64 teams and millions of fans entered Thursday morning full of hope and promise…by Saturday morning, many of these millions have their hopes dashed as their bracket has already been busted. Louisville to the Final Four? Vandy to the Sweet Sixteen? Not this year. This is the time when sports news headlines are filled with words such as “surprises” and “stuns.” In the first round alone this year, there were seven upsets.
On Thursday, Morehead State shocked the Louisville Cardinals, winning in the final seconds with a surprising 3-point shot by Morehead State’s Demonte Harper. Rather than looking to his NBA-bound center or guard who could not seem to miss a bucket, Coach Donnie Tyndall followed a hunch and called a play for Harper based on a dream he had about the game. Harper sunk the shot and the Eagles scored the first upset of the tourney.
The Southwest was not finished bracket-busting though, as the tournament got its 12th over 5th seed upset later that evening when the Richmond Spiders upset Vanderbilt. While Morehead State had previously stormed the court, the Spiders calmly shook hands with their opponents and walked to the locker room. While Richmond’s coach called the game a “gutty effort,” the team acted as if they did not consider this game an upset. And why would they? Richmond has made history before by beating higher ranked teams, most notably in 1984 when they surprised Charles’ Barkley’s Auburn team.
The Southwest bracket has seen three more “upsets” this week, with #10 Florida State beating #7 Texas A& M University, #9 Illinois beating #8 UNLV, and #11 Virginia Commonwealth University knocking off #6 Georgetown. The state of Virginia has a lot to be excited about this March, with three universities still remaining in the big dance – Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason and Richmond. Unheralded all season, VCU’s rout of the Hoyas was fueled by doubters who said they “didn’t belong” in the tournament. Brandon Rozell and the Rams beat Georgetown by 18 points after they had to “play in” to even be a part of the madness this year.
As the teams battle this weekend for a chance to be a part of the Sweet Sixteen, the top 3 seeds remain in all four divisions of the tourney. Who will be the first to upset one of the top contenders? Will it be Gonzaga? The team that used to be everyone’s favorite mid-major, but has become a perennial contender? Or perhaps Marquette? The 11th seeded team that upset Xavier to face Syracuse? Your neighborhood Third Base will have all of the tournament action this weekend – see you there!