By Max Calderone | Sports Writer
March is the best time of the year for college basketball fans — a time where favorites fall and underdogs rise.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the opening weekend of the 2018 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, it’s that anything can, and will, happen.
1. Expect the unexpected:
In the last 10 years, No. 12 seeds are 25-14-1 over a No. 5 seed in the first round of the tournament, according to oddsshark.com. This year, No. 5 seeds were 4-0 in the opening weekend and three of them have advanced to the Sweet 16. Forget about the popular upset pick. The tournament is full of unpredictability.
In place of the No. 12 seeds failing to advance, two No. 13 seeds pulled off stunning victories as Buffalo beat No. 4 Arizona and Marshall eliminated No. 4 Wichita State. They were two of six double-digit seeds that advanced to the second round.
2. Cinderella teams will come out of nowhere:
Each year, people fill out their brackets and pick maybe one or two teams they think can shock the nation. This year, Loyola-Chicago, a 28-5 team from the Missouri Valley Conference, became the highest seed to reach the Sweet 16 after upsetting No. 6 Miami and defeating No. 3 Tennessee.
No. 11 Syracuse, a bubble team that earned the final spot in the tournament, had to play its way into the field of 64. Not only did it escape the play-in round with a win over Arizona State, but it advanced to upset No. 6 TCU and take down No. 3 Michigan State, a heavy tournament favorite to win it all.
3. Stars will be born:
So often in March, teams that make a run to the Final Four are carried on the backs of star players. This year, we saw impressive performances by Houston’s senior guard Rob Gray, who scored 39 points in his team’s first round victory over and 23 points in a second-round loss to Michigan.
Marshall’s junior guard Jon Elmore was four for eight from beyond the arc in the Thundering Herd’s first round upset of Wichita State and West Virginia’s senior guard Jevon Carter has earned national attention putting up 21 and 28 as the Mountaineers advanced to the Sweet 16.
4. Hearts will be broken:
Each year, March brings its fair share of big-time shots and buzzer-beating heartbreakers that crush team’s hopes of moving on in the Big Dance.
This year was no exception as Loyola Chicago’s senior guard Donte Ingram hit a last-second three against Miami in the first round and Michigan’s Jordan Poole drilled a shot from deep to eliminate Houston as time expired in the second round.
5. History will be made:
For the first time ever, a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed, as UMBC destroyed the top-overall seed Virginia 74-54. UMBC was promptly ousted by No. 9 Kansas State in the second round, but not to dismiss the significance of the Retrievers’ opening round victory.
No. 16 seeds are 1-135 all-time in the tournament. The fact that this came against this year’s best all-around team makes the upset that much more special.
No matter who cuts down the nets at the end of the season, the remainder of this year’s tournament is sure to bring us more thrilling finishes, big time performances, clutch last-second shots and unexpected moments.
It’s what makes March Madness the best time of the year.