College Football Preview: Pac-12


College football season is right around the corner and that means it is time to preview the year. The Bat Flip’s 2018 college football preview will feature several different conference previews along with a comprehensive preview looking at the entire season. If the past few seasons are any indication, 2018 should be filled with drama and chaos until the very end when Alabama wins another National Championship.

Our college football preview continues with the Pac-12 taking its turn through the preview lineup. Shutout of the College Football Playoff last season, the Pac-12 features a trio of teams looking to represent the conference on the game’s biggest stage at the end of the season. Based on the preseason polls, Washington is the early favorite to win the conference and potentially make the playoff but Stanford and USC also have title aspirations.

Based strictly on the eye test, the North division of the Pac-12 looks to be the stronger of the two divisions especially if Oregon continues to rebuild its program. Down in the South division, defending conference champion USC will be the preseason favorite but all told the division appears to be wide open for the taking. If a team like Utah or Arizona can put it all together it is entirely possible we see a non-traditional power playing for the title.

Everything you could possibly want to know about the Pac-12 in 2018 is included in our conference preview, beginning with a breakdown of all twelve schools.

The Teams


Twelve schools makes up the Pac-12 conference with teams being split into two divisions of six schools a piece. The divisions are as follows:

North: California Golden Bears, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Stanford Cardinal, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars.

South: Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Colorado Buffaloes, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Utah Utes.

Each team will play everyone in its division along with four sides from the opposite division for a total of nine conference games during the 2018 season. Once the regular season ends, the winner of the North division and the South division will face off at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship.

North Division

California Golden Bears

  • Official Name: University of California, Berkeley
  • Head Coach: Justin Wilcox (2nd season)
  • Location: Berkeley, California
  • 2017 Recap: 5-7 (2-7 Pac-12), 5th in Pac-12 North

2018 Outlook: A solid start last season had California dreaming of a bowl appearance but a bad showing in conference play derailed its season and left them on the outside looking in. Justin Wilcox now enters his second season with 18 starters returning and eyes on taking the Golden Bears bowling for only the third time this decade.


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Oregon Ducks

  • Official Name: University of Oregon
  • Head Coach: Mario Cristobal (1st season)
  • Location: Eugene, Oregon
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (4-5 Pac-12), 4th in Pac-12 North

2018 Outlook: A few lean seasons may be a thing of the past for the Ducks as they look primed for a breakout season under first year head coach Mario Cristobal. Starting quarterback Justin Herbert is healthy and ready to lead a potent offense that averaged over 50 points with him behind center. Washington and Stanford will be the preseason favorites, but this Oregon side could turn a few heads in 2018.


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Oregon State Beaver

  • Official Name: Oregon State University
  • Head Coach: Jonathan Smith (1st season)
  • Location: Corvallis, Oregon
  • 2017 Recap: 1-11 (0-9 Pac-12) 6th in Pac-12 North

2018 Outlook: Safe to say things could not have gone much worse for the Beavers last season as bowl dreams quickly evaporated following a 1-5 start. First year head coach Jonathan Smith faces some hurdles in taking over the Beavers but expectations will be low so he has time to rebuild the program without too much pressure on his shoulders.


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Stanford Cardinal

  • Official Name: Stanford University
  • Head Coach: David Shaw (8th season)
  • Location: Stanford, California
  • 2017 Recap: 9-5 (7-2 Pac-12), 1st in Pac-12 North, Pac-12 Runner-up

2018 Outlook: One of the most consistent teams in college football is back and has another 10 win season, and perhaps more, on its mind in 2018. Heisman favorite Bryce Love returned for his senior season and should put up massive numbers on the ground once again. The schedule does Stanford no favors (away to Oregon, Notre Dame, and Washington), but The Cardinal have the talent to get the job done on any given Saturday.


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Washington Huskies

  • Official Name: University of Washington
  • Head Coach: Chris Petersen
  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • 2017 Recap: 10-3 (7-2 Pac-12), 2nd in Pac-12 North

2018 Outlook: Coming off a slight backwards slide following a playoff appearance in 2016, Chris Petersen and the Huskies are ready for a return to national prominence. They will enter the 2018 season as co-favorites with Stanford to win the North. If things go plan, Washington should be playing in its third straight major bowl game with hopes of playing for much more come the new year.


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Washington State Cougars

  • Official Name: Washington State University
  • Head Coach: Mike Leach (7th season)
  • Location: Pullman, Washington
  • 2017 Recap: 9-4 (6-3 Pac-12), 3rd in Pac-12 North

2018 Outlook: A lot of talent left the Cougars program in the offseason so Mike Leach will have his hands full trying to replicate the success of 2017. Pac-12 career passing leader Luke Falk has moved on but expect more Air Raid from the Cougars regardless of who replaces him. If you want to watch some enjoyable late-night college football, Washington State is a pretty safe bet.


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South Division

Arizona State Sun Devils

  • Official Name: Arizona State University
  • Head Coach: Herm Edwards (1st season)
  • Location: Tempe, Arizona
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (6-3 Pac-12), 2nd in Pac-12 South

2018 Outlook: Don’t let their Pac-12 South finish fool you, the Sun Devils were a very much flawed team who just so happened to play in a very week conference division last season. First year head coach Herm Edwards was one of the most interesting college hires in a long time. It will be worth keeping an eye on Tempe to see what he has cooking for his first college coaching stint.


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Arizona Wildcats

  • Official Name: University of Arizona
  • Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin
  • Location: Tucson, Arizona
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (5-4 Pac-12), 3rd in Pac-12 South

2018 Outlook: Arizona will be worth watching just to see what quarterback Khalili Tate does for an encore after bursting onto the scene last year. Tate is a potential Heisman finalist and playing in new head coach Kevin Sumlin’s system should help him put up some major numbers. The South division could be a wide open race and the Wildcats have a chance to make some noise in 2018.


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Colorado Buffaloes

  • Official Name: University of Colorado Boulder
  • Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre (6th season)
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado
  • 2017 Recap: 5-7 (2-7 Pac-12), 6th in Pac-12 South

2018 Outlook: A rebuilding year in 2017 saw the Buffaloes fall just a win shy of bowl eligibility. With a year of experience under their belt, Colorado will look to return to bowl play this season. Playing in a wide open division should play to their advantage where a few minor upsets could see them making a return trip to the Pac-12 championship game.


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UCLA Bruins

  • Official Name: University of California, Los Angeles
  • Head Coach: Chip Kelly (1st season)
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • 2017 Recap: 6-7 (4-5 Pac-12), 4th in Pac-12 South

2018 Outlook: Chip Kelly makes his long awaited return to the college game as head coach of the UCLA Bruins. Kelly’s glory days from his time at Oregon are hard to forget but don’t expect an immediate return to glory for the Bruins under the new boss. The schedule is brutal and the team is adjusting to an entirely new system on both sides of the ball.


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USC Trojans

  • Official Name: University of Southern California
  • Head Coach: Clay Helton (3rd season)
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • 2017 Recap: 11-3 (8-1 Pac-12), 1st in Pac-12 South, Pac-12 Champion

2018 Outlook: Replacing Sam Darnold will be a major factor is how much success the Trojans have in 2018. They will enter the season as the South division favorites but back-to-back road games against Stanford and Texas in September will show just how serious of a national threat this side really is. If they can survive to October, the schedule lightens up considerably and anything is possible.


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Utah Utes

  • Official Name: University of Utah
  • Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham (14th season)
  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (3-6 Pac-12), 5th in Pac-12 South

2018 Outlook: Drawing Washington, Stanford, and Oregon from the North almost seems unfair for Utah but they will have the talent to keep up with the heavyweights of the Pac-12 after a struggle last season. Pulling a few upsets along the way could put the Utes into their first Pac-12 title game in history.


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Five Games to Watch

Washington v. Auburn (September 1st): A meeting of two national title contenders on the opening week of the season in Atlanta. You cannot ask for much more than that.

Stanford v. USC (September 8th): This will be the first real test for either of these sides and very well could be a Pac-12 Championship preview regardless of the result.

Washington v. Oregon (October 22nd): If Oregon hopes to reign supreme in the North then this will be a game they have to win in order to do so.

Washington v. Stanford (November 3rd): This matchup could very likely be a Pac-12 Championship semi-final to determine which side wins the North and which side has to settle for second.

USC v. Notre Dame (November 24th): One of the oldest rivalries in college football has delivered some spectacular games in the past. If things break right, this contest could have national implications.

2018 Pac-12 Predictions

It would not be a preview post without making some season predictions that will surely be wrong before the calendar hits October. Here is the Bat Flip’s official 2018 Pac-12 football predictions.

Projected Order of Finish

North: Washington, Stanford, Oregon, Washington State, California, Oregon State

South: USC, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Arizona State

Pac-12 Championship Game

Washington def. USC, 38-20

Individual Awards

Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year: Cameron Smith, LB, USC

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Chris Petersen, Washington

That’s a wrap on our 2018 Pac-12 football preview. Stay tuned throughout the week for more conference recaps along with a special college football preview episode of The FlipCast coming later in the week.

College Football Preview: SEC


College football season is right around the corner and that means it is time to preview the year. The Bat Flip’s 2018 college football preview will feature several different conference previews along with a comprehensive preview looking at the entire season. If the past few seasons are any indication, 2018 should be filled with drama and chaos until the very end when Alabama wins another National Championship.

Depending on who you talk to, college football begins and ends with the Southeastern Conference, better known as the SEC. To many fans, the SEC is the premier conference in college football and it’s very hard to argue against that claim. Since 2003, 11 of the 15 schools who won the National Championship have come from the SEC. Led by Alabama (five titles since 2009), the SEC has produced a laundry list of great teams over the last few years.

As the 2018 season prepares to kickoff in the coming days, the SEC looks poised once again to have a team or two in the College Football Playoff come January. Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia lead the pack of early national title contenders from the conference but once the games begin, it becomes anyone’s game.

Most of the strength in the SEC comes from the West division that includes Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and LSU. Defending SEC champion Georgia enters the season the heavy favorite in the East division but everyone else will be gunning for the Bulldogs this year.

In this preview you will find a full breakdown of everything you will need to know about the SEC this coming season from the teams, to the players, to who will be crowned conference champion in Atlanta.

Let’s get started shall we.

The Teams


Fourteen schools comprise the SEC with the teams being split evenly into two divisions of seven schools a piece. The divisions are as follows:

East: Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores.

West: Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, LSU Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Ole Miss Rebels, Texas A&M Aggies.

Each team will play everyone in its division along with two sides from the opposite division for a total of eight conference games during the 2018 season. Once the regular season ends, the winner of the East division and the West division will face off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

East Division

Florida Gators

  • Official Name: University of Florida
  • Head Coach: Dan Mullen (1st season)
  • Location: Gainesville, Florida
  • 2017 Recap: 4-7 (3-5 SEC), 5th in SEC East

2018 Outlook: A turbulent 2017 season saw Florida change head coaches and bring in Dan Mullen from Mississippi State in the offseason. This will be Mullen’s second stint at Florida following a successful run as offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008. The Gators are returning 19 starters from last year and should be much improved with Mullen at the helm.


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Georgia Bulldogs

  • Official Name: University of Georgia
  • Head Coach: Kirby Smart (3rd season)
  • Location: Athens. Georgia
  • 2017 Recap: 13-2 (7-1 SEC), 1st in SEC East, 2017 SEC Champion, National Runner-Up

2018 Outlook: You cannot come any closer to a national championship without winning one than Georgia last season. Leading in the fourth quarter over fellow SEC side Alabama in the National Championship game, the Georgia defense could not hold at the Bulldogs ultimately fell in overtime. Some big names left for the NFL but Kirby Smart and his staff should have the Bulldogs back in Atlanta as the class of the East division.


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Kentucky Wildcats

  • Official Name: University of Kentucky
  • Head Coach: Mark Stoops (6th season)
  • Location: Lexington, Kentucky
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (4-4 SEC), 3rd in SEC East

2018 Outlook: You never quite know what you will be getting with Mark Stoops and Kentucky year in and year out but they manage to put a respectful team on the field for the most part. They will not be a favorite to win the division but it is possible they could put a scare into some teams. Beating Florida will be the main goal which has not happened in over three decades.


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Missouri Tigers

  • Official Name: University of Missouri
  • Head Coach: Barry Odom (3rd season)
  • Location: Columbia, Missouri
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (4-4 SEC), 4th in SEC East

2018 Outlook: Missouri is another unspectacular team from a weak East division of the SEC. The Tigers returned to bowl play last season and look to be a team on the rise under head coach Barry Odom but it is hard to see them pushing Georgia for the East division crown this season. Another season of improvement in 2018 will show the Tigers are on the right track.


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South Carolina Gamecocks

  • Official Name: University of South Carolina
  • Head Coach: Will Muschamp (3rd season)
  • Location: Columbia, South Carolina
  • 2017 Recap: 9-4 (5-3 SEC), 2nd in SEC East

2018 Outlook: If there is any threat to Georgia in the East it may reside right here in Columbia, South Carolina with the Gamecocks. A solid showing in 2017 was capped off with an impressive Outback Bowl victory over Michigan and gave the school momentum heading into 2018. Entering the season, South Carolina only has two ranked opponents on the schedule in Georgia and Clemson. Avoiding an inexplicable loss to a fellow East side could see the Gamecocks back in a New Year’s Day bowl.


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Tennessee Volunteers

  • Official Name: University of Tennessee
  • Head Coach: Jeremy Pruitt (1st season)
  • Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
  • 2017 Recap: 4-8 (0-8 SEC), 7th in SEC East

2018 Outlook: Good news for the Volunteers? Things cannot get much worse than last year. Bad news? Their 2018 schedule features Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama all in a row. First year head coach Jeremy Pruitt enters with a lot of pressure to resurrect a once proud program. It will not happen overnight, but there needs to be signs of improvement or the fans will be restless once again.


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Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Official Name: Vanderbilt University
  • Head Coach: Derek Mason (5th season)
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2017 Recap: 5-7 (1-7 SEC), 6th in SEC East

2018 Outlook: Historically, Vanderbilt is bad at football. They have been somewhat more respectable in recent seasons with former head coach James Franklin bringing the program out of obscurity. Since Franklin left, the Commodores have taken a step back with only one bowl appearance since 2013. An improving East division could spell trouble if the Commodores fail to improve.


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West Division

Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Official Name: University of Alabama
  • Head Coach: Nick Saban (12th season)
  • Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • 2017 Recap: 13-1 (7-1 SEC), 2nd in SEC West, National Champion

2018 Outlook: It is very hard to win consistently in college football. It is even harder to win at the rate Alabama has one since Nick Saban took over as head coach. The Crimson Tide have been the class of the SEC and college football over the past decade and are the preseason favorites to lift another national championship trophy. It almost feels like a given to pencil them in for the College Football Playoff.


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Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Official Name: University of Arkansas
  • Head Coach: Chad Morris (1st season)
  • Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • 2017 Recap: 4-8 (1-7 SEC), 7th in SEC West

2018 Outlook: A wasted year in 2017 brought about a much needed coaching change for the Razorbacks. Seventeen starters are returning to this year’s squad but a stacked SEC West will make it hard to compete right off the bat for Chad Morris. The schedule is favorable with only three SEC road games and a rather bland non-conference slate. A return to bowl play is not out of the question.


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Auburn Tigers

  • Official Name: Auburn University
  • Head Coach: Gus Malzahn (6th season)
  • Location: Auburn, Alabama
  • 2017 Recap: 10-4 (7-1 SEC), 1st in SEC West, SEC Championship Runner-Up

2018 Outlook: Based on what they showed last season, Auburn should be a favorite to win the SEC and possibly the National Championship. There is no doubt the talent is there for the Tigers, but the 2018 schedule is an absolute gauntlet. Road games at Mississippi State, Georgia, and Alabama in the second half of the season will decide where Auburn ends up. They also kick off against No. 6 Washington in Atlanta. If they can find some big wins on the road, the Tigers should be in mix at the very end.


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LSU Tigers

  • Official Name: Louisiana State University
  • Head Coach: Ed Orgeron (2nd season)
  • Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • 2017 Recap: 9-4 (6-2 SEC), 3rd in SEC West

2018 Outlook: Another SEC West powerhouse that could easily play for a national title or settle for a middling bowl depending on how things shake out. They will open the 2018 season against No. 8 Miami where a win could go a long way come December. They will have to face Georgia, Mississippi State, and Alabama in a three week span but all three games will be taking place in Death Valley. That stretch will likely determine the Tigers’ fate in 2018.


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Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Official Name: Mississippi State University
  • Head Coach: Joe Moorhead (1st season)
  • Location: Starkville, Mississippi
  • 2017 Recap: 9-4 (4-4 SEC), 4th in SEC West

2018 Outlook: Head coach Dan Mullen bolted for Florida so the Bulldogs went out and poached Joe Moorhead from his offensive coordinator position at Penn State to replace Mullen. Moorhead comes to Starkville having turned Penn State into an offensive powerhouse and has the weapons to do the same in Starkville. Winning in the SEC is never easy, but if one side is poised to play dark horse it could be the Bulldogs under the leadership of Moorhead. Seventeen starters, including quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, will be returning.


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Ole Miss Rebels

  • Official Name: University of Mississippi
  • Head Coach: Matt Luke (2nd season)
  • Location: Oxford, Mississippi
  • 2017 Recap: 6-6 (3-5 SEC), 6th in SEC East, Postseason ban

2018 Outlook: Regardless of record, Ole Miss will not be participating in a bowl game this season due to a self imposed bowl ban for NCAA violations. Head coach Matt Luke did a fine job last season after taking over in late spring to lead the Rebels to a 6-6 record. Their hardest conference games are all on home soil so that will be going into their favor. If Luke can inspire this group once again with no postseason to play for, the Rebels could cause some issues among the SEC West elites.


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Texas A&M Aggies

  • Official Name: Texas A&M University
  • Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (1st season)
  • Location: College Station, Texas
  • 2017 Recap: 7-6 (4-4 SEC), 5th in SEC West

2018 Outlook: The biggest SEC recruitment this past offseason wasn’t a player, but a coach. Jimbo Fisher left Florida State and headed west to College Station, Texas where the former national championship winning coach will take over the Aggies program. It won’t be instant success for Fisher at A&M but he has the chance to make an early statement with games against Clemson and Alabama in the first month of the season. Any step forward for the program is positive for recruiting and this time next year A&M could be a national favorite.


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Five Game to Watch

Auburn v. Washington (September 1st): One of the marquee games of the opening weekend of the college football season. Should be a good measuring stick for two sides with dreams of a playoff berth.

Texas A&M v. Clemson (September 8th): This will be Jimbo Fisher’s first chance to make a real impression with the Aggies and it comes in primetime against a familiar for for Fisher.

Mississippi State v. Auburn (October 6th): If things go right, Mississippi State should enter this game 5-0 and close to the top 10 in the rankings. To this point, the schedule is light for the Bulldogs so this could be a major statement game.

Florida v. Georgia (October 27th): It’s hard to predict just exactly where these teams will be sitting at the end of October but this could game could play a very large role in determing the SEC and the national championship picture.

Alabama v. Auburn (November 24th): When both sides are on top of their game, the “Iron Bowl” just feels a little more special. Auburn got the win last year but Alabama took home the ultimate prize with another national title.

2018 SEC Predictions

It would not be a preview post without making some season predictions that will surely be wrong before the calendar hits October. Here is the Bat Flip’s official 2018 SEC football predictions.

Projected Order of Finish

East: Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

West: Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Arkansas

SEC Championship Game

Alabama def. Georgia 42-38

Individual Awards

SEC Offensive Player of the Year: Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama

SEC Coach of the Year: Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State

That’s a wrap on our 2018 SEC football preview. Stay tuned throughout the week for more conference recaps along with a special college football preview episode of The FlipCast coming later in the week,

March Madness Recap: Opening Weekend

Via @boisestatelive

If you are a functioning human being and have even the slightest knowledge of sports you are probably aware the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament kicked off this past weekend across the United States.

Known simply as March Madness, the month long tournament pits 68 college basketball teams against each other and the last one standing is crowned the national champion of the sport.

If the first weekend of action is any precursor of what is to come then we are in for one heck of a ride over the next few weeks. Through two rounds of play, the tournament has lived up to its name and brought the madness we all crave when tuning in.

Let’s break it down and recap what happened in a crazy weekend of hoops.

An Upset for the Ages

Coming into the 2018 NCAA Tournament, No. 1 seeds had an all time record of 132-0 over No. 16 seeds. When top overall seed University of Virginia tipped off against University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in their 1 vs. 16 matchup, that record had expanded to 135-0. When the final horn sounded in Charlotte that record stood at 135 AND 1.

For the first time ever, a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 in the NCAA tournament. This was an upset so massive most brackets were set ablaze the moment the game went final. Nobody picks 16 seeds unless they are family, alumni, or simply messing around.

Just to show how big this is, Seth Davis of CBS was so confident in a Virginia victory he tweeted this a minute into the game.

Even more to the credit of UMBC this was not simply just a massive upset, it was a full throttle beat down of the TOP OVERALL SEED in the tournament. A 74-54 dismantling of one of the best teams in college basketball.

People loved the upset so much, they just started randomly tweeting pictures of their own dogs at the official UMBC Athletic Twitter account.

Sadly, UMBC’s run ended in the next round at the hands of No. 9 seed Kansas St. but they will forever live on in the hearts of millions who watched them do the impossible.

(It probably didn’t hurt that their mascot is a very lovable doggo.)

It’s hard to say when (if?) we will ever see this happen again but one thing is for sure, no No. 1 seed will ever take a No. 16 lightly again. They are all on watch now for the rest of history. It’s happened once and it can happen again.

Really There Were Upsets Galore

UMBC was the biggest upset of opening weekend but it was in no way the only upset that went down. Top seeds were dropping left and right all weekend and as a result, the average seed moving onto the Sweet 16 is 5.13.

Here are the upsets that took place in the first two rounds:

  • No. 13 Buffalo over No. 4 Arizona
  • No. 11 Loyola-Chicago over No. 6 Miami
  • No. 16 UMBC over No. 1 Virginia
  • No. 13 Marshall over No. 4 Wichita State
  • No. 10 Butler over No. 7 Arkansas
  • No. 11 Syracuse over No. 6 TCU
  • No. 11 Loyola-Chicago over No. 3 Tennessee
  • No. 9 Florida State over No. 1 Xavier
  • No. 11 Syracuse over No. 3 Michigan State
  • No. 7 Nevada over No. 2 Cincinnati (Nevada trailed by 22 in the second half)
  • No. 7 Texas A&M over No. 2 North Carolina
  • No. 5 Clemson over No. 4 Auburn (Yes, it is only a one seed difference but Clemson won by 31)

(Note: No. 9 over No. 8 does not count as an upset)

Loyola-Chicago and Syracuse are the only teams to appear here twice meaning as 11 seeds they pulled off two upsets and will be playing in the Sweet 16 next weekend.

There Was Still Some Chalk

With all the talk about upsets we would be remiss if we did not discuss the title favorites who navigated the carnage and took care of business during the opening weekend to book a spot in the Sweet 16:

  • While Virginia and Xavier fell, fellow No. 1 seeds Villanova and Kansas fared much better. Villanova won by an average of 26 points over Radford and Alabama in the East region. Kansas cruised in their first game but had to survive a scare in the Round of 32, defeating No. 8 seed Seton Hall 83-79.
  • Same scenario for the No. 2 seeds took place. North Carolina and Cincinnati were both bounced in the Round of 32 but Duke and Purdue both advanced to the Sweet 16. Duke rolled in both of their games while Purdue had to overcome the loss of big man Isaac Haas to squeak past Butler.
  • Matching up against the Boilermakers in the Sweet 16 will be No. 3 seed Texas Tech who knocked off Stephen F. Austin and a strong Florida team to make it through.
  • Big Ten champion Michigan knocked off Montana in the first round then survived an upset bid by Houston in the Round of 32 thanks to a buzzer beating three pointer from freshman Jordan Poole.
  • 2017 national runner-up Gonzaga survived two close calls over the weekend with wins against UNC Greensboro and Ohio State.
  • Nobody had any idea what to make of a streaky West Virginia team coming into the tournament but comfortable victories over Murray State and in-state rival Marshall give the Mountaineers a date with No. 1 Villanova in the Sweet 16.

Looking Ahead: Sweet 16 and Elite 8

Now that the Sweet 16 is set, let’s look ahead to the Regional Finals set to get underway on Thursday night.

(Winners of Sweet 16 matchups play in Elite 8 to determine regional champions and Final Four participants)

East Region (Boston)

  • No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia
  • No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech

This is by far the chalkiest region remaining after the opening weekend. Villanova and West Virginia both rolled in their opening games and should make up for a tasty matchup. Purdue will not rule out Isaac Haas but it’s hard to see him playing going forward with a fractured elbow.

Outlook: Villanova is the slight favorite to win the East region but you can make a case for any of the four teams to book a spot in San Antonio.

Midwest Region (Omaha)

  • No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson
  • No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 Syracuse

A lot of marquee names in the Midwest region with Kansas, Duke, and Syracuse all in play. The Orange used stifling defense to upset Michigan State but it’s hard to imagine they can score enough to keep up with Duke. Kansas will be a favorite over Clemson but the Tigers are coming off a mauling of a very good Auburn team.

Outlook: The smart money is on either Kansas or Duke to advance to the Final Four but considering how this tournament has played out so far there may not be a safe pick here.

South Region (Atlanta)

  • No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State
  • No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago

UMBC’s victory over Virginia turned this region on its head. Further upsets by Loyola and Nevada sent it into complete chaos. For the first time in tournament history a region will not send one of its top four seeds to the regional finals. It’s historic powerhouse Kentucky and three cinderellas.

Outlook: Kentucky’s path to the Final Four went from Arizona, Virgina, Cincinnati/Tennessee to Buffalo, Kansas State, Nevada/Loyola. Pretty good luck for Calipari’s squad but this is a mediocre Wildcats teams that could easily be toppled.

West Region (Los Angeles)

  • No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M
  • No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State

This is a very underrated Sweet 16 scenario. Michigan came into the tournament on a roll and it has continued. Texas A&M laid waste to the defending national champs in the Round of 32. Gonzaga is quietly playing good basketball. Florida State is a true wild card after upsetting No. 1 Xavier.

Outlook: Michigan and Gonzaga are the two favorites to represent the region in the Final Four but Texas A&M is healthy and playing to their potential. Florida State could crash the party and play cinderella.

Final Thoughts

The opening weekend of the tournament was complete chaos that saw brackets busting left and right due to countless upsets. That leaves us with the matchups above and as a basketball fan you should be excited. you have your annual favorites like Duke and Villanova mixed in with cinderella stories like Loyola and Nevada.

This upcoming weekend of basketball should be a great show as the field narrows down to its Final Four by Sunday night.

Loyola-Chicago Gave Us Our First March Madness Buzzer Beater

Via @LoyolaChicago

On the ropes in their first round game of the 2018 NCAA tournament, the 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers gave us the perfect example of what makes this time of year so great.

Trailing the 6th seeded Miami Hurricanes 62-61 with 9.3 seconds to go, the Ramblers grabbed a rebound off a missed free throw and rushed back up the court. All the Ramblers needed to advance was a two point bucket but Donte Ingram had a different idea.

With seconds bleeding off the clock, Ingram received a pass and pulled up from Mars to take a shot for the win.

Here’s what happened:

Nothing. But. Net.

Ingram took the pass in stride and hit the shot from the dang logo to give his side the dramatic come from behind victory and a spot in the second round.

With the Ramblers’ victory, it marked the 14th straight year that an 11 seed knocked off a 6 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

This is just a small sample of what makes this tournament so great. While it may be fun to watch the really good teams rewarded for their excellence, there is just something so satisfying about seeing an underdog pull off an upset. It doesn’t hurt when they do it in dramatic fashion such as this either.

Loyola-Chicago will look to pull another upset on Saturday when they take on the No. 3 seed Tennessee Volunteers in the Round of 32.

We almost had another 6/11 upset later in the evening when the Houston Cougars were taken down to the wire by the San Diego State Aztecs.

The Aztecs rallied from a 10 point halftime deficit to knot the game at 65-65 but Rob Gray was not going to be denied for Houston. Holding on for the final shot, Gray let the clock tick down before driving hard into the lane and finishing off an athletic lay in with just a second remaining to give the Cougars the win.

The win was the first NCAA Tournament victory for Houston since 1984 and they move on to face Michigan in the Round of 32 on Saturday