Long gone are the days when I make any effort to predict anything that will happen in the NCAA tournament, let alone explain why things are happening. It’s way too crazy for me to make any sense of.
But, even as surprising as many of the upsets have been, there is one thing about them that is particularly stupefying to me: in almost all of the big upsets, it was the lower-ranked team that had the highest scorer in the game:
When Murray State (a 13 seed) beat Vanderbilt (a 4), Isacc Miles led the game with 17 points.
When Ohio (14) beat Georgetown (3), Armon Bassett led the game with 32 points.
When Saint Mary’s (10) beat Villanova (2), Omar Samham led the game with 32 points.
When Cornell (12) beat Wisconsin (4), Louis Dale was the high scorer with 26 points.
And when Northern Iowa (9) beat Kansas (1), Ali Farokhmanesh tied for the game high with 16.
This is surprising to me, because when I hear people explain why there are more upsets now than there used to be, I generally hear them say that the “mid-major” schools typically have players who stay for 4 years, while the top talent at the “major” schools leaves early. As the thinking goes, the “mid-majors” have an advantage because they have multiple guys with experience playing together in a particular system, and that experience winds up winning out against superior talent. That makes sense on its face, but, if it were really the reason for so many upsets, wouldn’t we expect the victorious lower-seeded team to have a bunch of dudes in double digits, rather than having one dude leading them to a victory over a more talented team?
I have no idea why this is happening, and I don’t know what to make of it. I know this, though… ESPN, CBS, and the other venues that cover college hoops are missing some huge stories. There are some very talented players on teams that never seem to be on tv. As a college hoops fan, I feel kind of jipped. If I had known about Omar Samham at the beginning of the season, I would have been following him closely. (For reasons that I’d rather not get into, there is a soft spot in my heart for players who have no perceivable muscles, and can’t seem to jump over a stamp.) But, he wasn’t mentioned in any of the pre-season stories that I read. Instead, the “experts’” pre-season All-America teams included Willie Warren on Oklahoma, Ed Davis on North Carolina, Craig Brackins on Iowa State, and Jarvis Varnado on Mississippi State.
At least I feel better about one thing… my skills at predicting what will happen stand up quite nicely against the “experts.”