If the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks pull off an improbable win tonight, there could be as many as four teams in the Sweet Sixteen with a tenth seed or lower this year. For a short while, it looked like there might be more, but after a few crushing second-round losses, the wild upsets that have so captivated fans (and frustrated bracketeers) will fall shy of the record. Back in 1999, five teams that were seeded tenth or lower made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Each March, Cinderella teams—those low-seeded mid-major squads with no recognizable names on its roster—become national darlings for a few moments when they sneak into a later round. Then, by and large, they get blasted out of the gym by a team that knows better than to overlook them.(Villanova was the lowest seed to win the tourney; they won as the eighth seed in 1985.)
With a few games to go tonight, the best we can hope for is that four underdogs make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Here are the little guys who are still standing (with seeding in parenthesis):
- Dayton (11): The Flyers have pulled off two upsets by a total of three points. Last night, the Ohio team knocked off third-seeded Syracuse 55-53 in Buffalo, just 150 miles from Syracuse's doorstep. Before that, they stunned their in-state rivals Ohio State 60-59 on a last-second layup.
- Stanford (10): Stanford made a huge splash when they knocked out Kansas (2) 60-57 just hours ago. Kansas, a perennial powerhouse, was playing in its 25th-straight NCAA tournament, which leads all of college basketball. Some speculate Stanford's success has to do with their band's enthusiastic cowbell player. We'll find out when Stanford and Dayton play.
- Mercer (14) or Tennessee (11): If the Girls season finale isn't up your alley (or maybe you just want to read our recaps instead), flip on the Mercer Bears versus the Tennessee Volunteers, which is tipping off shortly. The winner will be the third team with the tenth seed or lower to dance in the Sweet Sixteen this year. Tennessee's first-round upset of UMass was pretty lopsided and not entirely unexpected. Meanwhile, Mercer stunned Duke (3) 78-71 in the first round which, if nothing else, made this GIF possible.
- Stephen F. Austin (12): The Lumberjacks may just get smoked tonight by the UCLA Bruins (4), but the team from Nacogdoches has heart. It took them overtime to do it, but they beat Virginia Commonwealth (5) with gusto, coming back from as many down as 11 in the second half. Down four with just seconds left, SFA managed...well...in case you missed it: