Which game was it that ruined your 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket?
Was it Loyola-Chicago’s shocking win over 6-seed Miami in the first round? Or was it Loyola-Chicago’s even more shocking win over 3-seed Tennessee in the second round?
Did 11-seed Syracuse march right across your bracket and knock TCU or Michigan State from your Elite Eight (or Final Four)?
Perhaps it was nine-seed Florida State, who dispatched with 1-seed Xavier late on Sunday night. Or maybe it was Texas A&M, the 7-seed that obliterated 2-seed North Carolina in Charlotte to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. No, it was Nevada erasing a 22-point deficit to shock 2-seed Cincinnati.
Actually, it was UMBC, wasn’t it? The first 16-seed to ever defeat a 1-seed destroyed many a bracket on Friday when they decimated Virginia, considered by many to be the favorite to win the whole thing.
Whatever and whoever it was, it’s almost certain that your bracket is in ruins. Your only saving grace is that everyone else is in the same position as you, so all those red lines in your shoddily selected bracket don’t look quite as bad as they would normally.
But are you really upset about it? I mean, sure, if you’ve got a lot of money riding on this, it’s understandable that you’re pretty pissed off about all this fallout. But otherwise? Isn’t this amazing? Hasn’t this been one of the most exciting and thrilling NCAA Tournaments in years?
Putting together a great bracket is fulfilling, but getting to witness this deluge of fantastic finishes, shocking upsets, and surprise Sweet Sixteen appearances is really what it’s all about.
Now, some hot take artist is bound to say that all of this is going to lead to a boring second weekend (our money is on Skip), but don’t listen to that. That’s for people who don’t actually watch that much college basketball. They just care about the names on the front of the jerseys, not about the stories being told by the players wearing them.
The most upset-heavy tourney I remember was 2000, when two No. 8 seeds reached Final Four.
The combined seed total in Sweet 16 was 85.
This year: 85.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) March 19, 2018
Just how wild has this tournament been? If you add up all the remaining seeds, it makes for the highest total number since 2000. Both years add up to 85. We were still a ways away from the “new world order” that was kicked off by George Mason’s Final Four run in 2006, but the Sweet Sixteen was loaded with high seeds such as Seton Hall (10), Gonzaga (10), Wisconsin (8), and North Carolina (8). Only two 1-seeds made it out of the first weekend (Duke, Michigan State).
Half of the 1-3 seeds didn’t make it to the second weekend.
(Virginia, Xavier, UNC, Cincy, Tennessee, Michigan State)
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) March 19, 2018
That last stat seems to be the key factor. In 2018, only two 1-seeds will advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2004 (Villanova, Kansas). The high seeds dragging up the total include two 11-seeds (Loyola-Chicago, Syracuse) and two 9-seeds (Florida State, Kansas State).
The only year crazier than this one, at least in terms of seed totals, was 1986 (89).
Presuming WVU victory, the Sweet 16 seeds will total 85. Highest since 85 in 2000. Record high is 89 in 1986.
— David Teel (@DavidTeelatDP) March 19, 2018
In 1986, all hell broke loose in terms of high seeds advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. They included a 14-seed (Cleveland State), 12-seed (DePaul), and an 11-seed (LSU). The Tigers made a shock appearance in the Final Four but that was offset by two 1-seeds (Duke, Kansas) and a 2-seed (Louisville), giving people the best of both worlds. You got to have the fun of all those upsets coupled with an ending where the “best” teams battled it out for the title (eventually won by Louisville).
Perhaps that will still happen in 2018 as well. In spite of all the craziness, there are still plenty of bluebloods involved. If we assumed the lowest seed in each region eventually makes it to the Final Four, that would include Villanova (1), Kansas (1), Michigan (3), and Kentucky (5). By all accounts, that’d be a Final Four to satisfy the traditionalists and TV ratings watchers.
Of course, the rest of us will be hoping for even more chaos. Maybe casual viewers won’t tune in to see Loyola-Chicago continue its epic run, but who would want to see it end now (aside from Nevada fans)? Texas Tech, Purdue, Clemson, and Kansas State have been around, but it’d be fun to see one or two of them break through for a Final Four appearance instead of the usual suspects.
The point is that the 2018 version of the NCAA Tournament still has plenty more stories to tell. While the first two rounds were chaotic and thrilling, we don’t yet know what that means for the second weekend. Whatever happens from here, we’re sure that you’re simply trying to salvage a wrecked bracket and find a way to pick up a win with the one or two Final Four teams you have remaining.
But rather than focus on any frustration with that, consider all the carnage that took place Thursday-to-Sunday to put you in that place. Remember how you felt watching UMBC lay waste to Virginia. What it was like to see Loyola celebrate and Nevada complete its comeback. To watch Buffalo declaw the Arizona Wildcats or see Marshall shock the Shockers.
No matter how it ends up, it was all well worth the trouble.