Perhaps one of the greatest things about college basketball is that once the regular season ends, March Madness finds teams and fans alike thrown into a month of unpredictable basketball mayhem. The NCAA Tournament brings over a billion possible outcomes to the table, with 64 of the best teams in college basketball vying for the title of national champions. Perhaps this is why no one to date has predicted a bracket perfectly, because its pretty impossible to fully guess who's going to rise to the occasion and who's going back to the locker room in tears. Of course, the Big Dance does have some methodology. With teams seeded from 1 to 16, every basketball enthusiast and commentator has a system set for predicting upsets and bettering their odds. At the end of the day though, some teams that are considered as good as gone from the get-go come out strong and lead legendary runs over tournament favorites. Here are some of the biggest March Madness upsets of all time:
Indiana vs. Cleveland State, 1986
This first round matchup is still considered one of the biggest upsets in college basketball ever. The Indiana Hoosiers were a No. 3 seed under the coaching of the infamous Bobby Knight, and the Cleveland State Vikings were a No.14 seed that was unknown to the public. Cleveland State thrived on a "Run N' Stun" style of play that encouraged players to play as hard and fast as possible. The Vikings defeated the Hoosiers 83-79, but lost in the next round to a Navy team led by David Robinson.
Oklahoma vs. Kansas, 1988
In 1988, the Oklahoma Sooners were a team to be reckoned with, averaging over 100 points a game and usually winning by a double-digit margin. The Sooners were known for their talented offense and went into the national championship game with a 35-3 record, poised to take on the Kansas Jayhawks for all the marbles. In fact, they had already beat Kansas on two occasions during the regular season. Kansas was an unranked No. 6 seed that no one expected to have a shot against the Sooners, led by future NBA all-star Mookie Blaylock. However, led by Danny Manning, who alone put up 31 points and had 18 rebounds, the Jayhawks won the national championship, pulling off one of the greatest upsets of all time.
Richmond vs. Syracuse, 1991
In the years leading up to this game, the Richmond Spiders had developed a reputation for upsetting some of the best teams in college basketball. In this case, the No. 15 seed was pitted against No. 2 seeded Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This was the first time in history a No. 2 seed fell to a No. 15 seed, and only one of six times it has ever happened in the history of the tournament.
Missouri vs. Norfolk State, 2012
The first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament was a huge year for upsets. No.2 seeded Duke lost to Lehigh, but the more notable story occurred early that day between Missouri and Norfolk State. Why was this game more compelling than the one with the perennially favored Blue Devils? Mostly because Missouri could easily have been a No. 1 seed, racking up 30 wins during the regular season. Norfolk State, on the other hand, hadn't beat a major conference school all season and was predicted to lose by 20-plus points. Both teams made more than 50 percent of their shots, but Norfolk State pulled out a two-point victory, ruining brackets across the nation.
George Mason vs. UConn, 2006
Since this game, the 2006 George Mason Patriots have often been used as an example of a classic bracket buster. The No. 11 seeded team was presented with an extremely difficult route to the Final Four and came out of nowhere. In the first round the Patriots beat a No. 6 seeded Michigan State team by 10 points, then went on to face University of North Carolina. The Patriots beat the Tar Heels and then Witchita State to wind up in an Elite Eight game against the University of Connecticut. UConn was not only a No. 2 seed, but also had a 30-3 record while playing in one of the nation's toughest conferences. Five of the players on this Huskies team would be later selected in NBA draft before the end of the second round. George Mason took out this star-studded UConn team by two points in overtime, sealing their run as one of the most miraculous March Madness teams of all time.
North Carolina State vs. Houston, 1983
North Carolina State was coming off a mediocre season with a No. 6 seed ranking, whereas Houston had a hyper-athletic team, including future NBA great Clyde Drexler. Earlier in the year, Houston had been dubbed "Phi Slama Jama," putting up as many as 29 dunks in a single game. Going into this national championship game, everyone assumed Houston was walking away with a title. However, North Carolina State managed to slow down the Houston offense, and in one of the most tremendous moments in March Madness history, won the game with an ironic last-second slam dunk.
The Southeastern Conference of the NCAA is known for containing some of the most fervent fan bases in the country. When football season rolls around, the stadiums of Ole Miss, South Carolina and LSU fill up as students and community members rush in to support their home teams. In honor of these wild fans, here are the top five most fervent fan bases across all of college football:
5. Alabama Crimson Tide
Head coach Nick Saban is widely regarded as one of the best in the league, with a record of 170-57-1. With such a star coach at the helm, it's no wonder Alabama tickets routinely sell out on game day. The franchise sold more than 101,000 tickets for its national championship game, but it isn't just the numbers that earn the Crimson Tide a spot on this list. The loyalty with which students and alumni pledge themselves to the football program at the University of Alabama is truly without equal.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State University is home to one of the largest student bodies in the country. More than 43,000 undergraduates attend the school, though the average football game attendance is more than double that. The large Buckeye community fan base will come out to support their team on even the coldest Ohio fall day. Despite the large capacity of the stadium compared to the number of undergraduates, Ohio State football tickets can be difficult even for students to get ahold of.
3. Michigan Wolverines
With one of the highest attendance figures in the nation (the Wolverines average more than 100,000 fans a game), the University of Michigan Wolverines more than deserve a spot on this ranking. The coaching staff at Michigan recognize the dedication of their fans and are more than willing to give back. In fact, they recently honored a young fan battling cancer by recruiting him to the team. As part of the process he got to meet with current players and coaches as well as attend a press conference with his favorite team. It is that kind of positive fan treatment that keeps Michigan Stadium (aka "The Big House") packed all season long.
2. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia football is huge in the university's home city of Athens. Bulldogs fans routinely show up to Sanford Stadium more than 90,000 strong to celebrate the hometown heroes. Dawgs fans are so intense that they have even invented their own lingo to refer to their team. For example, the saying "between the hedges" was started by UGA fans, as their stadium was one of the first to enclose the field in hedge plants. In addition, Dawgs call football pants "silver britches" in honor of head coach Wally Butts, and "Uga" is the name of the live English bulldog mascot.
1. Louisiana State Tigers
The fan activity inside Tiger Stadium on game day is almost as wild as what goes on outside of it beforehand. LSU is known for having some of the best and most outrageous tailgate ceremonies in the country. Even the fans who can't get game tickets show up for the shrimp boil!
The finish line is in sight for the eight remaining teams in contention to win the NCAA College World Series. Classes may be over, but these students are still working hard as they fight to be the victors in Omaha, Nebraska. With the super-regional matchups behind us, we are left with the eight remaining teams: UC Irvine, University of Texas, University of Louisville, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, Texas Christian University, University of Mississippi and the University of Virginia. These eight teams will enter into the double elimination championship bracket play to determine which collegiate team is the best in the nation.
How the championship round works
The championship round of play in the College World Series is double-elimination. For the first round of games, the eight teams are split into two groups of four. Each group will therefore consist of two matchups in the first round. The winners of these first round games will then play one another in a winners bracket and the losers will play one another in a losers bracket. Teams in the losers bracket have to win their next four games (beating their opponent in the losers bracket, the loser of the winners bracket and the winner of the sinners bracket twice) to get in the finals. Meanwhile, the winner of the winners bracket has the most wiggle room as they will end up playing a team they have already beaten for a spot in the finals.
In the first group this year will be UC Irvine vs. Texas and Louisville vs. Vanderbilt. The other group will be Texas Tech vs. TCU and Virginia vs. Mississippi.
Breaking down this year's matchups
This year's fight for the CWS title was full of upsets as nationally seeded teams were ousted from the competition early. As a result, many of the teams heading to Omaha are a bit of an underdog. Here is a breakdown of what we can expect in the first four games of double-elimination bracket play:
UC Irvine vs. Texas
The University of California, Irvine, certainly proved themselves when they knocked out No. 1 Oregon State all the way back in the regionals. This is only the second time that the Anteaters have had a shot at the CWS championship since they became a Division I program in 2002. But what UC Irvine may lack in experience they more than make up for in talent. Pitcher Andrew Morales made headlines when he pitched a five-hit shutout against Oklahoma State in the super regionals.
But don't think Texas is going to make things easy for the boys from California. This will be the University of Texas' 35th run at the CWS title and glory. With that kind of experience, they are sure to have a more refined sense of the strategy necessary to pull off a win. In addition to all their championship appearances, the Longhorns have also won the title a total of six times, most recently in 2005. With head coach Augie Garrido at the helm, the winningest college baseball coach of all time, it's difficult to see this first round game going very well for the Anteaters.
Louisville vs. Vanderbilt
Freshman Nick Solack is bringing Louisville to their second consecutive CWS appearance. The designated hitter for the Cardinals more than proved himself a formidable force when he blasted off a fifth-inning two-run homer against Kennesaw State. In his two super regional games, the young hitter racked up six RBI, a home run and two doubles.
But Vanderbilt has a hotshot freshman phenom of its own. Relief pitcher Hayden Stone closed out the Commodores' fight against Stanford by pitching six innings while only allowing three hits. The result was a Vanderbilt win of 12-5, and all from a team that had lost six of the 11 games it had played before entering the tournament.
Texas Tech vs. TCU
This marks the first CWS appearance for Texas Tech. It was junior left-handed pitcher Chris Sadberry that stood out amongst the Red Raiders' ranks. He managed to hold off the College of Charleston in the super regionals by racking up a total of eight strikeouts.
The Horned Frogs from Texas Christian University, however, are no strangers to the tournament - this will be their second time in the CWS in five seasons. Both TCU and Texas Tech are Big 12 teams, and with Texas on the other side of the bracket, there are some interesting possibilities for an all-Texas finals.
Virginia vs. Ole Miss
UVA is one of only two nationally seeded teams that remains in the running for the CWS title (the other being TCU). They continually demonstrate their exceptional talent with sophomore pitcher Josh Sborz and third baseman Kenny Towns, leading the Cavaliers to their third CWS tournament in six seasons.
Ole Miss has finally gotten out of their 42-year rut. This will be the first time since 1972 that the University of Mississippi manages to send its baseball team to the College World Series. It was a homerun from the Rebels' own Austin Anderson that would turn the tide against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The team is now coming into the championship tournament with the momentum that only comes from reversing a four-decade-long dry spell.
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