The Ten Storylines From The NCAA Tournament You'll Be Hearing A Lot About
Once again, March Madness is upon us. With just a handful of games having been played so far, the biggest bracket event of the season is already promising to be one of the most exciting in NCAA history. The 10 March Madness storylines to follow offer a glimpse into a season of play that no one was expecting, least of all detractors of 12 seed teams like Little Rock and Yale. The Ivy League powerhouse shocked the masses when it upset Baylor in a near photo finish of a game that saw the Bulldogs best the Blue Devils 79-75. The thriller was nothing compared to Little Rock's double overtime win against Purdue, however.
Purdue's loss echoes last year's fall from grace, when the Boilermakers flailed their way to an overtime upset against Louisville, turning a 7-point lead into a deficit they simply didn't have the time to recover from. Similar upsets occurred in record fashion, to the point that Yahoo Sports is estimating a mere 0.001 percent of March Madness brackets remaining untarnished by the day one and day two shockers. Whether you've been forced to start all over and recoup your bracket losses or have somehow stayed alive in what Bloomberg has dubbed the "fantasy sports feeding frenzy," be on the lookout for epic upsets and incredible opportunities from the teams you know and love as well as outsiders from the peripherals of NCAA basketball.
The Leaked Bracket
The unveiling of the NCAA men's basketball March Madness bracket has turned into its own spectacle of sorts with CBS sports offering up its longest ever reveal show this year. In what may have been a commentary on the length of the two-hour show, an anonymous source leaked the entire bracket nearly half an hour into the event. Sure, we're all aware of who's playing when and which teams made the cut, but the storyline has remained a focal point within the NCAA and beyond as online sleuths and CBS continue to piece together just who, exactly, leaked the information. Speaking with The New York Post about the leak, CBS' own Clark Kellogg had this to say:
It was a bit disheartening and deflating to know that it happened, and our show the last half hour was a bit of a moot point with people knowing what it would look like. It definitely took a little bit of air out of things, for me anyway
History Painfully Repeating Itself
It's been over two and a half decades since Oregon State made it to March Madness. Their 2016 return is big news for point guard Gary Payton II, whose legendary point guard father was the one who led the Beavers to their last tournament game in 1990. The team faced VCU on Friday afternoon and fell far short of advancing. As impressively as Payton fared, his momentum alone could not carry Oregon State. The team lost 75-67, essentially repeating the painful history of the Beavers losing in the first round again and again and again. Storylines such as this will continue to pop up as more and more teams live up to their pasts — sometimes in the worst of ways.
Tulsa's Curious Selection
If there's any team that will continue to puzzle bracket makers of all stripes, it's Tulsa. The lowly Golden Hurricanes somehow made it onto that leaked March Madness bracket, mystifying the likes of the team itself, including Tulsa Coach Frank Haith, who had this to say to The Tulsa World about getting in despite a series of recent heartbreaking losses leading up to their First Four game:
We felt really good about our résumé going into the Memphis game. Regardless of the stuff everybody was saying, we felt good about our résumé. After that game, what that did to us, I didn’t know. It’s obvious the committee valued our league and what we accomplished in nonleague and the league. What a blessing. God is so good. These guys deserve to play in the tournament. I’m so happy for them.
Tulsa's lone March Madness game ended in a loss against Michigan. They fell to the Wolverines in a 57-52 loss on Wednesday. Fans will continue to wonder what motivated the bracket gods to make such a questionable choice.
All The Rivalry Possibilities
The NCAA draws a hard line on deliberately placing rivalry teams against each other when drawing up the official March Madness bracket. Thanks a to a bit of luck and a system that favors overall wins without context to how recently a loss may have come, more and more rivalry teams will have the opportunity to square off in the high stakes setting. Possibilities include the absolute barnburner of Texas A&M versus Texas as well as the already guaranteed match-up of Kentucky taking on Indiana. The next rivalry game to be serendipitously played is Michigan versus Notre Dame, which is set to tip off on Friday night.
Duke Defending Its Title
Duke is the reigning March Madness team to beat and it sure does seem like the nation is rallying in favor of their losing. Nate Scott's biting commentary on America's most hated college basketball team presents a lose-lose scenario due to that aforementioned Yale upset. Scott says:
Everything is terrible. I hope the ball deflates and water gets on the court and they call the game on account of rain. We don’t deserve this.
Expect some fairly hilarious hot takes as fans take to social media to lampoon the champs they're hoping will lose.
Oh, how we'll miss you, Malcolm Brogdon. The ACC player of the year has been a force to be reckoned with in the face of adversity. He'll soon graduate with a Masters in Public Policy and high hopes for the NBA, as he'll be entering the draft. Brogdon's defensive prowess have made Virginia an ultra-effective team that somehow continues to fall short of its March Madness goals. This year, he's hoping to break records and jettison the Cavaliers past the Sweet 16 and into the Final Four. Similarly stellar seniors like A.J. English of Iona will be the ones to watch throughout this year's NCAA Tournament.
Rarely known for its basketball offerings, The Pac-12 has continued to surprise fans across the country with its healthy offering of teams headed to some of the biggest face-offs in college basketball. The only problem is that many of these teams have historically flopped during March Madness. Following an absolutely electric Vegas conference tourney, it appears that many of the conference's teams have simply run out of steam and are living up to the low expectations many fans have placed upon them. Already, Cal, Arizona, and USC have all been eliminated in the first round. Utah stands as the Pac-12's biggest hope, facing the topsy-turvy Gonzaga Bulldogs on Saturday night.
Michigan State's Big Loss
If you hadn't have already torn up your completed bracket following surprise wins from Little Rock and Yale, you've probably at least weighed the options of incinerating or shredding your picks now that everyone's favorite Michigan State has been eliminated by Middle Tennessee. Coach Tom Izzo, long lauded for his keen eye on recruitment, was left dumbfounded following the Spartans' loss as were player of the year candidate Denzel Valentine and clutch forward Matt Costello, who tied a personal best with 22 points scored on Friday. ESPN hailed the 90-81 loss as "one of the biggest upsets since the tournament began seeding teams in 1985."
High Expectations For Upsets
And I mean high. No one could've predicted Michigan State's major loss to Middle Tennessee. Far more were banking on big losses from even more unequal match-ups, however. According to the NCAA themselves, there's been no other March Madness quite like the 2016 season, in which everyone is banking on at least one major upset from a 16 seed team in their David and Goliath match-ups. Reality hasn't exactly reflected the many best being placed in favor of teams like Austin Peay, FGCU, and Hampton, however. It's up to Holy Cross to make at least one major upset a reality. The Crusaders will be facing Pac-12 sweethearts the Oregon Ducks on Friday night.