March Madness brings unexpected upsets, anticipation for finals

BY THOMAS ROSS ’14
Staff Writer

If you’re a true sports fan, March has to be your favorite month of the year. It’s the only time of the year you can get away with what would ordinarily be regarded as obnoxious behavior in support of your alma mater. Even if your alma mater or favorite team isn’t a top DI program, you can wear its colors (or at least its lid) and root for that team as if they represented everything in the world. Nothing truly compares to seeing a complete underdog triumph against all odds and take down a perennial powerhouse. These types of Cinderella stories inspire greatness and give us all hope that anyone can achieve anything (although we are still waiting for a 16th seed to beat a number one seed)! If that doesn’t motivate you to strive for greatness, I’m not quite sure what would.

This year’s tournament is primed for upsets all over the bracket. With powerhouse teams like Kentucky having an off year and in Kentucky’s case, not even being invited to the field of 64 (plus four) for the NCAA tournament, which was primarily due to the loss of star forward Nerleans Noel for the year, the Associated Press’s Top 25 has been in constant flux throughout the entire regular season. Indiana started the year ranked number one and held on to the number one spot until its first loss to Butler in overtime. It earned a number one seed in the tournament. Many have the team as their pick to cut down the nets in Atlanta.

After Indiana gave up the top spot in the AP top 25, it became a revolving door at the top, much more so than we have seen in years. After Indiana, it was Louisville and then Duke (for a good part of the season), and then it was Michigan (for a brief stint at number one). But the most surprising was the team which finished the year atop the polls, Gonzaga. We saw a classic power return to importance in Indiana, bringing back memories of the championship years with Bobby Knight as coach.

Indiana is led by sophomore forward Cody Zeller and junior guard Victor Oladipo. The season saw perennial powers, like Kansas, who lost to the TCU Horned Frogs, who have had only had two winning seasons in the past decade. The Kansas Jayhawks went on to win its 13th Big 12 Conference title since 1993 and earn a number one seed in South region of this year’s NCAA tournament.

In keeping with the year of upsets, Harvard, the academic power of the Ivy League, won its first game ever in the NCAA tournament when it unexpectedly beat New Mexico, 68-62. And then number 12th seeded University of California (Berkley) defeated fifth seeded UNLV.

If you like Cinderella stories, a good team to keep your eye on is the 12th seeded Oregon Ducks, who completely dominated fifth seeded Oklahoma St., 68-55. Oregon outrebounded Oklahoma St. 58-38 and the game was never really close. Many believe Oregon was incorrectly seeded far lower than it should have been as the winners of the Pac 12 regular season and post-season tournament. However, that doesn’t really matter at this point. What does matter is that the Oregon Ducks look poised to make a long run this March.

The “bracket buster” to this point in the tournament has to be Georgetown, seeded second, being upset by Florida Gulf Coast, seeded 15th, a college making its first appearance in the March dance. So once again, the NCAA tournament is living up to its billing. And for sure, there will be more upsets on the road to the Final Four and the ultimate crowning of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball champion.

College basketball aficionados are excited about this year’s tournament and the many close, competitive games. There are a number of teams heading into this year’s tournament that could legitimately end up as the champions, which makes the 2013 campaign one of the most thrilling and exciting college basketball seasons and post-season tournaments in recent memory. The feeling that any team is capable of losing will continue to keep this year’s tournament exciting right down to the last game.

Questions? Email Thomas at tross@fandm.edu.

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