For the first time in NCAA basketball tournament history, a #16 seed, U. of Maryland Baltimore County, beat a #1 seed, U. of Virginia, a convincing 74-54 drubbing. The #16 (lowest) seeded team had lost something like 132 times in a row to a regional top seed since the NCAA expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
By the way, back in 2000, the legendary social analyst La Griffe du Lion pointed out an effective program aimed at quality black students at UMBC.
Anyway, back to fun and games.
Why did #16 teams never win before, while #15 teams had beaten #2 teams 8 ties. Some was bad luck.
But it was back when they had a 64 team field, the #16 seeds in the 4 regions tended to be bad teams that the NCAA had to take for some contractual reason: e.g., a team that went 11-16 but got lucky and won their crummy conference’s tournament. (The NCAA often has a contract obligating it to take at least one team from each conference, and there are some very obscure conferences out there.) So there was a big fall off in quality from #15 to #16 seeds. The #15s were teams the NCAA thought had a little something on the ball, but the #16s were in the tournament for fluke reasons. So it wasn’t too rare for a #15 to beat a #2, but #16s only came close to beating #1s a few times. (E.g., Princeton played a slow-down game to give itself better odds of getting lucky.)
But then they expanded the tournament to 68 teams and now have the 8 lowest seeded teams playoff for the 4 #16 spots, so #16s are probably better these days than, say, in the 1980s. Now the #16s are all teams that managed to win a game earlier this week, so they are likely healthier and playing better than #16s in the past.