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The Lo Down: The Inevitable Impossible March Madness Upset

Mike Lawrie, Getty Images

With March Madness upon us, we all hurry to fill out our brackets in pursuit of being the one with the right team left standing after all the games are played.

While there are endless methods to determining which team wins the tournament, some more serious than others; there is one truth that almost all consider whether you’re a “Bracketology” pro or amateur: Choose the No. 1 seed over the No. 16 seed. A No.16 seed has never beaten a No.1 seed, and while no one is daring enough to predict an upset, all experts seem to agree “someday it’s going to happen.” So the question really is, “Is this the year a 16 advances to the group of 32?”

Since the new 64 team format was introduced in 1985, audiences have been teased, but never satisfied with a 16 seed triumph. Only 14 games between a No. 1 seed and a No. 16 seed have been decided by fewer than 10 points.

In the past 29 years, three of those 14 games have occurred in the last two NCAA tournaments. As the state of men’s collegiate basketball begins to introduce greater parody the increased frequency only foretells of an inevitable upset to come.

Before the escalation of close games, the two closest have been one-point victories by Georgetown and Oklahoma, both coming in 1989. Both were pushed to the limits by Princeton and East Tennessee State, respectively. I’ll rephrase for gravity, 21 percent of all the close No. 1 vs. No.16 seed games have happened in the last two tournaments.

The upset is coming.

How rare would a No.16-seed upset be in comparison to other high-seeds? Here’s a recap of successful high seeds to make it past their first game.

  • 11 seed: 39 times
  • 12 seed: 41 times
  • 13 seed: 25 times
  • 14 seed: 17 times
  • 15 seed: 7 times
  • 16 seed: 0 times

So let’s take a quick look at the No. 16 seeds this year, the play-in games have made it a little bit more complicated when it comes to submitting your bracket on time, but here are bios on all four of the teams that will be competing in what the NCAA now deems “The Opening Rounds” (games that take place on Tuesday, March 18 and Wednesday, March 19) as well as the other No.16 seeds in the tournament:

Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers
One of two play-in 16 seeds that will be kicking of festivities on Tuesday, Mount St. Mary are upset winners of the NEC tournament. True underdogs, they were picked to finish last in their conference, and won two road games en route to winning their conference championship. This will be their 4th invitation to the tournament…that is if you count these opening rounds as part of the fields (I’m admittedly a 64 team traditionalist). Two notable fun facts, Mount St. Mary’s 1962 NCAA tournament champions, and 1981 runner-up…so who knows…maybe?

Albany Great Danes
The second part of Tuesday’s opening game, the Albany Great Danes are familiar foes to fans of the America East (that’s the conference the University of Maine plays in, ya know that flagship school in Orono). While Albany doesn’t have nearly the legacy of the Mountaineers, it should be noted that The Danes know a little something about teasing the 16 seed upset. In 2006 they pushed number 1 seed UConn, down by 1 point at the half; they opened up the second half with a 13-0 run to take a double digit lead over the Division 1 staple. Eventually UConn picked up their defense and stifled Albany’s offense allowing them to overtake the lead and eventually close out the game 72-59.

Cal Poly Mustangs
Maybe the first to upset a 1 seed, will come from the mindset of a first-time visitor to the tournament. Ya know, the merits of the “nothing to lose mentality”. The Cal Poly Mustangs’ have never been to the tournament before, 2014 is their first appearance and they’ll attempt to make the most of it. Coming out of the Big West conference and calling San Luis Obispo, Calif., their hometown. Joe Lunardi of ESPN says don’t be fooled by their losing record (13-19) he likes them to advance and their reward, a date with number 1 seed Wichita State…but can you shock a team named the shockers? That’d just be too obvious.

Texas Southern Tigers
The Southern Tigers are from Texas (thanks captain obvious, just kidding) but they call Houston their home and play in the SWAC (man I hate that during the summer…get it? OK maybe you don’t, but if you do, well keep it to yourself). Historically they have four invitations to the dance, and four early round exits, 2014 will mark their 5th appearance and they’ll hope to buck the trend for a chance to move on as one of the play-in 16 seeds.

Weber State Wildcats
Tell me the selection committee doesn’t have a sense of humor, on Friday this match up will determine who reigns supreme in the universe of Wildcat-mascots. Out of the Big Sky conference, Weber state took their conference championship handily to land their 14th appearance in the tournament. Historically in the tournament they are a combined 6-15 and were responsible for a 14th seed upset of Michigan State in 1999. The campus is located in Ogden, Utah and famous alumni include current NBA super sophomore Damian Lillard.

Do you see a winner in that group? If you do, well you would be more daring than me. If you don’t have a office pool or group, or you just can’t get enough, sign up for our very own 92.9 bracket contest (I wonder if “guest columnist” constitutes an employee of Townsquare, I’ll have to look into that) good luck and may the best bracket win!

In other news…
Here are some good NCAA tournament reads:

And finally, the Red Sox hope to condition players through subliminal messages (or not so subliminal)

Tim Lo is a Bangor based entrepreneur, marketing and advertising professional, and sports fan; fair and objective, in-depth analysis for the educated sports fan with a dash of opinion.   

Follow him on
Twitter: @beardedasian
Instagram: @AsianTimLo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TimmyLo

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