After the early rounds of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, you’re probably wishing you could re-do your bracket. But then again, where’s the fun in making all the picks correctly? Upsets and surprises are what make March Madness so fun.
There’s been plenty of craziness so far in this year’s tournament. And the bracket busting started early.
After the First Four games decided the final four spots in the bracket early last week, the mayhem began on Thursday. No. 11 seed Dayton started things off with a nail-biting 60-59 win over in-state rival Ohio State, a No. 6 seed. Dayton’s Vee Sanford made what turned out to be the game-winning shot after the Buckeyes’ senior leader Aaron Craft’s runner just missed at the buzzer.
That set the tone for one of the biggest upsets of the tournament: One day after Dayton’s thrilling victory, 14 seed Mercer shocked the nation by beating the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils, a 3 seed, 78-71. Mercer (which is located in Georgia, in case you were wondering), was only in its first NCAA tournament since 1985, but managed to defeat a Duke team that is expected to compete for the national championship every year.
Just two days later, we saw a No. 1 seed get eliminated, which is always a big moment. Wichita State, which entered its game against Kentucky with a perfect record, couldn’t get past the Wildcats. The 78-76 loss brought an early end to a great season for the Shockers. WSU didn’t have any superstars, but played great team basketball and became the first squad to go 35-0 in one season. Heated in-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville – the defending national champion - will now meet in the Sweet 16.
It’s games like these that keep the madness going. Little guys like Dayton – which plays Stanford in the Sweet 16 on Thursday after beating No. 3 seed Syracuse - and Mercer – which lost to Tennessee on Sunday – have had great runs. But star players have not been so fortunate. Duke’s Jabari Parker, one of the nation’s top freshman, couldn’t lead the Blue Devils to a tournament win. Kansas phenom Andrew Wiggins also had an early exit, after his No. 2 seed Jayhawks lost to No. 10 Stanford in the third round on Sunday. Parker and Wiggins will both be top 5 picks if they declare for the NBA Draft. If their college careers are indeed over, Duke and Kansas fans will be disappointed that they couldn’t see the two lead their teams further in the tournament.
Creighton senior Doug McDermott, considered the best player in the game, played his final collegiate game on Sunday. The No. 3 seed Bluejays were no match for the No. 6 Baylor Bears, who won 85-55. McDermott scored 15 points in his last game, well below his average of 26.7 points per game this year. Though it was a tough way to end his college career, his hug with his dad, Greg, who is also the team’s coach, near the end of the game was one of the most emotional moments of the tournament.
The three remaining No. 1 seeds – Florida, Virginia, and Arizona – will try to avoid being the next team to be upset. Two No. 2 seeds – Kansas and Villanova – have already been eliminated. Meanwhile, lower-seeded schools like Dayton and Stanford will look to continue to surprise.
You may not have predicted the tournament would look like it does now, but it’s certainly been another exciting addition of March Madness. The only thing we know for sure is that there’s plenty of great basketball left to be played!
Photos: Devin Oliver #5 of the Dayton Flyers reacts after defeating the Syracuse Orange 55-53 in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (Elsa/Getty Images); Head coach Greg McDermott hugs Doug McDermott #3 of the Creighton Bluejays in the closing minutes of their game against the Baylor Bears, March 23, 2014 (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)