March Madness is always filled with unbelievable upsets and finishes. This year’s tournament is no exception.
There were many surprises in the early rounds, none more shocking than initial wins by Middle Tennessee State University and Stephen F. Austin University.
The Michigan State Spartans, coming off of a Big Ten Conference championship, lost in the first round in a huge upset to the 15th seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.
This was only the eighth victory in the history of the NCAA Tournament of a 15-seed over a 2-seed.
The Spartans, who many analysts believed deserved a No. 1 placement in the tournament, exited in the first round after having the second-best betting odds at 5-to-1 to win the national championship.
The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, a 14-seed, took an early lead to third-seeded West Virginia University in the first round of the East region.
Stephen F. Austin had previous tournament success for a mid-major program, winning a game as a 12-seed in 2014 in the team’s first of three straight appearances.
The Lumberjacks took this experience into their opening weekend matchups, beating a swaggering West Virginia University team with ease, 70-56, in the first round.
They then held a lead against the sixth-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish for most of the game, with their first trip to the second weekend in reach.
Stephen F. Austin held a one-point lead on the final possession, when Notre Dame drove the length of the court and scored off an offensive rebound with two seconds remaining, ending the Lumberjacks’ season.
The tournament also had some great comebacks in the opening weekend.
Northern Iowa University held a 12-point lead over Texas A&M with 35 seconds remaining, a near impossible task for A&M to overcome.
Even the game’s announcers believed that the result was a given.
However, due to a bombardment of easy layups off of a series of turnovers from Northern Iowa, A&M was able to tie the game as time expired.
They then moved into overtime, where A&M eventually outlasted Northern Iowa in one of the biggest collapses in tournament history.
Another big story in this year’s tournament is the Syracuse Orange’s run to the Final Four. Syracuse lost in the first round of their conference tournament, and had lost five of their last six games leading up to Selection Sunday.
They were not predicted by many to even the cut of 68 teams in the tournament.
Syracuse was given a 10-seed in the Midwest region by the committee, and defeated seventh-seeded University of Dayton and 15-seed Middle Tennessee State University in the opening weekend.
Syracuse advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round, where they defeated 11-seed Gonzaga University, and came back from a 16-point second-half deficit to beat the first-seeded University of Virginia, which punched their tickets to the Final Four.
Even though Syracuse faced weak opponents on their road to the Final Four, with the exception of Virginia, they should be commended for beating the teams on their schedule.
“It came out of nowhere, you couldn’t have expected Syracuse to make a run like this,” first-year Alex Touitou said.
Touitou said he only had the Orange advancing in a joke bracket filled with upsets.
The semifinal games will be played this weekend in Houston, Texas April 2, and the national championship will take place April 4.
The Villanova Wildcats will take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the first game, led by Player of the Year favorite Buddy Hield.
The second game will feature the North Carolina Tar Heels, the only first-seeded team to make the Final Four, who will take on the Syracuse Orange.