NCAA Tournament 2011: Sweet 16 and Why We Love Our Bracket Busters

Robert IvaniszynCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 24:  Alex Tyus #23 of the Florida Gators and Noah Hartsock #34 of the Brigham Young Cougars tip off to start their game during the Southeast regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at New Orleans Arena on March 24, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Fans of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are no strangers to “bracket busters.” In fact, many of the people who watch March Madness love the Cinderella, underdog and lower ranked teams, because it is a classic David vs. Goliath battle.

In this tournament, there have been plenty of them, including Butler past the lower seeded but higher regarded Old Dominion, No. 1 seeded Pitt and No. 4 seeded Wisconsin on their way to the Elite Eight.

Then there is Arizona, who knocked off No. 4 Texas in a one point victory and rolled through the No. 1 seed in the West Regional in Duke, winning 93-77 against the Blue Devils.

Then there were two underdogs in the Southwest who ended up having to fight each other: Richmond and Morehead State. Richmond took down No. 5 seeded Vanderbilt by three while Morehead State ended the hopes of a very strong Louisville team. Richmond later won the battle of the underdogs and earned the privilege to go up against No. 1 Kansas Friday night.

The Southwest wasn’t done however, as Virginia Commonwealth routed Purdue while the Seminoles from Florida State did the same to No. 2 seeded Notre Dame. The No. 11 and No. 10 seeds respectively also square off on Friday night to determine who moves on to the elusive Elite Eight.

And who could forget Marquette, who takes on perennial favorite North Carolina earlier Friday evening. The Golden Eagles are shooting for their first Elite Eight appearance since 2003, when they went all the way to the Final Four. 

That’s without mentioning UConn. who continued their run as a No. 3 seed by defeating No.2 San Diego State, who had only lost two games all season—both to BYU—coming into their matchup with the Big East’s (and perhaps the nations) hottest team.

UConn was hardly an underdog, but they were up against a higher seeded team who had been one of the most potent teams all year long and was looking to make a strong showing as one of the relative newcomers to the Madness.

What all this bracket busting has left us with then is two No. 1 seeds knocked off by the Sweet 16, two No. 2 seeds already gone, and 14 wins by lower seeded teams out of 56 games played. That’s exactly 25 percent of the games in this tournament.

The reasons for all these upsets are too many to count between a complicated seeding process, lower ranked teams who got hot late in the year—and vice versa—and in the case of some such as Butler, pure luck that your opponent hands you the ball and gives you free throws for the victory.

Of the games left in the Sweet 16 this year, only Marquette has a real chance of pulling an upset. They are riding high after consecutive wins over Xavier and Syracuse, and that might be enough to take down North Carolina and leave Florida as the sole No. 2 seed left in the tourney.

VCU could beat Florida State, but is an 11 beating a 10 that much of an upset even this far into the Big Dance?

Of the underdogs that are left, don’t be surprised to see the Butler Bulldogs make another run for the Final. They may not look like much on paper, but they find ways to win however necessary, and they rarely make mistakes that come back to bite them.

Even if the bracket busting ends here, this has been a year for the Cinderella story to leave its mark and unless you root for one of the teams whom they have knocked out earlier than you hoped, those underdog wins have been exhilarating and have reminded us why we watch March Madness.

They remind us why we don’t care when these teams ruin the brackets we work so hard to prepare.

The simple fact is that we love these underdog teams because they embody the tenacity, drive and dream that is the very essence of the American Dream, and what could be more tear-jerking, exciting and entertaining than that?

We love March Madness because there are no CBAs, labor talks, lockouts, whiny overpaid stars or huge trades or contracts.

We love it, because it is a sporting event for the pure love of competition, winning, team pride and the love of the game.