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Mike Lopresti | | March 23, 2018

We're tracking every March Madness upset

Loyola Chicago's March Madness magic

This is the trail of broken dreams. Or fulfilled ones, depending on your perspective. It’s the list of upsets for the NCAA tournament, and many would agree — the more, the better. Without them, March would be just another month with pep bands.

RELATED: Updated 2018 bracket | Track your bracket

The list will be updated as the tournament moves along, and the favorites fall. The Miami Hurricanes had the honor — or should that be infamy? — of being the first to go back in Thursday's first round.


No. 9 Florida State 75, No. 4 Gonzaga 60

Florida State is headed to Elite Eight

Defense and numbers. The Seminoles blocked nine shots, had eight steals, outscored Gonzaga 38-22 in the paint and harassed the Zags into 33.9 percent shooting. It didn’t matter much that Terance Mann was the only Florida State player in double figures with 18 points. With the deep rotation of 10 players Leonard Hamilton sent at Gonzaga, the Seminoles were in control most of the night. The Zags were missing second leading scorer Killian Tillie, out with a hip pointer after a freak collision in practice.


Florida State has rolled into unfamiliar territory. The Seminoles haven’t seen a regional championship game since 1993, and have been to only one Final Four — 46 years ago. This run is by a team that lost six of its last nine against ACC competition. But its relentless attack of numbers has knocked off three higher seeds in the West. Gonzaga was the last member of the 2017 Final Four to bow out.


Hamilton. “We’re a team that operates with the philosophy that we have to win games by committee. We try to get guys to buy into 18-strong. We have T-shirts that the guys have that say, `18 Strong,’  because they believe there is strength in numbers. In the ACC, there are a lot of one-and-dones and McDonald’s All-Americans . . . we feel that we can compete if we have a number of guys contributing night in and night out.”

Hamilton on being a surprise: “It’s interesting that we probably are the only ones who believe that we’re capable of this, and it’s fun because we’re overcoming. We’re always the underdog, and we’re clawing and scratching, and scratching and clawing.”

Gonzaga coach Mark Few on Florida State:  “We just could never generate any real consistent offensive rhythm, and that’s because of their length and their athleticism, and their aggressiveness and their switching . If you make a mistake or make a turnover, they jump on it and sting you in transition . . . Watching them on tape, the more I watched them, I got a bad feeling in my stomach.”

No. 9 Kansas State 61, No. 5 Kentucky 58

Kansas State outlasts Kentucky

Ignore the box score. At least the part that shows how Kentucky had nine more rebounds, nine more free throws and shot 52.6 percent in the second half to Kansas State’ 34.6. Also how Kansas State’s leading scorer for the season, Dean Wade, played only eight minutes and scored four points with a foot injury, and three other Wildcats fouled out, including Xavier Sneed and his 22 points, leaving an all-guard lineup on the floor. So who was left to possibly win the game for Kansas State? Barry Brown Jr, slicing through the defense for the go-ahead banker over defender arms with 19 seconds left. Kentucky didn’t get much of a shot in its final possession. Kansas State announced its intentions with a 13-1 lead after 3 1/2  minutes. Kentucky came back, but put itself in peril by not hitting 3-pointers (3-for-12) or free throws (23-for-37).


What a rare regional championship game this created. Kansas State, without a Final Four since 1964. And Loyola, without one since 1963. No. 9 seed vs. No. 11, and no Elite Eight game in the history of seedings — going back to 1979 — had such numbers. The previous high was No. 9 Penn over No. 10 St. John’s in 1979.  Kansas State got a little lost in the Big 12 glare this season. Not anymore, as the Wildcats ended their all-time 0-9 futility against Kentucky. But now they are face- to-face with their historical nemesis; the regional title game. They’re 0-6 since ’64. Meanwhile, Kentucky missed the Elite Eight for only the third time in nine years. John Calipari’s plea to his Wildcats to “don’t drink the poison” about the upset-hammered South being soft will be secure in famous Big Blue Nation lexicon.


Kansas State coach Bruce Weber: “We said we wanted to be pests, like UMBC was to Virginia and they were to us, and I think we were. I’m not sure they (Kentucky) were ready for it. We got after them and got a nice lead  . .  . We got to have fun for about 15 minutes tonight, but then we’ve got to get refocused and ready for the chance of a lifetime.”

Xavier Sneed, on Kansas State being unofficially seeded at 16th and last in many Sweet 16 projections: “We felt disrespected all year, and we just came out and proved people wrong, and we’re going to do that game by game.”

Brown on his shot: “Just with their length, they’ve been blocking shots all game. Once I got past my man, I just wanted to get the ball away from the people that were going to block my shot.”

Calipari on the last Kentucky possession, which ended up a Quade Green airball:  “I should have called that timeout with 19 seconds to go, but we had worked on something and I thought we could catch them off-guard. Can’t put that on these guys. That’s right on my shoulders.”

No. 11 Loyola-Chicago 69, No. 7 Nevada 68

Loyola Chicago takes out Nevada, 69-68

Just another night at the odds-defying office for the Ramblers. They rallied from an early 12-point deficit in the first half, then blew a 12-point lead in the second. At the end, it was Marques Townes’ 3-pointer with 6.3 seconds left that kept them safe and gave them a four-point lead — and they would need every one of them. Penetrating Nevada’s defense and continually attacking the basket, Loyola shot 55.8 percent – 75 percent the second half, when the Ramblers made their first 13 attempts. They scored 46 points in the paint. Townes’ 18 points included 2-for-2 in 3-pointers. In the previous seven games, he was 2-for-18. But at the moment, whatever Loyola needs, Loyola gets.


Three NCAA tournament wins by four points, each including a big shot by three different players in the final seconds. Destiny seems to be wearing a Loyola shirt. The last time the Ramblers made it this far was 1963, when they won the national championship – four members of that team were on the front row to watch this game. This also puts them on the brink of becoming the fourth 11-seed to ever make the Final Four, joining VCU of 2011, George Mason of 2006, and LSU of 1986. Xavier came close last year as an 11, getting to the Elite Eight. And it was Loyola’s 20th win in 21 games, which should give the Ramblers’ regional championship game opponent something to think about.


Loyola’s Clayton Custer: “Marques Townes was the best player on the court tonight. I don’t think it was close.”

Townes on his 3-pointer: “I’ll probably remember it for the rest of my life.”

Coach Porter Moser: “They keep believing. They keep buying in. So it’s just grown, and we haven’t thought about the total victory margin. We’ve just talked about putting in the bank . . . next one, we’re hungry, we’re greedy, we want more.”

Loyola's Ben Richardson: "This is uncharted territory for us."

Nevada coach Eric Musselman on Loyola: "They do a great job cutting, they do a great job spacing. And that’s why they’re 31-5.”


No. 9 Florida State 75, No. 1 Xavier 70

Florida State upsets Xavier, 75-70

Like a lightning bolt during a thunderstorm in Tallahassee. Xavier seemed in control the whole game, and was up nine with 5 ½ minutes left. Then the Musketeers veered off the road. In those last five minutes, they had six turnovers and one field goal. The Seminoles went rolling past, taking the lead for good with 1:08 left on a PJ Savoy 3-pointer. Xavier's 11 missed free throws also opened the door for Florida State. And Trevon Bluiett, a senior who had carried Xavier so far, picked an awful day for an awful day. He missed six of eight shots and scored only eight points.


Xavier had more fun as an underdog. As a No. 11 seed in 2017, the Musketeers upset their way to the Elite Eight. As a No. 1, they didn’t make it out of the first weekend. Combined with Virginia’s historic demise, it meant half the No. 1 seeds didn’t survive the second round. Florida State got a big scoop of atonement for its first Sweet 16 berth since 2011. The Seminoles were blown out 91-66 in last year’s second round. By Xavier.


Florida State’s Terance Mann, referring to last year’s loss to Xavier: “It feels like sweet revenge.”

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton:  “I can't say that we are much better than Xavier, but we were much better than Xavier in the last two and a half minutes of the game. Sometimes when the games are close, that's all that's important. I think that's what you see happening there. There are teams that find a way in that moment to get that message and emotional challenge or advantage and they make plays, and that's why I think the NCAA tournament is the greatest sporting event in all sports.”

Xavier coach Chris Mack, on losing key seniors Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura:  "If you think our program is falling off a cliff, you haven't followed Xavier basketball very long."

No. 7 Nevada 75, No. 2 Cincinnati 73

Nevada wins after 22-point comeback

Does anyone really know? Cincinnati was ahead by 22 points with 11 minutes left, and then it seemed as if the entire universe turned upside down. The Bearcats’ offense crumbled against Nevada's desperate trap – 3-for-16 shooting from that point -- and the Wolf Pack charged back with Cody Martin’s glowing stat line: 25 points, six rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers in 40 minutes. The ultimate irony came at the end. Cincinnati controlled the boards 44-33 and had a 20-9 advantage in second chance points, but Josh Hall’s winning basketball came off an offensive rebound with 9.1 seconds. It was Nevada’s first lead. So yes, the Wolf Pack won a game in which they led for only 9.1 seconds. They also had only two turnovers against one of the nation’s fiercest defenses. Then again, Cincinnati only had seven.


The Wolf Pack are officially the Comeback Kings of the tournament. They rallied from 14 points back to beat Texas in overtime in the first round. Nevada had won only four tournament games in its history until this month, though it reached the Sweet 16 in 2004. This result also made a clean sweep in the South Regional – none of the top four seeds survived the first week. As for Cincinnati, this had to hurt even worse than the two-point loss to Saint Joseph’s in the first round two years ago, when a would-be tying dunk at the end was waved off after a replay review found it to be a fraction of a second too late.


Nevada coach Eric Musselman: “That locker room right now, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”

Nevada’s Caleb Martin: “We just got to focus from the jump and make sure – from this point on, it’s not going to cut it, trying to come back from 22 points.”

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin: “We . . . got the deer in the headlights look. Ball stopped dropping for us. We got fouled a lot of times and it wasn’t called around the rim, and that got in our heads. It affected our defensive execution.” 

No. 7 Texas A&M 86, No. 2 North Carolina 65

Texas A&M upsets North Carolina, 86-65

This was a thumping in nearly every way with the Aggies taking command on a 15-0 run in the first half and never looking back. From the 50-36 dominance in rebounding to the zone defense that limited North Carolina to 33.3 percent shooting — including 6-for-31 on 3-pointers — and blocked eight shots, to its own 51.6 percentage from the field, Texas A&M had every answer. Freshman guard T.J. Starks, who wasn’t even starting until late January, led the charge with 21 points while Robert Williams provided the muscle with 13 rebounds in his 20 minutes.


The no-repeat rule for national champions remains in force. Nobody has done it since Florida in 2007. In the end, even the Tar Heels’ own state couldn’t save them. They had been 34-1 in tournament games played in North Carolina. Texas A&M showed it is now much more like the team that began the season 11-1, not the one that lost 10 of its next 16.


Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis: “We do what we do every day; go to the war on the inside and eat glass.”

Coach Billy Kennedy: “We came to a point in our season where our backs were against the wall, where we knew we had to win games, and I think . . . our whole attitude changed. We played with more of a sense of urgency in practice, practice habits got better, and we just got better – we grew, you know, like the light came on.”

North Carolina coach Roy Williams: “There’s a hundred things I could say, and yet there’s not a lot to say. We got beat by a team that played better than we did . . . I didn’t picture it ending like this. I pictured it ending with these guys having a huge smile on their face, but that’s not college basketball.”

Williams on if a game like this makes him ponder retirement: “I think about jumping off the top of the building right now, but I don’t think about retirement."

No. 11 Syracuse 55, No. 3 Michigan State 53

Syracuse upsets Michigan State, 55-53

Throw another victim of the Syracuse zone onto the NCAA tournament pile. The numbers speak of Michigan State's futility: The Spartans missed their last 13 shots, and finished with a 25.8 shooting percentage, which included 8-for-37 in 3-pointers. And two of those, they banked in. Their last field goal was at 5:41. The Syracuse defense can atone for so much. The Orange shot only 35.7 percent themselves, were outrebounded 51-30 and outscored 21-5 in second chance points. They were playing in front of a hugely partisan Michigan State crowd in Detroit. But in the end, they were the team going to Omaha.


Michigan State had become a trendy pick for national champion, so a lot of brackets were busted. Meanwhile, this Syracuse team is starting to reenact 2016, when the Orange went from a No. 10 seed to the Final Four on its defense.  And let’s hear it for the First Four. The Orange are the fourth team in eight years to start there and get to the Sweet 16.


Jim Boeheim: “This team perseveres, no matter what happens . .. .I’ve never won a game when a team banked two 3’s against us.”

Boeheim on playing Michigan State in Detroit: “One thing that happens – it happened one year to us – the home court is a great thing, but when you’re in a close game at the end, you feel like, `We’re home, we need to win this game.’ You start to feel that a little bit. And the last couple of jump shots they threw up, they weren’t in the ballpark.”

Tyus Battle: “Every time we step on the floor, we don’t care who is on the floor with us, we’re expecting to win the game. So we have supreme confidence.”

Tom Izzo. “We got beat because we couldn’t make a shot, and I thought we had some good shots.

Izzo on Miles Bridges, who waited on the NBA for another season at Michigan State: “I know why Miles came back. But he has no regrets why he came back, because in his mind, he got to do the things he wanted to do, except maybe get to a Final Four. You don’t get all your dreams sometimes.”

Bridges on his emotions: “Probably the saddest I’ve ever been in my life.”


No. 11 Loyola Chicago 63, No. 3 Tennessee 62

Loyla-Chicago upsets Tennessee in final moments

Another game, another March moment for the Ramblers. This winning shot by Clayton Custer came with 3.6 seconds left – or about three seconds earlier than Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beater against Miami two days earlier. Custer could hardly have been defended better by the Volunteers, but he pulled up off his dribble right to shoot, and was saved by a friendly bounce off the front of the rim. Loyola squandered a nine-point lead in the last four minutes with some ill-timed turnovers, but it was nothing a little magic couldn’t cure. Custer, with 10 points, was the only Rambler starter in double figures. Tennessee took a 15-6 lead and Admiral Schofield scored 11 points in the first 4 ½ minutes. He had three more all day.


More echoes from 1985. That was the last time Loyola won a tournament game, and the Ramblers went to the Sweet 16 that year, too. It is also the fifth consecutive season that a No. 11 seed made it to the second week of the tournament, though the other names carry a tad more glitter; Gonzaga, UCLA, and Xavier last year. It was a painful end to a stirring season for Tennessee, picked to finish 13th in the SEC.


Custer on getting the good roll for his winning shot: “I think it’s all those years of hard work coming into play . . . the basketball gods helped that one go in.”

Teammate Ben Richardson, a Custer friend since childhood: “I’ve seen him make (the shot Custer took) probably a million times. And I have so much faith in that shot because I’ve seen him make it. When we’re just working out, he makes it, like, a 98 percent clip.”

Richardson on Loyola’s run: “Coach was always saying – he was preaching before the game – it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. I know that’s a cliché, but that’s something we’ve really embraced.”

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes: “We had the ball with a chance to tie it or go up. We did. They had the ball with a chance to win it, and they did it.”


No. 11 Syracuse 57, No. 6 TCU 52

Syracuse beats TCU 57-52

Just another garden variety Syracuse victory, meaning long on zone defense and short on aesthetic value. The Orange shot only 36.8 percent and made three of 14 from the 3-point line, and got away with it. How? Because they’re the Orange, which means the other team isn’t doing much on offense, either. TCU shot 39.8 percent, missed 14 of its 17 3-pointers, and was held 31 points under its scoring average.


The First Four Boost lives on. The First Four has been around eight years, and this is the seventh time that Wednesday’s second game winner came back on Friday and upset a higher seed. Meanwhile, now that Jamie Dixon has TCU in the tournament for the first time in 20 years, the next step is to win a game.


Jim Boeheim on the tournament wins over Arizona State and TCU: “Our defense was fabulous. We just held two teams that averaged 80s', well in the 80s', to 56 and 52. That’s pretty good.”

Boeheim: “We’re going to play the way we play. And we’re not running up and down. Couple of times we tried to go for the fast break, we completely screwed up.”

Dixon: “As I told them, this must be part of the process, playing in the NCAA Tournament and not playing to your level. Simply put, we didn’t play to our level. And that hopefully prepares us for going forward next year.”

No. 16 UMBC 74, No. 1 Virginia 54

Lyles leads UMBC over Virginia

A 21-21 tie at halftime had the Retrievers thinking it could be their moment. Then there was Virginia's defensive troubles. That phrase had not been uttered all season, as the Cavaliers shut down one offense after another. But after a relatively mild first half, Jairus Lyles turned into the unstoppable force for UMBC. He scored 23 of his  points after halftime and the Retrievers shot 67.9 percent the second half. They scored one fewer point in the second half than Virginia scored the entire game. Who would have thought it possible? 


History. The No. 16 seed shutout is gone for good, and future No. 16 seeds will understand the possibilities when they face their own long odds. Also legacy, certainly for Lyles, to be remembered as the ultimate hot hand in the ultimate upset. Meanwhile, for Virginia and Tony Bennett, it was another baffling and  unfulfilling ending to what had been a splendid regular season, and sets up one question that must be answered. What happens to the Cavaliers in March?

For anyone who filled out an NCAA tournament bracket, your bracket is probably busted. Almost everyone picked Virginia to win its first round game (98.1 percent of March Madness Bracket Challenge users, to be exact), 42.19 percent of brackets had the Cavaliers in the Final Four and 13.73 percent of brackets picked UVA to win the national championship. The Cavaliers were the second-most popular national title pick.


UMBC's Jairus Lyles on his parents being Virginia graduates: “I think they wanted us to get the win most importantly, but I’m sure it’d be a topic of discussion for a little while."

Lyles, on the 21-21 tie at half: "I don’t think there was a point in the game that we thought we couldn’t play with them, we thought we could play with them coming into the game. Tying up with them at half definitely gave us more confidence."

Tony Bennett on his team:   "They had a historic season.  Then, we had a historic loss, being the first one seed to lose. That’s life. We talk about it all the time. . . . If you play this game and step into the arena, this stuff can happen.”

Virginia's Devon Hall: "We lost by 20 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That pretty much sums it up itself.”

No. 13 Marshall 81, No. 4 Wichita State 75

Marshall defeats Wichita State, 81-75

Start with Jon Elmore, who’s on a roll. One week, he’s being named the Conference-USA tournament MVP. The next, he’s scoring 27 points against Wichita State.  The Thundering Herd were outrebounded 44-30, but made up for that with a 27-7 gap in points off turnovers. The Shockers were also doomed by 27.6 percent from the 3-point line, including 0-for-7 by Landry Shamet.


Marshall had not been in the NCAA tournament in 31 years; this was coming back with a thunderclap, getting the school’s first-ever victory. Wichita State has styled itself as the underrated team, determined to quiet the doubters by beating higher-seeded fish. The Shockers now know how the other side of that equation feels, losing their tournament opener for the first time since 2012.


Elmore: “Basketball is what I love to do, and whoever that guy is in front of me, I’m trying to crush him. Every play I want to . . . get around him, get him in foul trouble, get the assist. I don’t care who you put on me, I’m going to attack you for 40 minutes, and that’s what we did tonight.”

Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni: “We started this journey losing – my journey for four years – losing (15 games out of 16 his first season). They never quit. It started from he very beginning. We never quit that season, we don’t quit during the game, and we don’t quit when it’s over.”

Wichita State Gregg Marshall, on if being higher seeded put the Shockers in a different mindset: “I don’t think, at least from my perspective. I can’t read the minds of my players, but from a coaching staff perspective, it didn’t change at all. Our preparation was as thorough and diligent as we could possibly do.”


No. 13 Buffalo 89, No. 4 Arizona 68

Buffalo upsets Arizona, 89-68

A shocking knockout punch by Buffalo in the second half. Hard to believe, but Arizona actually led a close game with 17:23. Then came the 16th and last lead change, and the Bulls’ pressure steamrolled the Wildcats the rest of the way, while shooting nearly 57 percent the second half, 64 percent from the 3-point line.  Arizona’s defense had no answer for Wes Clark, who scored 25 points on 10-for-14 shooting.


Where do we start? We'll lead off with this upset's impact on the nation's brackets, since that's what everyone cares about this time of year. Arizona was the seventh-most popular national champion pick among Bracket Challenge users and only 5.4 percent of brackets picked Buffalo to win in the first round. Buffalo's win also derails a possible Arizona-Kentucky matchup that many were predicting. The Bulls sent the Wildcats – the preseason No. 3 team in the AP Top 25 – home after a topsy-turvy season in which Arizona finished in eighth place in the Battle 4 Atlantis and rebounded to sweep the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles, before being eliminated by a double-digit seed in the tournament for the third year in a row.


Buffalo guard CJ Massinburg on his coach, Nate Oats: “We just came in feeling like we belong there. We belong at this stage. He’s not scared of anything, and he puts that into us, and we follow his lead. He’s a relentless person.”

Guard Jeremy Harris: “Wes (Clark) and I were talking late last night – I won’t tell you the time because coach might get mad. We couldn’t sleep because we were so excited to play. And it’s amazing. March Madness is amazing.”

Nate Oats: “The more you looked at them, the more beatable they looked, because they weren’t that deep.”

Arizona coach Sean Miller: “I thought their pressure decimated us.”

Miller on his freshman star, Deandre Ayton: “When you get someone like him, you want to go all the way, right? And when you lose in the first round, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

No. 11 Loyola-Chicago 64, No. 6 Miami 62

Loyola wins at the buzzer

Never mind Donte Ingram was 4-for-13 for the day. There was one last shot to take and he took it, from so far away, he was on the March Madness logo near midcourt. What better way for a Chicago native to spend his afternoon? Miami shot 51 percent and led the entire second half, but a turnover and missed free throw in the final 23 seconds left the door ajar. Loyola got away with missing five of nine free throws. The pregame prayer from the Ramblers’ 98-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt couldn’t have hurt, either.

WATCH: See Ingram's incredible shot in 360 degrees


It was Loyola’s first NCAA tournament victory in 12,054 days, going back to their last appearance in 1985. It was also their 29th win this season, and the last time they did that was the 1963 national championship. And their 11th consecutive victory and 18th in the last 19 games. Plus, it proved the Missouri Valley Conference is still in the bracket-advancing business, even without Wichita State.


Ingram: “Any one of us could have hit that shot, but I was just fortunate to be in the position. And when I seen the shot and I had the space, I was confident, and it went in, luckily . . . I’ve been saying this, as a kid, this is what you grow up seeing, hoping you can be in that moment.”

Loyola coach Porter Moser: “A lot of people talk about the conference tournament is a new season, NCAA Tournament is a new season. We’ve never viewed it that way. We wanted to continue on what we were doing.”

Miami coach Jim Larranaga: “It’s pretty simple to know why we call it March Madness.”

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