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April 6, 2018

Midnight came a bit later than usual this year for the men’s side of the NCAA basketball tournament, and that was a little weird. Don’t get me wrong: I love a good Cinderella. But historically speaking, they’re pretty rare. For all we like to say that the tournament is unpredictable, and prone to upsets, there really isn’t that much deviation. Almost certainly two of the four Final Four slots will be bona fide blue bloods. The plucky 12-seed that upset Cincinnati or some other vulnerable Power Five team will inevitably lose by 20 before the Elite Eight. Everyone’s darling will crash and burn, leaving us to root for the likes of Syracuse as the last bastion of low-seed basketball against the inevitable dominance of Duke, UConn, UNC, Kansas, Villanova, and whatever high-level mid-major is now staking a claim to the top levels of basketball.

But for some reason, this year was different. I mean, we all knew this year was going to be weird from the moment Virginia took to the floor. Already one of the weakest top overall seeds in ages, if there was ever a low-octane, deliberate, highly defensive team that would lose to a 16-seed, it’s Virginia, and then UMBC actually did it. Then Nevada won, and then Loyola won. And then Marshall won. And then Buffalo. And then one by one, the blue bloods hit each other, or just dropped. Kentucky lost earlier than anticipated. Purdue and Texas Tech beat each other to a pulp. Xavier got beat down by Florida State. By now, we’ve all seen what happened to Houston in their best season since Phi Slamma Jamma. And, of course, Duke was finally edged by Kansas, who in any other year would have been the Good Guys.

That was an incredibly poor recap of a wild month. My point is, embrace how weird this year was. Loyola played out of their minds for an entire month. UMBC had the most magical night since Harvard’s women in the 1998 tournament against Stanford. Wichita State looked like an overmatched mid-major playing with the big boys, after embarrassing major conference teams for the last 4 years. Expect a return to normalcy next year. The blue bloods will probably reign, making up more than half of the Elite Eight field. Kentucky and Duke will probably be butting heads for the best young core in the nation. Villanova will embarrass some March hopeful, as will some other ascendant Big East team, and that is what made this month special. It will be years before we see this kind of chaos again. Embrace that, and enjoy it. And in the meantime, root against Duke. At least they will always be the bad guys.

Anthony Adams
Political Editor

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