Virginia upset highlights wild opening rounds of NCAA tournament

Virginia Cavaliers drives to the basket against UMBC RetrieversNo seed was safe in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament, which fulfilled the promise of March Madness more than ever before. For the first time since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams, a 16-seed defeated a 1-seed when UMBC upset Virginia by 20 points on Friday, while Syracuse and Loyola-Chicago forged their way to the Sweet 16 as double-digit seeds and many of the more popular picks to win the tournament were eliminated.

UMBC’s 74-54 win over Virginia was the highlight upset of the South Region, which also saw the premature elimination of Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Arizona. The top remaining team in the region is 5th seeded Kentucky, marking the first time in tournament history that none of the top four teams in a region have made it to the Sweet 16. Nevada trailed Cincinnati by 22 points before winning on Sunday - the biggest comeback on a weekend filled with buzzer-beaters.

Virginia wasn’t the only 1-seed not to survive the weekend, as Xavier fell to Florida State in the West Region, which also saw the early elimination of North Carolina in a rout by Texas A&M. Syracuse used its defense to bust some brackets in the Midwest Region by stifling the high-powered lineup of Michigan State, and the Orange will face a similar task in the next round against Duke. The only region that has played out relatively normally so far is the East, which still saw a first-round upset of Wichita State by Marshall.

Of the remaining teams, top seeds Villanova and Kansas are among the favourites to win the tournament. Gonzaga and Michigan seem most likely to meet to decide the West as Michigan has continued its run from the Big Ten conference tournament, defeating Houston with a buzzer-beater on Sunday. Kentucky now faces one of the easiest roads to the Final Four in terms of opponent seeding, but the South has proven that a seed is just a number once the teams set foot on the court, and Kansas State, Nevada, or even Loyola-Chicago could easily be representing the region in the Final Four.

The South and West regions resume play Thursday, while the Midwest and East are back in action on Friday.