by Peter Gobeille
This college basketball season may be the most unpredictable in the history of NCAA basketball. Ranked teams have combined for a total of 73 losses to unranked opponents, which is the most losses in the history of men’s college basketball. The top 25 has been more vulnerable than ever and it seems that no team is able to hold onto the number one spot in the nation. It seems that that college basketball is filled with an abundance of good teams but does not have great teams that have distinguished themselves from the pack. All of this should make for one of the craziest and maddest Marches in college basketball history.
The first day of tournament did not disappoint, as the people saw their brackets only a few hours into the tournament. The 12 over 5 seed upset has been one of the most common upsets in Tournament history, but the last two years have seen a drought in these upsets. However, the first day of tournament madness saw the return of the 12 over 5 upset as Yale beat Baylor and Arkansas Little-Rock beat Purdue. These upsets came as a huge surprise to most people. After both of these games only 20.3% of bracket in the nation were still perfect. All three 9 seeds that played on the first day won their matchups in close games against their 8 seeded opponents. The 11 seeds also had a successful showing on the first day as Gonzaga took down Seton Hall and Wichita State upset Arizona.
The second day proved to be even crazier than the first, as the results ensured that every bracket in the nation was absolutely busted and crushed as second ranked Michigan State fell to 15 seeded Middle Tennessee state, only the seventh time in history a 15 seed has been able to do so. Number three West Virginia also fell unexpectedly as Stephen F. Austin were able to dismantle Bob Huggins suffocating Press defense.
South: The Southern region, along with the West, did not have a very complicated and crazy set of results during the tournament. Outside of 13 seeded Hawaii upsetting a California team that lost their best scorer and #11 Wichita State beating out #6 Arizona, the powerhouses of Kansas, Villanova, Miami and Maryland made it to the Sweet Sixteen, where the top two seed, Kansas and Villanova, won both of their matchups and faced off in the Regional Championship. After a tight game in which the lead switched hands multiple times, Villanova was able to upset a Jayhawk team that 25 percent of the country winning the National Championship, putting a clear dent in many brackets around the nation.
West: Of all the regions, the West has probably had the smoothest path to the final four as little surprises have come from this part of the bracket. The biggest surprise might have been another 12 seed upsetting a 5 seed, as Yale out rebounding and beating a very physical Baylor team that has now exited the tournament in the first round for the second year in a row. But other than that and a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa that beat out Texas, the Western Region had the favored Oklahoma advance out of that region and into the Final Four.
East: North Carolina had high expectations coming into this tournament and the Roy Williams led team never really let the pressure get to his team. The Tar heels were able to cruise through the region, as their two biggest threats, #2 Xavier and #4 Kentucky, both fell in the sweet sixteen. A depleted #6 Notre Dame powered their way to the Elite eight game against the Tar Heels, but the wear and tear was to much for the fighting Irish as Roy Williams will be going to his eighth final four.
Midwest: Nobody in the country came close to predicting what occurred in the Midwest bracket in 2016, as it embodied what March Madness truly is. Two seeded Michigan State was upset by the 15 seeded Middle Tennessee State, busting almost every bracket in the country, as 62 percent of ESPN brackets had them going to the final four and 22 percent had them winning the national championship. This led the way for a region in which five of the eight matchups had the lower seeded team winning. Syracuse was among those under seeded teams to win, as the Jim Boeheim team that many thought shouldn’t have been in the tournament, went all the way to play #1 Virginia in the Regional Final. And while Virginia led for most of the game by double digits, March Madness worked its magic and Syracuse went on 25-6 run to end the game, sending team seeded ten or higher to the final four since VCU did it in 2011.
Villanova vs Oklahoma: Both of these teams faced off against each other earlier in the regular season when the Sooners dominated the Wildcats, winning 78-55. With a prior meeting in hand, this final four matchup looked like it would be highly competitive and a game to watch. Instead, Jay Wright led Villanova to the biggest blowout in Final Four history as the Wildcats crushed the Sooners 95-51. For Villanova, they would be going to play on in the championship game, but for Oklahoma, This was the last collegiate game for Senior star Buddy Hield, as he would now go home after this bitter 44 point loss..
North Carolina vs Syracuse: #10 Syracuse had was the Cinderella story coming into the final four and looked to become the double-digit seed to win a national championship. However, they would have to get past the one seeded North Carolina Tar heels, a task which seemed to tough to accomplish as the Tar heels were in complete control of the game as soon as it tipped off. Led behind another stellar performance from Brice Johnson, in which he scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, North Carolina defeated Syracuse 83-66 to move onto the National Championship.
Championship Game: For Villanova, this was their first appearance in the national championship game since they upset Georgetown in 1985. For North Carolina, they were looking to win their sixth championship and redefine their status as a powerhouse program after recent recruiting struggles. The game was highly competitive and came down to the final 30 seconds. With UNC down 77-74, Marcus Paige threw up a wild three pointer to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left. The shot by Paige seemed like it would send the Tar Heels into Overtime with all the momentum. Instead, the Wildcats ran up court and had Kris Jenkins hit a three pointer at the buzzer to win the game for Villanova. The wild finish is being seen as one of the best tournament finishes since 1983 when North Carolina State upset the Houston Cougars with a put back dunk at the buzzer. This of course, was a fitting ending to another wild March Madness tournament.