Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Bracket busting in the year of the mid-Major

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NCAA/The madness of March continued today as we saw the fall of the top overall seeded Kansas Jayhawks to the #9 Northern Iowa. Additionally #2 seed Villanova collapsed against #10 St. Marys and #3 New Mexico lost to #11 Washington. Cinderella has arrived to the Sweet 16 and brought along some friends.

Brackets everywhere have been busted wide open.

Northern Iowa was not intimidated by Kansas and played solid all game long. Kansas fought back at the end, but the Panthers’ 3 point shooting solidified the upset. The Jayhawks are now the first #1 seed eliminated and the shocking loss is now the exclamation point on a growing list of surprises helping to establish this year’s tournament as a classic.

Villanova’s exit marks the sixth loss of the tournament for the vaulted Big East conference. There had been speculation heading into the tournament that the Big East might be overrated, but given the number of Big East teams ranked within the top 25 during the season, it was hard to argue against the depth or talent of the conference. Villanova now joins Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette and Louisville on the list of early losses. Syracuse (#1), West Virginia (#2) and Pittsburgh (#3) still remain in the hunt for the national championship.

The other day I questioned the cause for the widespread upsets this year. Is this a reflection of better coaching and recruiting at the mid-tier level? Is the newfound parity evidence of the evolution of the NBA Development League (D-League)? As the D-League matures into an equivalent of the minor leagues for the NBA, the risk to talented high school and collegiate players to enter the draft early has been reduced. However, this still does not explain why we are seeing an outstanding number of upsets and close nailbiters. What do you think?

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