Eric Parks, Staff Writer
Every year, millions of college basketball fans construct a bracket in hopes that they can predict every game right. While nearly impossible every year (no one has ever done it), it was especially hard this year because of an unusually high rate of major upsets.
One team to surpass everyone’s expectations is Florida State. In the second round of the tournament, the No. 9 Seminoles upset No. 1 Xavier 75-70. In the next round, Florida State handled No. 4 Gonzaga easily, winning 75-60. Although most nine seeds don’t advance past the round of 32, Florida State was one of two to make it to the Elite 8. Trent Forrest and Terance Mann were key contributors in the upsets. Against Xavier, Forrest scored 13 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists. His steal with 1:18 remaining set up a 3-point shot by PJ Savory to give the Seminoles a 71-70 lead which Florida State retained for the remainder of the game. In the next round against Gonzaga, Terance Mann went 8-13 shooting (18 points) and added five rebounds in a game that saw the Seminoles lead for most of the game.
Another team with an incredible upset was the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. UMBC, who beat No. 1 Virginia 74-54, was the first ever 16 seed to upset a one seed in the first round of the tournament. At the end of the first half, the score was tied at 21, but the Retrievers dominated in the second half to win by a sizeable 20 points. UMBC guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, making nine of 11 from the field and seven of nine free throws. Although UMBC played a great game, the Cavaliers are also to blame for playing poorly. While Virginia made 39 percent of 3-point shots throughout the season, they went four for 23 (19 percent) over the course of the game. UMBC went on to lose in the next round 50-43 against Kansas State.
Loyola Chicago is perhaps one of the most impressive storylines this tournament. As a No. 11 seed that advanced to the Elite 8, they have pulled off three consecutive upsets by a combined 4 points. In the first round, Loyola beat No. 6 Miami 64-62. With under a second remaining, Donte Ingram nailed a three pointer to give the Ramblers the lead. Loyola guard Clayton Custer scored a game-high 14 points which included four from beyond the arc on six attempts. In the next round, Loyola pulled off their most impressive victory, beating No. 3 Tennessee, 63-62. With 5 seconds remaining, Custer made a jumper to give the Ramblers the lead. Guard Aundre Jackson came off the bench to lead Loyola in scoring with sixteen points against Tennessee. After advancing to the Sweet 16, Loyola would not be denied an Elite 8 birth. They fended off No. 7 Nevada, who just came off an impressive upset of their own, 69-68. While Loyola has been on a hot streak, winning 20 of their last 21 games, they received additional motivation from their team chaplain and honorary assistant coach Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt. The 98-year-old has served as the team chaplain for 24 years and sits at the Loyola bench during every game.
Other notable upsets include No. 7 Nevada erasing a 22 point deficit to beat No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 11 Syracuse beating both No. 6 TCU and No. 3 Michigan State, and No. 7 Texas A&M beating No. 2 North Carolina. Although there have been an unprecedented number of upsets, experts were predicting an especially wild March Madness in 2018 because it was hard to gauge who the top teams were throughout the season. With just about everyone’s brackets completely busted, fans can at least hope that the conclusion to the tournament is just as exciting as it began.