Perhaps even more than the bracket challenge, March Madness is known for Cinderella stories and game-changing upsets. In fact, it's the unexpected victories and shocking losses that make the bracket challenge so compelling in the first place. Just two rounds in, this year's biggest March Madness upsets have already busted many a bracket — and many teams' championship aspirations.
With a field of 68 teams, the annual NCAA men's basketball tournament is always destined for upsets from the start. Teams are ranked as "seeds" based loosely on their regular season performance and split into four regions, creating the iconic bracket outline. Often, teams play competitors that they don't meet during the regular season, making the match-ups all the more exciting and the outcomes all the more unpredictable.
Some memorable bracket-busting upsets from years past include Florida Gulf Coast's victory over Georgetown in 2013 and Lehigh's win against Duke in 2012. Both games pitted a number-15 seed versus a number-two seed — and the number-15 seed came out on top. This year, no perfect brackets remain in several of the online bracket challenges. That's an indication of the tournament's upsets, but here's how they actually went down in the first and second rounds of play.
My very favorite moment from last night’s Duke choke against South Carolina: pic.twitter.com/UMpFt48CmA— John Gruber (@gruber) March 21, 2017
Duke is the team that everyone loves to watch lose. After winning the ACC championship, the Blue Devils went into the overall tournament as a number-two seed. As it turns out, two was actually the number of rounds they'd see, as the Blue Devils lost to seven-seeded South Carolina in the second round.
Heading into this year's tournament, Villanova had the most to lose. Last year's champs went in with a number-one seed and handily beat Mount Saint Mary's in the first round. During the second round, though, Villanova lost to number-eight seed Wisconsin.
Who had Michigan upsetting Louisville? pic.twitter.com/wYemtvNPXu— Matt Prehm (@Prehmmr247) March 19, 2017
Like the South Carolina-Duke match-up, number-seven seed Michigan upset number-two seed Louisville in the second round on Sunday. Next, Michigan will take on Oregon, a number-three seed.
Unlike the previous upset victims, Southern Methodist University never even made it to the second round. The number-six seed lost to number-11 seed University of Southern California (USC). The game came down to a late three-point shot by USC's Elijah Stewart. The victory was short-lived, though, as USC went on to lose to Baylor in the second round.
Last week, the University of Rhode Island (URI) earned its first NCAA tournament victory since 1998. The number-11 seed upset number-six seed Creighton in the first round of play. In the second round, URI held its own but ultimately succumbed to number-three seed Oregon in a close game.
Just two rounds into this year's tournament, Xavier is a two-time upset victor. Xavier entered the tournament as a number-11 seed, but the Musketeers beat number-six Maryland in the first round. Then, Xavier topped number-three seed Florida State with a whopping 25-point victory. Next, Xavier takes on number-two seed Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen.
When you pick Middle Tennessee State to beat Minnesota in your bracket... pic.twitter.com/LqNnmMse0D— Brett Kennedy (@KCKennedy93) March 17, 2017
Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is no stranger to lists of March Madness upsets. Last year, MTSU upset number-two seed Michigan State, knocking out a team that many bracket-makers had selected to win it all. This year, some fans may have seen an upset coming, as MTSU, a number-12 seed, knocked out Minnesota, a number-five seed.
As much as Duke losing ruined my bracket, it's nice to see them lose.— Joe Cook (@JoePlaysLax) March 21, 2017
Until the net comes down, the March Madness champion is never a sure thing. With each annual tournament, though, one thing is certain: The upsets will keep things interesting.