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Opinion

March Madness stays true to its name with multiple early round tournament upsets

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March 26, 2010

The NCAA Men’s basketball tournament delivered the “madness” in March Madness last weekend as the tournament kicked off the first round last Thursday and Friday and the second round on Saturday and Sunday. This year’s tournament so far has been filled with upsets and bracket busters as teams like Kansas, Georgetown, and Villanova packed their bags early and went home after the weekend.

The Kansas Jayhawks loss in the second round was the biggest surprise in the tournament. Not because of the team they played, but because they were arguably the favorite to win the tournament this year or to at least make it to the championship game. According to espn.com, about 98.1% of the people who filled out their brackets on espn.com had Kansas advancing to the Sweet Sixteen; in fact they were the top vote-getter of any team to make it out of each round of the tournament. The Jayhawks were so heavily favored 42.2% of the people who filled out their brackets on espn.com picked Kansas to win the entire tournament. The next favored team people picked to win the entire tournament was Kentucky at 21.4%. I’ll do the math for you. It comes out to be a 20.8% difference.

Who was this team that took down the mighty Jayhawks you ask. The Northern Iowa Panthers out of the Missouri Valley Conference; a team where their biggest wins were against Boston College out of the ACC, which was played on a neutral site and against Iowa out of the Big Ten Conference at home, and Iowa State out of the Big 12 Conference on the road. All these wins seem good seeing as a mid-major team was beating teams from the Power Six Conferences, which are the aCC, Big east, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and seC, but Boston College finished 8th out of 12 teams in the aCC, Iowa finished 10th out of 11 teams in the Big Ten, and Iowa State finished 10th out of 12 teams in the Big 12. even though the Panthers were ranked in the top 25 in the polls this year, the team’s biggest wins are against mediocre to cellar-dweller teams in the power six conferences.

Don’t get me wrong though, Northern Iowa has been one of the best and hottest teams coming into the tournament this year and was one of my teams to watch in this year’s tournament. The Panthers beat up the teams from the Missouri Valley Conference and one their conference tournament. They play an excellent style of defense and have the confidence to play any team in the conference and that was before taking down the favorite to win the tournament this year. The team knows how to win as they went 30-4 this year and 15-3 in conference. This is a team to watch in the Sweet Sixteen and could possibly make a run to the final four. Taking down the top seed in the tournament, you’re sure to have all the confidence in the world taking on any team they may face for the rest of the tournament.

Northern Iowa wasn’t the only team to pull off a major upset in the first and second round of the tournament. The Ohio Bobcats out of the MAC took down Big East powerhouse, Georgetown, in an offensive shoot-out in the first round. The Bobcats finished the season 7-9 in conference and 22-15 overall. The team had no significant wins over the top teams in basketball and the only way they were going to make it to the Big Dance was if they pulled off some upsets to win the MAC Conference tournament. They did just that to receive a 14th seed in the NCAA Tournament and get a first round date against 3rd seed Georgetown. The Hoyas had a down year compared to the last few years, but was expected to take care of 14th seed Ohio easily. The Bobcats took an early lead and the Hoyas could not catch up.

Villanova out of the Big East Conference was quite of a surprise in this year’s tournament. after generously receiving a number two seed, even though they lost five out of their last nine games of the regular season and lost in the opening round of their conference tournament, they struggled to beat 15th seed Robert Morris as they won in double overtime. The Wildcats struggled again in the second round to Saint Mary’s out of the WCC conference, but this time couldn’t get the W and was sent home packing.

Cornell out of the Ivy League was a surprise in this year’s tournament. Ivy League teams traditionally don’t make it out of the first round and usually get beat up by one of the Power Six Conference teams. This year was different. The Big Red plays solid defensively and even played Kansas tough early in the season. They took care of 5th seed Temple out of the Atlantic 10 Conference in the first round and also 4th seed Wisconsin out of the Big Ten Conference to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. It’s the first Sweet Sixteen appearance for an Ivy League team since the 1979 NCAA Tournament.

Derek Johnson is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.