By Jared Spohr
It’s that time of year again: the time of college basketball heartbreak. All over the nation, fans are watching one of the most unpredictable playoff seasons in history unfold. There have been major upsets and serious heartbreak. Not a single perfect bracket made it past the first round of the tournament. Perhaps one of the biggest bracket busters was the UMBC Retrievers extremely unlikely victory over Virginia.
In an article published on FiveThirtyEight, it was explained that Virginia had a 98 percent probability of winning. UMBC’s upset was nothing short of spectacular. However, Virginia played their worst game all season. Their offense, considered one of the best in the country, shot just 41 percent from the floor, while arguably the best defense in the nation was completely helpless against the UMBC offensive attack. The Retrievers shot 50 percent from downtown, an incredible accomplishment.
Here’s a statistic that will drive college basketball fans nuts: Virginia’s defense held opponents to an average of 53.4 points per game during the regular season. UMBC torched them for 53 points in the second half alone.
While that game resulted in a devastated Cavaliers team, another big story to come out of the opening weekend was the Nevada Wolfpack’s insane comeback against the Cincinnati Bearcats. In what Henry Bushnell from Yahoo Sports described as a “comeback more miraculous than Patriots over Falcons,” the Wolfpack rallied from a 22 point deficit in the second half to upend Cincinnati in one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball history.
The Bearcats dominated most of the game, until someone lit a fire in the Wolves’ belly. Nevada went on to score 16 unanswered points in the second half. After a brief period of getting dominated, the Bearcats appeared to get back on track to victory for a brief moment. But then the wheels fell off as Cincinnati failed to make a single field goal in the final 5:48 in the game.
Cody Martin led the comeback for Nevada, as he scored 25 points, dished out 7 assists and hauled in 6 rebounds. However, unlikely hero Josh Hall came off the bench for Nevada, and after grabbing Martin’s miss, he floated one in to give his team the lead for the first time in the game with nine seconds left. The Wolfpack held on for the remaining nine seconds, and chaos broke loose on the court as the Nevada players celebrated one of the best comebacks in college basketball history.
Moving forward, it seems impossible to predict nearly anything at this point. However, preliminary Regional winner predictions from Bleacher Report have Nevada winning the South, Gonzaga winning the West, Villanova securing the East and Kansas taking the Midwest. Villanova can never be discounted, as the defending national champions are an incredible team that many people believe have the potential to pull it off a second year in a row. However, the odds are stacked high against the Wildcats, as there have only been six back-to-back champions since the tournament started in 1939.
Here’s to hoping more history is made in the second half of the tournament!