What a wild season it has been, and we haven’t even reached March yet. The potential is there for 2016 to go down as one of the most unpredictable seasons in college basketball history. The potential is also there for this year’s NCAA Tournament to be among the most exciting that we have ever seen. That all begs the question, could 2016 end up being remembered as the Year of the Upset?
Upsets happen every year, that is obvious. There’s a reason that people bet on the underdogs. If they never won, nobody would put money on them to win. Kentucky entered the Tournament undefeated last season, but were upset in the Final Four by Wisconsin. In the 2010 Tournament, Kansas was one of the odds-on favorites to win the whole thing, but they were upended in the Round of 32 by relatively unknown Northern Iowa. Back in 1985, Villanova became the lowest seed to ever reach the Final Four as an 8-seed (a record that has since been broken), and went on to win the title. They are still the lowest seed to ever win the National Championship.
So upsets do happen, and fairly regularly. But for some reason, it seems like it is happening more often than usual. Look at this past week for example. Four of the top six teams in the AP Poll lost this week. #3 Oklahoma was defeated by Texas Tech, who entered the game just 5-7 in conference play. #4 Iowa fell at the hands of Penn State, the same team they had just beaten by 24 points two weeks earlier. #5 North Carolina let a double-digit second half lead slip away against hated rival Duke. And #6 Maryland handed Minnesota its first Big Ten win of the season, losing 68-63.
A record number of AP Top-5 teams have lost games this year, compared to the number of losses in past years to this point on the calendar. Not only that, but it seems like the Bubble is bigger than ever, mostly because no team has been able to go on a nice run and separate themselves from the others. All of the Bubble teams are losing games. St. Joseph’s got a huge win over Dayton, but followed it up with a disappointing loss to Davidson. Alabama was working its way into the conversation, but it just suffered an incomprehensible home loss to Mississippi State. Butler looked like one of the Top-20 teams in the country during the first half of their schedule, but after a loss to Villanova, they now have a losing record in the Big East, and are in danger of missing the tourney altogether. Gonzaga has reached 17 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, but after suffering their second loss of the season to rival Saint Mary’s, it looks like the Zags may have to win the WCC in order to keep the streak alive.
It is all a little overwhelming if I’m being completely honest. It has made the process of Bracketology a near impossible task, and I am not looking forward to filling out a bracket on Selection Sunday. If you’re serious about filling out your bracket, if you want any chance of being right, you’re going to have to do some serious thinking. Or maybe just wing it. With the way the season has gone so far, you might have a better chance at a perfect bracket by just flipping a coin, or picking teams by your favorite colors, or by the teams who have a cooler mascot.
If the regular season has been any indication, we are in for a wild and wacky NCAA Tournament this season. Maybe there’ll be another Florida Gulf Coast this year…
Or could we see another Mercer?
Who might be this season’s Stephen Curry?
Will we see another double-digit seed make a run to the Final Four like George Mason or VCU?
All of those questions and more will be answered beginning a little less than a month from now. Selection Sunday is on March 13, exactly three weeks from today. Strap yourselves in and get ready, because we’re going for quite a ride as we close out the Year of the Upset!