Did you pick the Retrievers? No? Why would you have? A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed in the NCAA (Men’s) Tournament. Shouts to the Harvard women, who beat top-seed Stanford in 1998. Until UMBC knocked off Virginia Friday, Harvard was the only 16-1 upset in Division I history.
So of course you didn’t pick UMBC. Shoot, you didn’t even know what UMBC stood for (University of Maryland-Baltimore County).
Don’t feel bad; nobody else picked the Retrievers, at least not seriously. But that’s March. That’s why we fill out these stupid little brackets and why employees hoard sick days and our couch cushions have perfectly replicated imprints of our butts.
We can’t get enough of the madness.
And oh what madness it’s been.
I feel like I write this every year. And the years before I began filling column space in a newspaper, I probably said it every year. But this tournament has been bonkers.
Seriously, we could stop at UMBC, a team that scored just 39 points in a 44-point loss to Albany in the regular season. The Retrievers, who needed a buzzer beater in the conference championship to even earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, walked in and beat the brakes off Virginia — the No. 1 overall seed, the top team in the country, the most consistent team in a season full of uncertainty, a team coached by one of the most respectable guys in the game.
But why stop there?
Rewind a day, when we saw 13-seed Buffalo absolutely manhandle 4-seed Arizona, one of the hottest teams in the country sporting the upcoming No. 1 NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton, the $100,000 man.
We kicked off the tournament — a 10 a.m. start here in marvelous Mountain Time — with an overtime thriller that featured a gritty Rhode Island squad sending the Trae Young Gang packing. Oklahoma should have been left out in the first place. Middle Tennessee got snubbed — Free Giddy Potts!
Want to make yourself feel better? Swing by my office and look at the marker-board-sized bracket I meticulously crafted with rulers and tape measures, filled out with my sure-fire picks and quickly covered in red lines highlighting my demise. Truthfully, though, I don’t even care.
Root for upsets. Root for chaos. Root for a guy you’ve never heard of (Jairus Lyles — see video above) to slash through the country’s best defense like Kenny Wu through the Iceland front line, even if he eliminates your champion pick. Root for the underdogs, because Florida Gulf Coast’s Sweet 16 run resonated more than Louisville’s championship*.
Now we have a South Region with only a 9-seed, 5-seed, 11-seed and 7-seed still standing. Two 1-seeds are gone, as are two 2-seeds, two 3-seeds and three 4-seeds. Three of those came in the first round.
So here we sit, eyeing the remaining cluster of misfits, pondering where on earth we go from here. Villanova, a 1-seed, still hangs around, but a battle with tough West Virginia is a brutal Sweet 16 matchup. Kentucky seems to have an easy path — on paper — but the three teams in its bracket have wreaked enough havoc already, why not crack a few more skulls?
Michigan needed a buzzer beater to stay alive; Nevada needed a miraculous 22-point second-half comeback. Purdue lost its 7-foot centerpiece; Loyola-Chicago has a secret weapon in Sister Jean; Duke has been terrifying; nobody knows how to score against Syracuse’s defense.
At this point, pull your bracket out of the trash, un-crinkle it, walk it out to your garage, place it nicely onto your table saw and shred it to pieces. That’s where it belongs, floating through the air as dust particles next to mine.
It’s time to root for more excitement. Let’s hope the remainder of the tournament has even half the chaos as the first two rounds. March isn’t about perfect brackets; it’s about Cinderella and her night at the ball.
And like every year, we hope the clock never hits midnight.