How We Arrived at our Maddest March Yet
Round of 64
Step 1: Loyola-Chicago Stuns Miami at the Buzzer
Step 2: Arizona Upset by Buffalo
Step 3: Wichita State Falls to Marshall
Step 4: UMBC Becomes First 16 Seed to Advance
Step 5: Play-in Syracuse Beats Reigning NIT Champ TCU
The madness started when Loyola-Chicago, a name that most casual fans didn’t know, stunned sixth-seeded Miami with a stellar three-pointer at the buzzer (and it wasn’t the last we’d see of the Ramblers). Later that night, we saw the first major upset when Arizona, a popular Final Four pick, became the first 4 seed to fall. Wichita State and coach Gregg Marshall became the second when their March was cut short by the Marshall Thundering Herd.
If all this seemed crazy, it was nothing compared to Virginia-UMBC, the first time in March Madness history that a 16 seed beat a number 1 seed (let alone the top overall seed in the tournament). The Retrievers blew out the Cavaliers by 20 points and destroyed millions of brackets (including mine). The epic first round came to a close as Syracuse, a play-in team, defeated reigning NIT champion TCU.
Round of 32
Step 6: Buzzer Beaters Send Michigan, Loyola-Chicago to Sweet Sixteen
Step 7: Texas A&M Downs Reigning NCAA Champ UNC
Step 8: Title Pick Michigan State Falls to Syracuse
Step 8: Top-Seeded Xavier Bows Out to Florida State
Step 9: Nevada Pulls Off 22-Point Comeback to Top 2nd Seed Cincinnati
As the field cut in half, the madness continued. Loyola-Chicago hit a game-winner again to down third seeded Tennessee, while Michigan, an eventual championship competitor, edged Houston on Jordan Poole’s miraculous three pointer. Then, two popular Final Four favorites, reigning champ UNC and 3rd seed Michigan State (my championship loser), fell victim to Texas A&M and Syracuse, respectively. Xavier became the next one seed to fall when Florida State pulled off an upset, while Nevada pulled off a 22-point comeback to stun second-seeded Cincinnati.
Step 10: Loyola-Chicago Edges Nevada to go to Elite Eight
Step 11: Kansas State, Florida State Upset Final Four Favorites Kentucky, Gonzaga
One week later, the Cinderella stories continued. Loyola-Chicago, playing in a region without any of its top four seeds, made its third straight game winning shot to move onto the Elite Eight. Sister Jean, their 99-year old chaplain and superfan, became the talk of the tournament, though even she didn’t see the Ramblers’ success coming. Their opponent was Kansas State, who defeated 16-seed UMBC handily and then handed powerhouse Kentucky a loss in the Sweet Sixteen. Another nine seed, Florida State, upset Gonzaga (one of my Final Four picks).
Step 12: Loyola-Chicago’s Cinderella Run Continues to San Antonio
Step 13: Kansas Exorcises Elite Eight Demons, 2nd seeded Blue Devils in Overtime Thriller
The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers rambled on for another win when they convincingly beat Kansas State in an Elite Eight that virtually no one saw coming. Michigan and Villanova advanced to the Final Four as expected to join the Ramblers. With the last spot in the Final Four up for grabs, Duke’s Grayson Allen missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation and the Kansas Jayhawks flew away with a win in an overtime thriller.
Step 14: Villanova plays Michigan
At the end of a wild tournament, the Final Four was predictable but spectacular. After holding leads for large portions of their semifinal game, Loyola-Chicago succumbed to Michigan, ending one of the most improbable and memorable tourney runs we’ve ever seen. Villanova sunk 13 three-pointers in the first half of their game against Kansas and won a game that was never in doubt. In the national championship, Villanova beat Michigan 79-62 for its second national title in three years and became the fourth team in history to win all of its March Madness games by double digits.
Even though my bracket was totally busted after only the opening weekend, this March Madness proved to be an exciting and enjoyable month of basketball.