A bracket-buster can be quite the entertainment for some, yet at the same time they can be disastrous for many.
This past weekend displayed what may have been the craziest opening weekend in March Madness’s history. An ESPN stat stated ten double-digit seeded teams won in the first round of play, the most ever. The regular season foreshadowed something to this degree, as first place was tough to hold throughout the season. The rest of the top 25 resulted in playing some musical chairs, switching positions on the rankings for what seemed like every week. Here are the most notable bracket-busters from the first two rounds of play.
Northern Iowa Panthers (12th seed)
The Panthers of UNI may have had the basket of the tournament so far, with Paul Jesperson hitting a half-court shot at the buzzer to defeat the Texas Longhorns 75-72 in the first round. With a victory like that, the Panthers were surely due for some bracket-busting. Northern Iowa had 12 point lead with 44 ticks remaining over the Texas A&M Aggies, and they somehow lost in two overtimes. If Texas A&M had not charged back and won that game, UNI could very well be dancing deeper into the tournament.
Yale Bulldogs (12th seed)
A lot seemed to overlook the Ivy school in the first round, and with good reason. This was the first time the Bulldogs were in the tournament in over 50 years, and their first round opponent was no small task in the Baylor Bears. There was so much talk in how the Bears could potentially make some noise in the dance, but Yale made sure to end all talks of that sorts. Yale was unable to follow-up their upset victory with another against the Duke Blue Devils, but they surely made their mark after a long time coming.
Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (12th seed)
The Purdue Boilermakers were not a team most teams would want to face in the first round, as they came into the tournament hot. The Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock provided a game that was full of drama, and ended up making a 14-point deficit a two point victory in four overtimes against Purdue. Not a huge bracket-buster, similar to that of what Yale accomplished. They were wiped across the court by their next opponent in Iowa State, and the Cinderella journey had ended.
Syracuse Orange (10th seed)
Typically a team from the ACC would not be mentioned in a bracket-busters article, but the times are different these days for Jim Boeheim’s Orange. Syracuse faced 7th seeded Dayton in the first round and showcased a strong performance, easily defeating the Flyers 70-51. What puts Syracuse in this category is the fact they ended up facing a 15th seeded Middle Tennessee State, and decisively crushing them to move on to the Sweet 16. Not many would have put Syracuse in that position, but Michigan State losing in the first round was not in people’s mindsets either. The Orange play the Gonzaga Bulldogs next, which could prove even more that Syracuse is not done busting brackets.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (13th seed)
Hawaii was heading into a somewhat favorable matchup, as they faced 4th seeded California in the first round. California had struggled to find consistency when it came to turnovers and rebounding, and Hawaii excelled in all areas it takes to win games. The Golden Bears also had injuries heading into the tourney, and that turned out to affect them negatively. Only 22.2 percent of picks on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge had Hawaii defeating California, and the Rainbow Warriors dominated throughout the game. After taking a 14-13 lead early in the first half, they would never lose the lead again. Maryland would end up ending Hawaii’s Cinderella efforts, but the school from the island would end up breaking a sizeable amount of brackets with their first round victory.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (14th seed)
The Lumberjacks were bracket-busting stardom bound, as many ignored the stats and looked at seedings. That proved to be costly in the first round, as the Lumberjacks upset 3rd seeded West Virginia 70-56. With the Lumberjacks winning decisively, it looked like they could carry momentum even further into the tourney. In past years, the Lumberjacks have made noise and those who have witnessed it gave respects to the team from Nacogdoches, Texas this season heading into the tourney. In a grit and grind game against Notre Dame, Stephen F. Austin saw a put-back basket go in for the Irish with 1.5 seconds remaining to end the potential Cinderella run. After an undefeated record in the Southland Conference, it is with great disappointment to see SFA finished in 2016.
Wisconsin Badgers (7th seed)
From a team that was in the Championship last season, a lot has changed for the Badgers in a year. Bo Ryan left the team, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker left for the NBA, and suddenly the Badgers were not a team to fear… initially thought anyways. They played No. 10 Pittsburgh in the first round, which may have been one of the uglier games of the tournament. The Panthers grabbed a commanding 18-6 lead to open up the game, but Wisconsin played a good enough second half to win 47-43. What makes Wisconsin bracket-busters is their game winning three at the buzzer against No. 2 Xavier to propel the Badgers back into the Sweet Sixteen. As the season has grown with age, the Badgers have too. When Wisconsin lost to Northwestern back on January 12th, they were 9-9 and were almost off the charts when it came to seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Fast-forward to the present day, where Wisconsin has gone 13-3 since then and they are continuing their journey back to the Championship. They will face Notre Dame next, and that could be a game worth taking as well for the Badgers.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (11th seed)
Picking Gonzaga to do big things in the tourney can prove to be costly as suggested in recent years, and going into this year’s madness proved otherwise. After being ranked in the top ten to start the year, the Bulldogs needed to win their conference tournament to simply get into the dance. They have defeated 6th seeded Seton Hall and 3rd seeded Utah, and most who have been familiar with this team had those upsets picked. Even with that being said, and 11th seeded team defeating a 3rd seeded team to get to the Sweet Sixteen says a lot for these Bulldogs. Gonzaga has yet to have a true challenge in the tournament, and their first big challenge will be a match-up with 10th seeded Syracuse.
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (15th seed)
This by far was the biggest bracket-buster in this year’s tourney. In only the eight time ever a 15th seed would defeat a 2nd seed, the Blue Raiders took down the mighty Michigan State Spartans 90-81. This loss for the Spartans may go down as one of the worst upsets in NCAA basketball history, and it surely shook up millions of brackets. ESPN.com said it received over 13 million brackets and after Michigan State lost, only six brackets remained to be perfect. The Spartans were one of the favorites to possibly win it all this season, and the Blue Raiders seemed to be underestimated. Middle Tennessee State would end up losing its next game to Syracuse without any more drama, but they would make their mark on what was the biggest bracket-buster of the tournament…so far.