BY BENJAMIN SZILAGY, Staff Writer
So, how do your brackets look? After the second round of the NCAA tournament, chances are like an international warzone or more like Julius Caesar after his meeting with his senate.
They do call it “march madness” after all, right? However, not even the experts can predict outcomes like this.
Bracketologist, both professional and recreational, survived a scare Thursday when 1 seed Syracuse, who is playing without their star defensive player Fab Melo after he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for poor grades, beat 16 seed UNC Ashville, 72-65. The shockwave of that game, both bad calls in favor of Syracuse and the hard play of the bulldogs, definitely carried over into Friday.
Before we break it down, further, let’s put a few things in context: A 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed in tournament play. Ever. 15 seeds have only upset the 2nd seeded teams five times since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The most recent was courteously of Hampton beating Iowa State in 2001.
When this “expert,” along with a host of others, began filling out his bracket, I decided to go with a few traditional powers. In the West Region, I penciled in Missouri (a two seed with a 30-5 record) to reach the Final Four. Whoops. The Norfolk State Spartans beat the Tigers, 86-84 in an unbelievable upset Friday afternoon sending a hurl of wadded up brackets into trash cans. Conventional wisdom, and avid watchers of college basketball never would have thought Mizzu would be a one and done team. But give the Spartans credit; they got to this point for a reason after all.
Moving up (or would it be down?) to the South Region we look at the Blue Devils. Ah, Duke. Old reliable has won four NCAA championships (fifth all-time), appeared in 10 Championship Games (tied for second all-time) and 15 Final Fours (third all-time), and has an NCAA-best .748 tournament winning percentage. Woah, wait, they lost? Yep. The Dukies, another two seed, lost to Lehigh, 70-65.
This is rewriting the history books. A two seed as never lost twice to the 15 seed, same day or otherwise, in the tournament. March Madness? Ha! Try March Lunacy. As TNT Basketball Analyst Kenny Smith said it’s not about the teams in the games, it’s about how they play.
“What works for Lehigh and Norfolk State is that they don’t care about the name on the jersey,” Smith said. “Most teams have to realize that you have to have a short memory to be a great player. That goes for when things go bad or when they go positive. You have to reconstruct your thought process like nothing happened before. In the same token, you have to know what works. They stuck to what worked.”
The sting that really hurts came at the hands of the Wolverines.
“Et tu, Brute?” Those were Julius Caesar’s last words that were popularized in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar written in 1599. On March 15, better known as the Ides of March, Caesar was attacked by a group of senators. His close and dear friend, Marcus Brutus was among the group of attackers. When Caesar noticed this betrayal, he stopped resisting and resigned to his fate and allowed Brutus and his attackers to stab him mercilessly.
On Friday, Michigan (a four seed) joined the likes of the Blue Devils and the Tigers when they lost to the Ohio Bobcats (a 13 seed). Granted this one some experts predicted, but most people thought differently. Don’t feel bad, so did I. I thought to myself: There’s no way Michigan is losing to a MAC Champion. As Family Guy’s Lois Griffin would say, “Ha, Ha, Whaaaa?”
Mid-way through the game my friend tweeted “On a scale of 1-100 how nervous?” I just responded with a 20. At that point, Michigan trailed the Bobcats by 13. Yes…13 points. This was the same Michigan team that won a share of the Big Ten Title. Of course, they were going to pull this one out. They just need to play within their system.
Except they didn’t.
Instead Michigan relied on the three, instead of driving to the basket, and suffered a heart breaking loss. Michigan wasn’t supposed to be a one and done team. Hell, the past two appearances Michigan advanced past their first round opponents Clemson and Tennessee only to lose to Oklahoma in 2009 under Blake Griffin and Duke last year.
We all know going into the tournament that there would be upsets. There always are. While the first few rounds of the NCAA tournament provide excitement it’s rare to experience the opening weekend we just saw.
Next time we can throw caution to the wind and fill out our brackets in pencil. But, you always have to beware of the Ides of March and the madness it brings.
Writer’s Note: My Final Four is as follows: Baylor, OSU, Kansas and Missouri. There is still hope, even though it’s bleak. You can view my bracket here: http://games.espn.go.com/tournament-challenge-bracket/en/entry?entryID=3473215