A Worrying Trend: Underdogs against Underdogs

The NCAA Tournament is what it is because of the upset. That’s why they call it March Madness. The heart and soul of the first round of this tournament are the four games where the 5 seed faces a 12 seed, or where the Cinderella is born.

Here are this year’s 5s (left) vs 12s (right):

  • ButlerUTEP
  • TempleCornell
  • Texas A&MUtah St.
  • Michigan St.New Mexico St.

Oh shoot. Did you just see what I saw? Only one of those match ups is a large basketball school (sorry A&M, you’re not known for hoops) vs a small school.

What’s the story of Cinderella without the Evil Stepmother?

There is no joy in this potential upset: I can’t wait to congratulate twelfth seeded UTEP on upsetting Indiana’s tenth largest university with an enrollment of only 4,131!

Butler is the type of team we want to pull for, a high seeded small school, and UTEP hasn’t had anything going for them since, well, they changed their name to UTEP.

Put Butler against Minnesota (an underachiving Big Ten team), and now there’s a game worth watching, and I pull for the exponentially smaller Butler to win.

Mostly though this works better the other way around. Note, the Michigan St. – New Mexico St. game. If NMSU wins this game, the country will be excited. There will be a buzz in the building. I can already see Tom Izzo’s veins popping. The evil stepmother has been defeated!

If Cornell knocks off Temple? Cinderella just knocked out Cinderella.

Upsetting Trend

I wish this weren’t becoming a trend. But the same thing happened this year in football’s BCS; when Rocky Balboa from Rocky II (Boise St.) faced Thomas the Tank Engine (TCU). It’s a good game, but Rocky deserved another shot against the champ Apollo Creed (Florida). Remember BSU already took down Oklahoma in only one of two memorable BCS game to date (the other was the Texas-USC Rose Bowl).


I’m beginning to smell a big school conspiracy. Big schools don’t like to lose to small schools in big games. They’d rather not take the hit to their reputation, pocketbooks, or recruiting. Simply put, they have too much to lose and little to gain.

Here’s a pretend example: “North Carolina walloped the New Jersey School of Culinary Arts and Interior Design, 1002-3, What Jerks!” -says a random person when UNC should beat the fictional NJSCAID by that much.

Need More Proof?

Here’s a list of all of the Small School vs. Small School (or non-traditional basketball schools) in the tourney. I guess its not just a 5/12 problem…

  1. UNLV vs UNI (UNI is better than an 8, seriously.)
  2. Butler vs UTEP
  3. Vanderbilt vs Murray St.
  4. Temple vs Cornell
  5. Texas A&M vs Utah St.
  6. Baylor vs Sam Houston St (Coming from a big conference and being a big school; Baylor, has been more doormat than anything. Jim Nantz wants to announce their game, and chalk it full of montages.)
  7. Richmond vs St. Mary’s (perhaps the best example of all, two teams that don’t get a crack at Clemson, Mizzou, OK ST, Ga Tech, BYU or Florida (the other 7 and 10s), where’s the justice!

That’s a total of seven. That’s too many. Let the small schools have their day, after all the big schools should clean them up, eh?

After the Conclusion: Additional Information

Here were last years 5s v 12s…

  • Utah (5) vs. Arizona (12) (really? Was it shocking that Arizona beat Utah? Not really. They’re Ari- ‘freekin’-zona)
  • Florida St. (5) vs Wisconsin (12) (again, really? If you’re going to slot a Big Ten team at 12, do they deserve to be there to begin with?)
  • Illinois (5) vs. Western Kentucky (12) (a good 5/12 here)
  • Purdue (5) vs. Northern Iowa (12) (and another good 5/12)

Will we ever see this again?

One Response to A Worrying Trend: Underdogs against Underdogs

  1. Kyle Collins

    Great points all around. I was a big Butler supporter last year when they were an 8-9. I think that the Nevada/Montana match-up is a good candidate for a numerical upset.

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