As the first week of spring rolls around in March, change is palpable in the air. This feeling has held true historically: it’s when prophecy foretold legendary ruler Julius Caesar would meet his demise. However, some of fate’s twists and turns are a little less certain. For sports fans of the hardwood variety, tournament-style college basketball gives us our fix of unpredictable action. Sixty-four of America’s top teams face off against one another in an elimination tournament until one hoists the trophy (and, per tradition, one of its players proudly wears the game net around his neck).
The tournament’s knockout format adds to the unpredictability. One of the country’s top-ranked schools can fall victim to a sleeper pick by way of match-up just as easily as it can lose by underestimating an opponent. Let’s take a look at some of the upsets that have occurred thus far, who remains and who is most likely to stand among the elite as the national champions.
Photo: Andrew Ferguson/The Associated Press
Jabari Parker: out. Tyler Ennis: out. Andrew Wiggins: out. They were three of the tournament’s biggest names (and arguably the top three picks in the next NBA draft), and yet their respective programs have already taken early exits in this tournament. Nobody could have predicted it, and indeed they were the favourite contenders of this year’s March Madness—but that just speaks to the fickle nature of this competition. A team can have an outstanding season all year round, but have the bad fortune to be matched up against a squad that exposes its weaknesses as a whole.
Then again, Ohio State (ranked sixth in the NCAA) getting knocked out by Dayton (ranked 11th) should have been somewhat anticipated, as theirs was the first major upset of the tourney. After that it was a domino effect of disappointment as Mercer (ranked 14th) dealt with Duke (ranked third), and Stanford (ranked 10th) kicked Kansas (ranked second) to the curb. Although these outcomes look like upsets at first glance, one can also see them as a simple changing of the guard.
However, the question remains as to whether such upsets, which inevitably will occur due to the tournament’s format, might hurt the draft stock of big names such as Wiggins, Parker, or Ennis. This is highly unlikely, with most freshman phenoms choosing to declare for the draft after their first year of college play. In effect, their portfolios are based on how they had played throughout that initial year itself.
Photo: AP/Jae C. Hong
What happens next as the Final Four face off will see more predictions dashed. From the Sweet Sixteen all the way through to the Elite Eight, Florida St. continued showing their dominance, putting an end to Dayton’s Cinderella story. That clinched their matchup against Connecticut, who beat out Michigan State for their own Final Four berth. The clash between Arizona and Wisconsin, who had proven themselves the titans of the west, ended in a stunningly close 64-63 game in Wisconsin’s favour. Now, they’ll have to face Kentucky for the Championships.
The big question to wrap up everything is who will win the big one? This year has proven to be a bad one if you’ve been betting on brackets, however, if we were gambling men, we’d say that Florida State has been the most consistent of the powerhouses in this tourney and have beaten all of their opponents by double-digit margins. Many pundits had Florida State in their Final Four and it’s not an inconceivable thought to not only keep them there, but to have them winning the whole thing.
All in all, it will be an exciting finish to the tournament. The Final Four will duke it out April 5, and the championship game is expected April 7.