Every year there are millions of people who participate in March Madness pools in hopes of submitting the perfect bracket, even though the odds are heavily stacked against them. During the four days between Selection Sunday and the start of the tournament, fans across the country do their best at imitating an ESPN analyst by picking their Cinderella team to make it to the Sweet 16 and beyond. These mid-major teams go into the tournament knowing they are the underdog, but every year a few of those underdogs prevails to make it to the next round. The following first and second round upsets busted plenty of brackets this year.
Round of 64
(12) Middle Tennessee State-81 (5) Minnesota-72
Middle Tennessee State is no stranger to playing the upset role in March as they took down number 2 seed Michigan State in 2016. This year they felt they deserved to be on the national stage, and a dominant win over a stingy Minnesota team proved their point. The Blue Raiders used a high-tempo offense to wear down the Golden Gopher’s defense and pull away in the second half.
(11) URI-84 (6) Creighton-72
The University of Rhode Island had a hot start to the season, and was even ranked in the top 20 for a short time before the injury bug hit the team. The Rams got healthy just in time for the tournament, and the team dominated Creighton from start to finish in their first March Madness appearance in 18 years. URI battled with Oregon in the second round of the tournament before losing a close one 75-72.
(11) USC-66 (6) SMU-65
SMU was favored by many in its first round game with USC, and the team was also picked in many brackets to go to the Sweet 16. Plenty of analysts thought SMU was incorrectly given a 6 seed and thought the American Athletic Conference champions deserved a higher seed. USC came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half marking their 13th double-digit comeback of the season.
Round of 32
(7) Michigan-73 (2) Louisville-69
Michigan came into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. An improbable run to the B10 title granted them the conference’s automatic bid, and they narrowly beat Oklahoma State in the round of 64. The team hasn’t lost a game since its plane slid off the runway on March 8th, and it is carrying that momentum into a tough matchup with Oregon in the Sweet 16.
(7) South Carolina-88 (2) Duke-81
South Carolina’s win over Duke was a tale of two halves as the Gamecocks shot just 20% in the first half and over 70% in the second half. Duke didn’t capitalize on that poor first half and only led by seven going into halftime. When South Carolina caught fire in the second half there was nothing the Blue Devils could do to cool them off.
(11) Xavier over (3) Florida State
Xavier started this month on a six-game losing streak, and it was looking like the team’s downward spiral would keep them out of the madness. Fast forward two weeks and the Musketeers are coming off of one of their biggest wins in school history after smothering Florida State 91-66. Xavier was ranked in the top 10 in most preseason polls, so don’t be surprised if they give Arizona a tough game in the Sweet 16.
(8) Wisconsin over (1) Villanova
The biggest upset of the tournament (so far) came in the second round when Wisconsin took down overall number 1 seed Villanova. The Badgers used a stifling defense and made some clutch buckets down the stretch to hold off the surging Wildcats. This is the fourth straight appearance in the Sweet 16 for Wisconsin, and the team plans on utilizing that experience in the next round against Florida.
The madness will continue into the Sweet 16 and beyond, and there is sure to be at least one more upset before the national championship game on April 3rd. The bracket is not shaping up like many predicted, and that’s the beauty of college basketball. The game isn’t meant to be played on paper, and every team left has a legitimate shot at being crowned the 2017 NCAA National Champion.