March Madness Living Up to Its Name as Underdogs Take Over in Historic Fashion

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2018

Nevada is one of two No. 7 seeds that stunned the college basketball world Sunday.
Nevada is one of two No. 7 seeds that stunned the college basketball world Sunday.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It was awfully kind of March Madness to allow the college basketball world a chance to breathe Thursday. Since then, the 2018 men's NCAA tournament has included little else but mayhem and carnage.

Entering the Sweet 16, we've already lost nine of the 16 highest-ranked teams in the Big Dance, including a pair of No. 1 seeds, one of which lost in historic fashion.

On Sunday alone, No. 1 Xavier, No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 2 North Carolina, No. 3 Michigan State and No. 4 Auburn all bowed out of the tournament. Of the six top-four seeds in action, only No. 2 Purdue survived its matchup to reach the Sweet 16.

We saw favorites escape early drama before a little bit of madness graced the sport's landscape Friday and Saturday, knocking out Virginia, Arizona and Wichita State along the way.

But this...this was utter pandemonium.

Michigan State clanged shot after shot off an unfriendly iron, finishing a season-worst 25.8 percent from the field while launching 37 of its 66 attempts from beyond the arc. The Spartans out-rebounded Syracuse, 51-30, yet failed to make a field goal throughout the last 5:43, losing 55-53 to the 11th-seeded Orange.

North Carolina had identical problems on offense, resulting in the worst loss of Roy Williams' career in the NCAA tournament. Texas A&M dismantled the Tar Heels, who connected on just six of their 31 three-point tries, by a final score of 86-65.

Auburn simply disappeared midway through the first half against Clemson, surrendering a 41-9 run that sealed the result. It was a mind-numbing performance from the Midwest's No. 4 team. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 31-point margin matched the most lopsided loss by an SEC team in March Madness.

While that collapse unfolded, Cincinnati ceded the largest post-halftime comeback in NCAA tournament history. Nevada recovered from a 22-point deficit to stunningly dispatch the No. 2 team in the South Region, which had already lost top-seeded Virginia in the first-ever men's 1-16 upset.

Xavier also unraveled down the stretch. Ninth-seeded Florida State worked its way back from a nine-point deficit in the final six minutes and upended the Musketeers, 75-70. The loss ensured two No. 1 seeds wouldn't reach the Sweet 16 for only the fourth time in NCAA tournament history, per NCAA stats director David Worlock.

Once foul trouble limited J.P. Macura, Xavier's lead against Florida State quickly vanished.
Once foul trouble limited J.P. Macura, Xavier's lead against Florida State quickly vanished.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Michigan State, Cincinnati and Xavier all effectively lost at the buzzer. Heck, second-seeded Purdue needed a poorly handled half-court heave to escape Butler. The only shades of normalcy happened in an unaesthetic slugfest between Kansas State and UMBC and West Virginia's demolition of in-state nemesis Marshall.

Are you still holding out hope for your bracket?

Let's remedy that: Find some scissors. Head to the shredder. Make a paper airplane and throw it out the window.

The NCAA tournament is now a complete messin a fascinating way. If you haven't already, sit back and enjoy the show.

Nine of the remaining teams are seeded fifth or lower, which is the highest number since eight reached the Sweet 16 in 2010. The only matchup with the "expected" teams is No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech in the East Region.

If that doesn't seem wild, consider this: According to the Bracket Project, a record is bound to be broken in the Elite Eight thanks to the absurdity of the South Region:

From the 17.3 million entries submitted to ESPN's Tournament Challenge, 13 teams represented at least 2 percent of the championship-winning picks. After just four days of action, six of those programs are already eliminated from contention.

In their place, it's Loyola-Chicago writing a thrilling Cinderella story with Sister Jean, a 98-year-old nun, as the unofficial hypewoman. It's Syracusethe absolute last at-large team added to the fieldwinning three games in five nights.

It's short-handed Clemson reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in 21 years and two No. 7 seeds, Nevada and Texas A&M, overcoming point spreads listed at over seven points on OddsShark. It's No. 9 Kansas State toppling UMBC after the little guy's stunning upset.

By next Saturday, one of those surprise schools will have secured a place in the Elite Eight. Loyola and Nevada will battle for one spot. The others all take on highly respected, brand-name opponents, so conventional wisdom suggests they'll all be gone.

However, the 2018 men's tournament has reminded us of something important: The basketball world's predictions don't mean a whole lot.

We promised an exceptionally mad March. But this is even beyond our wildest expectations.

     

Stats via Sports Reference and NCAA.com unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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