Let's just throw some numbers out there. Since 1985, this year is only the third time that four teams seeded ninth or higher will play in the Sweet 16. Eleven, count ‘em, 11 games were won by double-digit seeds during the first two rounds. Better yet, 13 games were decided by three points or less and four games went to overtime.
All in all, it made for a ridiculously entertaining first weekend of the Big Dance. With the exception of the Kentucky, Duke and Syracuse routs, pretty much every game was worth watching.
Now, your bracket, like mine and so many others, is probably not quite as intact as you once hoped it would be. Unless you're Alex Herrmann that is. After all, for most of us (and especially Herrmann), half the fun of watching all the games is being able to take out the colored pen and circle all the ones you predicted correctly. Maybe you did your due diligence and studied up, maybe you picked based on your favorite color. But however you chose your teams, I know you either like to circle the winners or break out the highlighter. Bet you weren't doing so much of that during the tourney's first weekend.
Think of it this way: If you picked Kansas to win it all, well, at least you weren't alone. I'll put it front and center that I wasn't with you — Kentucky is my national champ. But really, watching Ali Farokhmanesh hit that mind-boggling 3 made breaking out the red marker and drawing a line through Kansas' advancement well worth it. At least, in my mind. Hey, I'm all about the bracket bragging rights — not so much on the anteing up for big pools, I'll admit — but beyond it all, I'll root for great games. Northern Iowa certainly provided for one.
And how about Cornell? Big Red senior Jon Jaques attributed the Ivy's upset of Wisconsin to, "without a doubt, the most crisply run, efficient, well-executed offense I've been a part of as a Cornell basketball player. … I'm not sure how anyone was going to stop us." Apparently, even the Badgers weren't going to stop history. Cornell is now the first Ivy League team to make it to the Sweet 16 in more than three decades.
So the next round won't be easy for Cornell: a not-so-orange Carrier Dome matchup with No. 1 seed Kentucky. But it's not unknown territory for the Big Red, even if Wildcat blue douses the place in a new hue. Sure, I picked Kentucky to win it all. But if a Cornell upset seems likely in the East — I'm game. I'll pull for Butler and Purdue. Another one seed gets knocked out, and that will really bust the brackets.
But who doesn't like an underdog? I don't mind joining all you Kansas takers in the "loser" circle — not if it means watching another weekend of pure madness.
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