I can’t remember a year that March Madness hasn’t lived up to its name, but this year it’s really living up to its name. There have been some blowouts (some shocking, like Texas A&M blowing out a veteran UNC team), but the first four days of this year’s NCAA Tournament have delivered amazing moments that will live on forever. These four stand out from the weekend.
No. 16 seed UMBC pulls off the impossible
There’s no question what the best moment of the tournament’s first weekend was, and I have to ask…did that really happen? No. 1 seeds were previously 135-0 versus No. 16 seeds, and I and many other people did not think we would see anything but a zero ever end up in that loss column. But that is why you play the game and why sports are great. UMBC—which not to take a cheap shot, but the fact of the matter is not many people heard of them until Friday night—put themselves on the map with their dominant win versus Virginia.
During the first half, it seemed like one of those games where the low seed might hang around with the superior team for a bit before the higher seed pulls away in the second half. At the start of the second half it looked like it would become a game that Virginia would need to battle into the final minutes to win. Then, when UMBC hit a transition three with just under 15 minutes to go in the game, the upset appeared to have a great shot of actually happening. And that it did.
The number one overall seed in the tournament didn’t look anything close to the way they did during the regular season and ACC Tournament (obviously), and by the end of the game it looked like the No. 16 seed was the No. 1 seed and the No. 1 seed was the No. 16 seed. Will this Cinderella win give other No. 16 seeds some juice to get more upsets in future years? After what UMBC did, we know it’s possible.
UMBC didn’t advance past the Round of 32 and into the Sweet 16, but you have to admire the fight they put up against Kansas State last night. They’ll forever be a part of history—perhaps as much as any team that hasn’t cut the nets to end the season.
Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean
It’s hard to beat UMBC’s story, but Loyola-Chicago is another Cinderella that has a legit shot to make the Final Four in a South Region that’s been absolutely bonkers this year. The No. 1 (Virginia), No. 2 (Cincinnati), No. 3 (Tennessee), and No. 4 (Arizona) seeds have all fallen, leaving No. 9 seed Kansas State, No. 5 seed Kentucky, No. 7 seed Nevada, and No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers probably think they have as good of a shot as anyone to come out of the South, and it’s hard to blame them. They knocked off an ACC and an SEC team in hard-fought games, and they now have 30 wins on the season—Loyola is no slouch.
However, the Rambler’s 98-year-old chaplain Sister Jean only picked the team to get to the Sweet 16. It was a funny moment after the game when Clayton Custer and the other players said they need to prove her wrong and keep advancing. But seriously, the joy on Sister Jean’s face and the face of all the players is a lot of fun to watch, as is the team on the court.
Nevada has some crazy celebrations
Speaking of fun to watch, Nevada had an epic comeback versus No. 2 seed Cincinnati, coming back from 22 points down in the final 11 minutes to win and advance to the Sweet 16. For nearly 75% of the game, it was complete domination by the Bearcats, and Nevada’s unbelievable comeback was almost like switching the difficult of a game in NBA 2K from “Hall of Fame” to “Rookie” to stage the comeback.
And even crazier than the comeback might have been head coach Eric Musselman running into the locker room and taking his shirt off to celebrate the win. What a character.
Buzzer-beaters and clutchness galore
The highlights, from Villanova catching absolute fire in the second half versus Alabama to Jordan Poole’s unbelievable buzzer-beater, tell the story.
The craziest part about Poole’s buzzer-beater to lift Michigan into the Sweet 16 is that he hit the exact same shot in high school.
If teams are up on Michigan and it comes down to the final possession, it might be a good idea to not allow Poole anywhere near that area of the court.