The NCAA tournament is right around the corner. Every season, fans get excited for their teams to compete for a national championship. There is nothing more exciting than the first round, when 64 teams battle it out to see who will “survive and advance.” Every season, there are questions as to whether a 16-seed will finally knock off a No. 1. It has never happened in the history of the tournament, although there are many reasons to believe that this could be the year. Before we get into that, let’s take a look at a few examples of a low seed playing a high seed.
In 1989, the No. 16 Princeton Tigers were matched up against the powerhouse Georgetown Hoyas. Nobody in his or her right mind gave Princeton a chance to even compete. Dick Vitale promised to wear a Princeton cheerleading uniform if they managed to pull of the upset. But to everyone’s surprise, the Tigers managed to outplay the Hoyas in the first half, leading by a score of 29-21. Georgetown’s mindset was completely different in the second half, but the Tigers did not waver. Princeton was trailing 50-49 with only a few seconds left when guard Bob Scrabis pulled up from the top of the key. He was sure his shot was pure, but Alonzo Mourning had a different idea and blocked the shot by a fingernail. Although Princeton did not win that day, they changed people’s mindset about the 16-seed and made everybody think, “Could this actually be done?”
It wasn’t until 2013 that we saw a low ranked team play better than the big dogs. The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, or “Dunk City” as they were later dubbed, shocked everyone when they made an incredible run into the Sweet Sixteen. Their path brought them up against the number two and seven teams, both of whom they beat. It had been so long since Princeton-Georgetown, so nobody really thought a 15 could beat a two, but they had. They hadn’t done it by some fluke luck either, as they proved by winning their Round of 32 game as well. This brought up a new question for people to debate; “if a 15 can beat a two, then why couldn’t a 16 beat a one?”
I know it seems unlikely that this could happen. I’m sure you’re reading this and wondering, “If it hasn’t happened before, then what makes you think it will happen now?” Here’s my thinking: this is the weakest set of No. 1 seeds that we have seen in a long time, while the 16’s only seem to be getting stronger. Most of this will be speculative as we do not yet know the final bracket, but based on bracketology predictions, we have a decent idea of who will be where
Florida Gulf Coast is back in the tournament and will most likely end up as a 16. They will likely face Kansas, who is by far the best team in the country. However, they lack the star power that they typically have. They’ve won 10 in-conference games by 10 points or less, and have the tendency to be streaky shooters, which is something that will weigh heavily on them under the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament. FGCU comes in as a team that has something to prove and that nobody expects to be competitive. Look out for this one.
USA Today also predicts that Wagner will face off against Virginia in the first round. Wagner’s downfall will be their youth and inexperience while facing the Cavaliers, who also boast the ACC Player of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon. If Wagner can figure out a way to keep Virginia under 60 points and lower than 35 percent from three, they will have a good chance at victory.
The Villanova Wildcats are an intriguing candidate due to their uncanny ability to lose when it matters. They could be coming into the tournament with only four losses and a fair amount of momentum. They will most likely face off against Lehigh, according to USA Today. The Mountain Hawks will need to smother the transition offense from the Wildcats, while also limiting the scoring from Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Easier said than done, but definitely within the realm of possibility.
Finally, we will most likely see Hampton match up against Oklahoma. I put this game last because I think it is the least likely to feature an upset, but the lack of buzz around Hampton may just give them the energy they need to win. This game is the essence of a 16-1 matchup. Nobody believes in Hampton, just as nobody believed in Princeton, but it only takes one spectacular performance to prove everyone wrong.