In the Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament we lost tournament favorites such as Michigan State and West Virginia. We also saw teams such as Baylor, Arizona and Texas leave earlier than expected. While the big upsets tend to happen early in the tournament and then the favorites take over as the tournament goes on, there were still some eyebrow raising games in the Round of 32. These may bot have been surprises because od who won, but some were because of who lost.
But, wait? What does that mean? Well, for example, the Indiana Hoosiers beat the Kentucky Wildcats 73-67. While Indiana getting to the Sweet Sixteen wouldn’t normally raise eyebrows too much, the fact that they did it by knocking out the Wildcats has to be considered a surprise. Under John Calipari, the Wildcats had never failed to make the Sweet Sixteen in any year they made the NCAA Tournament. Coach Cal and his Cats had been to two straight Final Fours, and won the tournament in 2012, played in the Final Four in 2011 and the Elite Eight in 2010. So UK leaving this early is a surprise no matter who beats them.
We also saw the Gonzaga Bulldogs destroy the Utah Utes. But wait? Gonzaga always has a good team, right? They do seem to be in the Sweet Sixteen an awful lot, yes that is true. But they normally do that with a high seeded team that runs away and hides in the regular season from its WCC competition. That was not the case this season. Gonzaga had to win the WCC Tournament just to avoid going to the NIT this year.
But, in their first two NCAA Tournament games, this Gonzaga team has looked better than any they’ve sent to the Big Dance since the early 2000s. So the Zags have to be considered a bit of a surprise.
Also, how about Syracuse? They were a bubble team that many probably thought did not deserve to get an invitation after going 9-9 in the ACC and bowing out of the ACC Tournament in their first game, losing to Pitt. But now, after easy wins over Dayton and Middle Tennessee State, Syracuse is going to the Sweet Sixteen. That has to be a bit of a surprise as well.
Also, how about the Maryland Terrapins? They limped into the Big Dance but after beating South Dakota State and Hawaii, they too are off to the Sweet Sixteen. They were considered a big underachiever this season, ranked #2 in the preseason polls but never living up to that hype. Maybe they were pacing themselves?