March Madness is alive and well. Our egos, not so much.
Even with the criticisms about perceived bracket snubs and FBI investigations, it’s impossible for the nation’s best sporting event to fall flat.
UMBC. The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and Sister Jean. Nevada’s comeback kids. Florida State and Syracuse’s tournament revival. The list of surprises goes on and on.
And therein lies the beauty.
In the middle of each March, we all become bracket “experts,” from those like me who watch a lot of basketball to those who tune in only at this time of year, as we make our picks for 63 games. (Though my colleague Nick Watson decided against partaking in the ritual this year). It usually only takes a day or two to remind us how little we know.
Virginia was 31-2, having lost a single game in 21 ACC contests. The No. 1 overall seed commenced to lose by 20 points to UMBC, becoming the first top seed to ever fall to a 16 seed (the tournament format has included No. 16 seeds since 1985).
Then Loyola-Chicago and its spirited team chaplain, 98-year-old nun Sister Jean, ran off a trio of buzzer-beating upsets before crushing Kansas State to reach the Final Four. Loyola’s previous trip to the season’s final weekend ended with the 1963 national championship.
And don’t forget how Nevada overcame deficits of 14 against Texas and 22 against Cincinnati to reach the Sweet 16.
It gets better: ACC teams Florida State and Syracuse both defied logic with their runs. FSU had done little outside its own building but blitzed into the Elite 8. Syracuse was the last team in and won three games, capped by a stunner against Michigan State to reach the Sweet 16.
So consider yourself reminded and repeat after me: We. Don’t. Know. Much.
Brackets are beautiful, in part because of how quickly they fall by the wayside. Don’t sweat it. We all whiffed, especially this year. Take time to enjoy the shockers.
And root for the Ramblers.