Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Hague: Before Saturday, madness had few upsets

By Nathan Hague
March 19, 2017 at 4 a.m.

This is actually the second draft of this column. On my first attempt, I wrote about how there were no major upsets yet in this year's March Madness bracket. But then as I was getting ready to leave the office, I went to turn the TV off when I realized there was an upset brewing, Wisconsin was ahead of Villanova.

Shortly after arriving at ETBU to cover baseball, it was official: the No. 8 Badgers had knocked off the defending national champions and the No.1 overall seed. Then a couple hours later, Florida State was defeated by Xavier.

Until that game, there were no major surprises, which I guess, was a bit of a surprise.

Normally the first two rounds has at least one major upset, that one where you can hear America gasp, followed by the tearing up of the brackets but that hadn't happened until Wisconsin's big win. Sure, we saw 12th seeded Middle Tennessee knock off No. 5 Minnesota, but as mentioned before, there's always one of those every year.

Wisconsin's upset was the closest thing we've this year to the like of No. 15 Lehigh defeating No. 2 Duke in the first round like we saw in 2012 (I can't believe that was half a decade ago) or another 15th seed in Florida Gulf Coast knocking off No. 2 Georgetown the following year.

One thing that makes the Middle Tennessee victory less of a surprise is the fact they merged onto the scene last year with a major upset over No.2 Michigan State last year, and many people, myself included, had the Spartans in the final four, and a good portion of us had them winning it all.

I'm not sure which makes for a better tournament. As sports fans, we love upsets. It's fun to witness history and years later, recall what you remember about that half-court-buzzer beater or that illegal timeout called.

At the same time though, it makes tings a whole lot more fun when your bracket is intact and you still have teams alive in the race. According to a report I read by ABC Radio, there were a record number of brackets submitted on this year. Normally there are roughly 2.72 million brackets but this year there were close to 19 million. If the majority of those 19 million brackets are busted, most of those people are less likely to watch the games and enjoy the action.

It's interesting to think of the impact of technology on the tournament. All you have to do these days is click on your team for each matchup and it adds your points and those who download the app can receive alerts. It's crazy to think how far we've come since the days of the paper brackets where we couldn't make up our minds and had some games crossed out four or five times, which made it harder to keep track of the numbers and by the time all was said and done, my brackets had more red marks almost as many red marks as my graded math tests. I wonder how they kept track of brackets back in the stone age.

As for the upsets, I guess it's kind of a catch 22. I'm not sure whether upsets are the best thing for college basketball or not but regardless of what happens, upsets or not, I plan to watch and take in as much of the madness as I can.



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