Everybody loves the NCAA Tournament, or almost everybody. You can find a hater or two out there in the twitterverse if you try hard enough. But for the most part, it is a beloved event.
Why? Easy: the love of March Madness stems from fans’ love of the upset. We all love to see David come through from time to time and take down Goliath. The NCAA Tournament provides ample opportunity for these surprise results.
This year, the Tournament’s first round did not disappoint.
On Thursday, Ivy League Yale took down Big 12 power Baylor, Arkansas Little Rock came from behind to beat one of the Big Ten’s finest in Purdue, and in a slight upset, Wichita State pretty easily took care of Arizona.
Friday produced even gaudier results. Hawaii, who many didn’t realize fielded a basketball team, upset a talented, though injury bugged California team. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin took it to 3 seed West Virginia and in one of the biggest upsets of all time, 15 seed Middle Tennessee State took down mighty Tom Izzo and Michigan State.
Insert your favorite bracket busted joke here.
However, according to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, there are no upsets in this tournament. That’s right, those random occurrences that we all love and root for do not really exist. They are figments of our imagination.
“There’s no such thing as an upset and I mean that sincerely,” McCaffery said after Iowa’s last second victory over Temple in Brooklyn. “I’ve had lower seeded teams that won. You’ve seen higher seeded teams lose.”
“It’s really difficult [to win an NCAA Tournament game],” he explained. “You’re playing somebody that you haven’t played, on a neutral site. You’re trying to figure them out in a short period of time.”
Hmm, maybe he has a point, especially nowadays.
The mid-major teams – the good ones that end up in the NCAA Tournament – tend to be more experienced, upper-class dominant squads that have been together as a unit and with their coach for a number of years. That’s a sharp contrast from the now typical major program that is dependent on highly ranked freshmen, likely to leave the program before they are ready to take it to any significant heights.
Stephen F. Austin coach, Brad Underwood, sees some advantages to building a team at the mid-major level.
“We’re able to get better players [than in the past] and keep them for their career and have seniors, so there’s maturity,” he said after his team dispatched of West Virginia Friday night.
“One of the biggest discrepancies in college sports is the difference between an 18-year old freshman and a 22-year old senior. The maturity level is drastically different.”
So maybe there are no upsets and these are just a collection of good teams knocking each other off.
That’s likely the case, but don’t expect to hear that narrative. We don’t want to.
We love the upsets, real or not.