With no clear favorite heading into March Madness, it was a good year to bet a billion dollars. For fans, it turns out no clear favorite meant closer games and crazy upsets. Let’s look at some of the best moments thus far…

#5. Stanford Cardinal vs. Kansas Jayhawks

This game comes in at number five because the Jayhawks never really felt like a contender. Sure, they were a number two seed, but who really thought Kansas was the fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth team most likely to win the tournament? C’mon. Don’t get me wrong: the Cardinal played a great game, holding the potential number one overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft to four points. But Wiggins is part of the reason the Jayhawks seemed about as deadly as a flock of pigeons – his game has been going downhill since the beginning of March. Without Joel Embiid at all, and without Wiggins scoring 41 points like he did March 8, the Jayhawks lack bite.

#4. Dayton Flyers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

This maybe isn’t such a big deal when you look at the seedings (an 11 seed taking down a six), but look closer and you’ll see. First, make no mistake about it: this was the Battle for Ohio and Dayton was the little engine that could. Second, remember who we’re talking about here – the Buckeyes started the season 15-0.  They knew how to win. And yet the University of Dayton held their own and kept up, and with 10.8 seconds left Dayton senior Vee Sanford drove the lane and scored, putting the Flyers up 60-59 and winning the game. Except the fairytale doesn’t end there.

#3. Kentucky Wildcats vs. Wichita State Shockers

Much like with Kansas, there’s just no bone in my body that believed that the Shockers were going to go the distance. Yes, 35 – 0 is pretty spectacular, but their regular season schedule was easier than the Harlem Globetrotters’ and their draw for the tournament was harder than the Washington Generals’. That, and everyone knew Kentucky would be dangerous. Revolving door or not, they’re always competitive and often dominant. So the Wildcats’ win wasn’t exactly a jaw-dropping shocker… (get it?) What made this game great was the sense of urgency from each team, each team doing everything they could to pull out a “W.” Back and forth it went, until it couldn’t anymore. The Wildcats pulled through, winning the thriller 78-76. The best thing I can say about this game is that if it had gone on to OT, I feel confident that it would have been the rare game that sees both teams raise their level of play even higher.


#2. Mercer Bears vs. Duke Blue Devils

Quick, tell me Mercer’s conference. Betcha’ can’t. How many of you even knew they were “the Bears” before I told you? They’re “the team that beat Duke,” not the Bears, and that’s because this win was a big effing deal. To win this game, Mercer had to come back from a five-point deficit with 4:52 left to play, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you consider that Duke was a number three seed, was heavily favored, and had close to a home crowd cheering in Raleigh, NC. But with a team laden with seniors, Mercer fought through, overcoming Duke’s season-high 15 three-pointers to win, 78-71. If only the Bears hadn’t beaten the Blue Devils so decisively, I could’ve handed them the number one spot.


#1. Dayton Flyers vs. Syracuse Orange

The better you started the year, the more the Flyers like to beat up on you. At least that’s my guess, since the Flyers followed their win against Ohio State with a win against the at-one-time 25-0 Syracuse Orange. If I recall, it was freshman sensation Tyler Ennis who secured wins 24 and 25 with last second shots. How fitting, then, that he would be the one to take Syracuse’s final shot, a shot that uncharacteristically clanged off the rim and fell harmlessly to the court. If Dayton raised a few eyebrows with their win against Ohio State, they shocked the world by knocking off Syracuse.