NCAA Tournament 2014: Biggest Upsets Through the Round of 32
After a weekend of NCAA tournament basketball as unpredictable as ever, we've sorted through the twisted wreckage to rank the biggest bracket-busting upsets.
You've no doubt heard of the Richter scale, which measures the magnitude of earthquakes.
Today, we're introducing you to the Ripter scale. Games are rated based on the likelihood that you answered the question, "How does your bracket look after that game?" with an irate, "I don't know. I ripped her (Ripter) to shreds."
That's some classic dad humor right there, but you get the idea.
In the 48 games that were played over the last four days, there were 13 upsets. Here's how we rank them from least to most shocking.
No. 9 Pittsburgh over No. 8 Colorado
Ripter Scale: 0.01/10
Pittsburgh was the heavy favorite in this one, so it wasn't remotely surprising that the Panthers won the game.
If anything was shocking about this one, it was the 28-point that they held at halftime. They scored more points in the first half against Colorado than they did in the subsequent game against Florida.
Talib Zanna was simply unstoppable in the paint. Frankly, the entire team was. Pittsburgh made 27 of its 47 two-point field-goal attempts for a shooting percentage of 57.4.
If you had Colorado winning this Thursday-afternoon game, it might have ended your dreams of a perfect bracket, but it didn't kill your chances of winning a bracket pool. That is, unless you also had Colorado beating Florida.
If that's the case, you probably weren't even trying to win.
No. 11 Tennessee over No. 6 Massachusetts
Ripter Scale: 0.8/10
Between the ending of the First Four game between Iowa and Tennessee on Wednesday night and the start of the tournament on Thursday, there wasn't a ton of time to evaluate this pairing.
But we were so confident in Massachusetts' ability to lose to either team that we were taking "TBD" to win that Round of 64 game from the moment the brackets were released.
This was a case of two teams heading in completely opposite directions.
Tennessee didn't quite knock off Florida in the SEC tournament, but the Volunteers gave the No. 1 overall seed just about all it could handle. That seven-point loss to the Gators was the only time in the month of March that they didn't win a game by double digits.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts entered the tournament having lost seven of its last 15 games. The Minutemen's primary big man, Cady Lalanne, was playing hopelessly uninspired basketball, having failed to record 10 points or 10 rebounds in the previous six games.
Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes saw fit to extend that streak to seven games for Lalanne, as Tennessee simply throttled Massachusetts for a 19-point win.
Similar to the previous slide, though, even if you had Massachusetts winning this game, you probably didn't have the Minutemen advancing to the Sweet 16.
Still, even though it happens with a fair degree of regularity, it's a pretty decent upset when a No. 11 seed defeats a No. 6 seed.
No. 6 Baylor over No. 3 Creighton
Ripter Scale: 2.7/10
Even if Creighton had won the national championship, we were eventually going to have to come to grips with losing Doug McDermott.
But not like this.
Not in a 30-point blowout in which he had four first-half points in a game that was over at halftime. Not in a game in which the most efficient offense in the country struggled to avoid its season low in points scored, despite playing against a team that just barely entered the game in the top 100 in defensive efficiency.
Baylor didn't much care about the fact that we all wanted at least one more weekend of Dougie McBuckets.
The Bears were on fire. After 11 field-goal attempts and just over 10 minutes, they already held a 26-9 lead. They made seven of their first eight three-point attempts, finishing the night shooting 63.8 percent from the field and 61.1 percent from three-point range.
Basically, Creighton got Creighton'd.
The Bluejays spent the entire game playing from behind, and never even had a chance to make it close. Early in the second half, they scored on four out of five possessions, but merely cut the lead from 22 to 19 as Baylor went punch for punch with them.
The margin of victory was a pretty huge surprise.
The upset itself, though? Not so much. Baylor has been dominating the month of March, and—McDermott's senior night notwithstanding—Creighton had been sputtering for a little while. Since the Bluejays' big wins over Villanova and Marquette, they were 5-3 with a few too many close wins and not nearly enough defense.
Did I pick Creighton to beat Baylor in my bracket? Absolutely. But I was picking with my heart.
To a certain degree, we all were.
No. 12 Harvard over No. 5 Cincinnati
Ripter Scale: 3.2/10
Harvard put itself on the basketball map last season with a much more shocking second-round upset of No. 3 seed New Mexico.
Even if you hadn't watched a single minute of a Harvard game this season, you were at least wary that this could be one of those classic No. 12-No. 5 upsets.
Last year's New Mexico team relied heavily upon Kendall Williams to handle the scoring load. The Crimson focused their defense on Williams, and held him to just eight points on one made field goal.
They didn't quite shut down Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick that drastically, but they gave themselves an excellent chance to win by holding SK2K to less than 20 points.
After the loss, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin told reporters, according to The Associated Press (via ESPN), "In my mind, today's game was anything but an upset...They got real players. They got high major players. They can play against anybody."
Coupled with nearly getting an earth-shattering win over Michigan State in the round of 32, it'll be a while before we doubt the athletic abilities of those brainiacs again.
No. 12 North Dakota State over No. 5 Oklahoma
Ripter Scale: 3.5/10
This one didn't shock me in the least. I went out on a serious limb by picking NC Central to knock off Iowa State, but if forced to pick just one double-digit seed to pull off a round of 64 upset, I would've picked the Bison.
My hubris aside, North Dakota State busted a lot of brackets.
Between New Mexico State's pithy performance in last year's tournament and San Diego State's affiliation with a conference that never does well in the tournament, it wouldn't have been a bad move to pore over Oklahoma vs. North Dakota State and simply advance your winner at least as far as the Sweet 16.
So as the Bison got to the rim at will against the Sooners' abstract interpretation of frontcourt defense, a lot of people started perforating their brackets for the impending tear.
When Lawrence Alexander sunk four straight free throws to put the finishing touches on his career-high 28 points for the Summit League champions, thousands of people abandoned their dreams of winning a bracket pool.
If you were among that group of downtrodden prognosticators, those of us who maintained false hope until the round of 32 are envious of the extra 48 hours of unnecessary stress that you were able to avoid.
No. 10 Stanford over No. 7 New Mexico
Ripter Scale: 3.7/10
By seeding, this one wasn't nearly as surprising as the previous three games on the list.
But if you listened to the way everyone was talking about New Mexico's ability to beat Kansas, you'd have thought that the New Mexico vs. Stanford game wasn't even going to be played. The Lobos were effectively given a bye into the round of 32.
The Cardinal had other ideas.
Stanford jumped out to an early 20-4 lead. New Mexico would eventually storm back to tie the game at 45 midway through the second half, but Chasson Randle's 23 points were just enough to carry Stanford to a 58-53 victory.
For the second straight tournament, Kendall Williams was a virtual no-show for the Lobos. Williams averaged 16.0 points per game during the season, but connected on just 1-of-9 from the field for a grand total of three points in the loss.
We'll never know how a Kansas team without Joel Embiid would have fared against New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk. Based on the Jayhawks' struggles with Stanford's Stefan Nastic and Dwight Powell, though, it seems the experts were on to something in picking that upset.
No. 7 Connecticut over No. 2 Villanova
Ripter Scale: 4.3/10
If your most vivid memories of Villanova's season were the blowout losses to Creighton and the disappointing loss to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament, this one was less of an upset and more of a foregone conclusion.
With the exception of Wichita State and perhaps Florida, every team entered the tournament with at least one head-scratching loss. For some reason, though, many were unwilling to forgive Villanova's transgressions.
On both ends of the court, Villanova lived and died by the three-pointer. Seton Hall shot 42.1 percent from long range against the Wildcats. In their other three losses, Syracuse and Creighton shot a combined 58.7 percent.
In three of those four losses, Villanova shot worse than 35 percent on its own three-point attempts.
So it's no surprise to look at the box score from Saturday night's game and see that Connecticut shot 45 percent from three-point range, while Villanova shot just 35.5 percent.
It was more than just that, though, because Shabazz Napier and Lasan Kromah simply willed the Huskies to victory.
Playing through excruciating pain, Napier scored 25 points. Kromah added a dozen points and four steals, including stripping Darrun Hilliard II with 100 seconds remaining to effectively extinguish Villanova's slim hopes at a comeback.
No. 8 Kentucky over No. 1 Wichita State
Ripter Scale: 5.0/10
There have been marginally more exciting games with more on the line (later in the tournament), but I don't think it's an overreaction to say that this was one of the 10 most memorable NCAA tournament games in my lifetime.
Forget about the mid-major serving as a favorite against perhaps the most major program in the country. Throw out the fact that Wichita State was working on an undefeated season against the team that had fans printing 40-0 shirts before the year began.
Certainly, those things added to the pregame hype, but that was just phenomenal basketball from tipoff to the final shot Fred VanVleet missed at the buzzer.
Exciting as the game wasn't, Kentucky's win wasn't a massive surprise.
Yes, Wichita State was the first No. 1 seed eliminated from the tournament, but more than 30 percent of brackets on ESPN called the upset, and Kentucky was only a 4.5-point underdog, according to Odds Shark.
Not to mention, with Duke, Kansas and Syracuse having already lost by the time this game tipped off, most brackets had already been ripped to shreds.
Unless something truly incredible happens in the final 15 games, this is the game that we'll eventually look back on and remember as the most intriguing of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 VCU
Ripter Scale: 5.5/10
As a team with a gaudy record against a dismal schedule, Stephen F. Austin entered the NCAA tournament as a much, much less heralded version of Wichita State.
Plenty of people picked this upset, but none of us really had any idea what to expect when the Lumberjacks played against a "real" team. After all, they played just one game all season against a team in the RPI top 95, and it was a 10-point loss to Texas more than four months ago.
At times, it looked like VCU was going to go on one of those defense-infused runs to put the game out of reach. Midway through the second half, the Rams outscored the Lumberjacks 9-0 in a span of 66 seconds. That was in the midst of a three-minute stretch in which Stephen F. Austin committed seven turnovers and attempted just one field goal.
Heck, with 10 seconds left, VCU had about a 110-percent chance of winning the game. The Rams were up by four and heading to the free-throw line. Jordan Burgess missed both free throws before JeQuan Lewis committed the worst foul of the entire season, allowing the Lumberjacks to make up the four-point deficit on one possession.
And then in overtime, Lewis missed a wide-open three-pointer with five seconds remaining that could have won the game for VCU.
Here's hoping the freshman can one day mentally recover from those lapses, but I think it's safe to say the Rams greatly missed Melvin Johnson, who was out with a knee injury.
No. 10 Stanford over No. 2 Kansas
Ripter Scale: 6.5/10
Throughout the season, North Carolina, Indiana, Baylor and Oregon took turns sitting on the throne of "most inconsistent team in the country," but Stanford never got its due.
In early November, the Cardinal played an 89-possession game against BYU, giving up 112 points in the process. Five weeks later, they held Connecticut to 51 points in a 63-possession game.
In five games against the efficient offenses of UCLA, Oregon and Pittsburgh, they allowed 1.24 points per possession on defense. But against the even more efficient offense of Kansas, they held the Jayhawks to 57 points and 0.85 points per possession.
The absence of Joel Embiid was more than Kansas could handle.
Tarik Black had an impressive game in the paint, scoring 18 points on 6-of-8 from the field and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. However, the rest of the Jayhawks combined to shoot 23.5 percent from two-point range. Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis contested just about every shot within 15 feet of the hoop.
Stanford missed each of its nine three-point attempts and committed 16 turnovers in the game, but those mistakes were nothing compared to Kansas' inability to make layups and short-range jumpers. Had Embiid played and Perry Ellis been at full strength, things likely would have been different.
Nevertheless, the Cardinal are astoundingly moving on to the Sweet 16.
No. 11 Dayton over No. 6 Ohio State
Ripter Scale: 6.8/10
Had this game been played at any other point in the day, it wouldn't have registered this many shock waves.
However, there's something downright sickening about watching basketball for four months and dissecting the tournament field for four days only to have the first game of the round of 64 end your deluded hopes of a perfect bracket.
The game was even playing out exactly how any Aaron Craft enthusiast could have possibly dreamed.
The Buckeyes were down by one point in the final four minutes, but Craft scored seven of the team's final nine points, including the acrobatic layup that put the team ahead by a point with 17 seconds to go.
Then, on Dayton's final possession, Vee Sanford had the audacity to drive to the hoop against the greatest on-ball defender in the history of the world. But he made the shot. And Craft missed his potential game-winner.
Just like that, we had our first major upset of the tournament. Dayton still had bigger fish to fry, though.
No. 11 Dayton over No. 3 Syracuse
Ripter Scale: 8.2/10
With the way Syracuse summarily dismissed Western Michigan in the round of 64, and the manner in which Dayton just barely squeaked past a slightly over-seeded Ohio State team, it seems that no one even considered the possibility that the Flyers would upset the Orange until it was already happening.
I won't say that Dayton didn't deserve to win, but Syracuse shot 0-of-10 from three-point range—and the vast majority of those shots were wide-open looks. Dayton committed 14 turnovers, but the Orange had just six points off of those turnovers; this coming after they scored 19 points off of 13 Western Michigan turnovers on Thursday.
At the other end, Dayton was making contested threes and getting incredibly lucky bounces on others—particularly on Scoochie Smith's three-pointer with 5:33 remaining in the game. Smith hadn't made a three since Feb. 22, but the freshman's long-range jumper thumped between the back of the rim and the backboard before falling through the net.
It was one of those shots you would have apologized for making in a pick-up game.
His unbelievable bucket came just 10 seconds after C.J. Fair's mid-range jumper to give Syracuse the lead was more than halfway through the hoop before rattling out.
Ball don't lie, and that ball wanted Dayton to further destroy our brackets.
No. 14 Mercer over No. 3 Duke
Ripter Scale: 9.5/10
The Atlantic Sun strikes again!
Duke drained 15 three-pointers and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, but had no answer whatsoever when Mercer got within 15 feet of the hoop. The Bears were 20-of-32 from two-point range and 23-of-28 from the free-throw line in their stunning win over the Blue Devils.
If you thought Mercer screwed up your bracket, try to put yourself in this guy's shoes. This Catman1985 character correctly picked 31 out of 32 games in the round of 64, but he had Duke winning the national championship.
Now, this person filled out at least 10 brackets on ESPN, so no one feels too badly for him. Still, it has to be pretty depressing to get 97 percent of the games right and already know you have basically no chance of winning anything.
It didn't quite register a 10 out of 10 on the Ripter scale—we're saving that for the day that a No. 16 seed finally wins a game—but Mercer killed more brackets in 2014 than any other team.
Coincidentally, the Bears also set the world record for number of people who gleefully laughed like a little school girl as they ripped their brackets to shreds. If America was going to be wrong, it couldn't have been much happier about Duke being on the losing end of its pain.