Indianapolis, Upset City

Double Digit Seeds Success in March Madness

One of the best parts of March Madness every year is the Cinderella team that always emerges. You might remember VCU’s run to the Final Four in 2011 as an 11 seed or Loyola-Chicago’s trip to the Final Four in 2018, also as an 11 seed. While not everyone has the powers of Sister Jean like the Ramblers, the 2021 tournament isn’t short of any potential Cinderella squads. 

In the first round alone, nine double-digit seeds came away with a victory, busting just about every bracket created in the opening 24 hours of the tournament. Of those nine first round upsets, three managed to sneak into the Sweet 16 with upset wins, and UCLA got in over 14-seeded Abilene Christian, a team that made the second round after the biggest win in school history. 

It was the first time an Abilene Christian team had ever won a game in March Madness, a feat they achieved with a 53-52 win over in-state competition, Texas, by converting on two foul shots with 1.2 seconds remaining. 

According to the NCAA website, after just day one, only 121 perfect brackets remained across the five most popular bracket games—NCAA, ESPN, CBS, Yahoo and Sports Illustrated. estimates that roughly 70 million brackets are filled out every year. By that number, after just one day, 0.00017 percent of brackets remained perfect and it didn’t take long into day two to break some more hearts. 

But who of the four double-digit seeds will continue into the Elite 8 this weekend? It seems exceedingly unlikely that two 11 seeds, UCLA and Syracuse, will knock out 2 seeds Alabama and Houston, respectively, or that 15 seed Oral Roberts will surpass 3 seed Arkansas. This is just the second time in history that a 15 seeded squad has earned a berth in the Sweet 16. A 15 seed has never made it to the Elite 8. 

Another matchup to watch this weekend is going to be 8 seed Loyola-Chicago versus 12 seed Oregon State. Loyola-Chicago is riding into the weekend off knocking out 1 seed, Illinois, a heavily picked favorite to win the whole thing. This isn’t the first time the Ramblers have made a name for themselves as a Cinderella team, and it isn’t the first time 101-year-old Sister Jean has seen her squad knock off top teams. 

In their run to the Final Four in 2018, Loyola-Chicago defeated 6 seed Miami, 3 seed Tennessee, 7 seed Nevada and 9 seed Kansas State before they fell to 3 seed Michigan. This weekend they will actually be the higher seed when they take on Oregon State. 

The most interesting part of the bracket this year comes from the Midwest side. The remaining seeds are Houston (2), Loyola-Chicago (8), Syracuse (11) and Oregon State (12). It has been not only a bracket buster, but a bracket obliterator. 

It makes you question, what is in the water in Indianapolis for these lower seeded teams? Does it have something to do with the shortened season due to COVID-19? Were these teams seeded poorly by the selection committee? We’ll never know the answer to these questions but it has sure made for an exceedingly interesting outcome to watch for over the next few weeks. 

At this point, it might just be easier to cheer for underdogs and subtly wish for the downfall of Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan—the remaining 1 seeds. How can you not secretly hope Oral Roberts will be the first ever 15 seed in the Elite 8? Before this started, I bet many people didn’t even know where Oral Roberts is even located, and now they are on the bandwagon because it’s teams like this that make sports so entertaining. 

No matter who you have winning, this year it’s more about just being grateful the tournament is even on. Now that we know what it’s like to go a year without the Madness, let’s just hope it never happens again.