ACC runner-up North Carolina fell to No. 7 seed Texas A&M, 86-65, and Cincinnati lost in nail biting fashion to No. 7 seed Nevada, 75-73.
Also, two No. 11 seeds have found their way into the Sweet 16. No. 11 Syracuse, who was the last team to make the tournament, and who many people thought should not have even made it in the first place, defeated TCU 57-52 in the first round, and followed that up with an excruciatingly close win over No. 3 seed Michigan State, 55-53. The Spartans failed to make a basket in the final 5:41, falling just short of a Sweet 16 breadth.
Loyola-Chicago, the second No. 11 seed to barely squeeze into the Sweet 16, would have possibly been the biggest Cinderella story of the tournament were it not for UMBC. In the first round, Loyola-Chicago, in its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 33 years, played 6th seeded Miami. This game came down to the wire, with Donte Ingram hit a long 3-pointer from the March Madness logo just before the final buzzer, lifting the Ramblers to a thrilling 64-62 win.
In the second round, Loyola-Chicago played a very strong No. 3 seed Tennessee. Loyola-Chicago led for the entire second half until Tennessee hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in the game. Loyola-Chicago guard Clayton Custer responded with a jumper that got a very friendly bounce with 3.6 seconds left, putting the Ramblers up by one, where they would stay to win the game 63-62. The team’s success has been attributed in part to their team chaplain, 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.
CBS Sports makes a pretty accurate claim that this first weekend of March Madness is in the top 3 craziest first weekends of March Madness since 1985, when the field expanded to 64 teams. Let’s hope the rest of the tournament continues to excite us.