Underdogs Lead the Pack in March Madness

Underdogs Lead the Pack in March Madness

The NCAA Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness, produces thrilling moments and Cinderella stories every year. In 2005, Bucknell, the No. 14 seed, beat Kansas, the No. 3 seed, by one point. In 2008, Davidson, the No. 10 seed, beat No. 3 seed Wisconsin in the regional semifinals by 14 points. Arguably the biggest upset of all time was when No. 11 seed George Mason beat No. 1 seed UConn in the regional finals to advance to the Final Four. This year, however, the surprises have started early, with over ten upsets in the books already.

During this year’s tournament, three of the four No. 12 seeds advanced over their No. 5 seed opponents. No. 12 seed Oregon beat No. 5 seed Oklahoma State in a 68-55 win. Oregon, who had recently won the Pac-12 tournament, was clearly an underrated team. Arsalan Kazemi led Oregon with a double-double, allowing Oregon to advance. No. 5 seed University of Las Vegas was predicted to beat Berkeley by a wide margin led by their freshman Anthony Bennett. To UNLV’s dismay, Berkeley had four players score double digits. Berkeley proceeded to the next round and lost in a close game to Syracuse (66-60). The last of the No. 12 seed versus No. 5 seed upsets occurred between Ole Miss and Wisconsin. Ole Miss’s secret weapon was junior Marshall Henderson.  Henderson made only one of 13 shots at the start of the game, but had 17 points in the last 11 minutes. Henderson’s 19 points led Ole Miss to a 57-46 victory over Wisconsin.

In the West region, No. 14 seed Harvard secured an improbable victory over No. 3 seed, New Mexico. New Mexico’s Alex Kirk scored 22 points and had 12 rebounds, but that just wasn’t enough as the rest of the team shot a mere 12 of 38 from the floor. Harvard only played seven men throughout the game and they shot an impressive 52.4 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from the three. No. 13 seed La Salle advanced over No. 4 seed Kansas State. Senior guard Rodney McGruder missed a three-point shot that would have put Kansas up 64-60 with only 31 seconds left. La Salle’s  Jerell Wright was fouled on the rebound and made both free throws, putting La Salle up by one point. Wright scored 21 points and had eight rebounds to bring La Salle to a

63-61 victory.

By far the biggest upset to date has been in the South region where No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast (FGC) advanced over No. 2 seed Georgetown. Georgetown had a strong season and even though they came up short against Syracuse in the Big East semifinals, they were given a No. 2 seed for the NCAA tournament. However, FGC’s Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson combined to score a total of 47 points. Georgetown’s Michael Starks scored 23 points, but their sophomore star Otto Porter came up short with only 13 points. Georgetown was a popular pick to make the Final Four this year, so Florida Gulf Coast’s victory came as a shock to many.

No. 12 Oregon came through with another upset in the next round, taking down No. 4 Saint Louis. Saint Louis had won 25 of their last 26 games, five of which were against top 25 opponents. Oregon had a 35-19 lead at the end of the fist half and they kept it going from there.  Oregon won 74-57 and now must face No. 1 seed Louisville in the Sweet 16. An even more shocking upset was No. 9 Wichita taking down No. 1 seed Gonzaga. Gonzaga had won 15 straight games and were another Final Four favorite.  However, Wichita shot 14 of 28 from three en route to securing the

six-point victory.

La Salle was never expected to make it to the Sweet 16. Although Ole Miss was hot after an 11-point victory over No. 5 Wisconsin, La Salle pulled off the upset, winning a close game by a mere two-point margin.  For the first time in tournament history, a No. 15 seed has made it to the Sweet 16. Florida Gulf Coast secured yet another victory over No. 7 San Diego State. FGCs victories have been the talk of the tournament, as the school once known for its policy allowing any full time student to try out for the team is now being referred to as “Dunk City.” Their system is working, however, as the team has beaten a No. 2 seed and a No. 7 seed by

10-point margins. 

Unfortunately for FGC, many are predicting that their Cinderella story will be cut short. Their opponents in the Sweet 16, the No. 3 seed Florida Gators, are both an offensive and defensive powerhouse. FGC secured victories over what many people thought was an undeserving No. 2 seed, Georgetown and an uncharacteristically desperate San Diego State. They might not be so lucky when they face Florida, a team that shoots well from everywhere, rebounds on both ends and generates turnovers.  Similarly, Oregon must face No. 1 Louisville. While Oregon has been playing some of the most impressive basketball in the tournament, they are no match for Louisville. Louisville is exceedingly efficient in rebounding, steals and defense.  They have outscored their opponents by 34.5 points per 100 possessions and seem to be one of the most

bulletproof teams of the tournament.

Two teams that achieved major upsets, Wichita and La Salle, must play each other in the Sweet 16. Regardless of the outcome, an underdog will advance to the Elite Eight.  Whether it is a No. 13 seed or a No. 9 seed, these teams will be forces to be reckoned with.  With just four rounds of tournament play ahead, it will be interesting to see whether these underdogs, or “giant killers,” can create more upsets and make it to the final round, spoiling even more March Madness brackets.

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