Middle Tennessee over Michigan State: Biggest upset ever

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo talks to his players during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game against Middle Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 18, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

“What the heck just happened?” (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

We just witnessed the biggest NCAA tournament upset ever. No No. 1 seed has ever lost its first game, but a No. 1A just did. Technically a No. 2, Michigan State was the second choice — behind only Kansas — to win this Big Dance. Michigan State has the coach who has come to own March. Michigan State would never lose to Middle Tennessee. But it did.

As someone who covered Middle’s famous upset of Kentucky in Nashville 34 years ago, I know not to sleep on the Blue Raiders. (Coach of that MTSU team: Ramrod Simpson.) But I did not expect this. Nobody expected this. The first round of this NCAA isn’t yet done, and already I can say with every confidence: Nobody will pick the Final Four. Because everybody picked Michigan State.

Yale over Baylor? Even I picked that one. (As I noted on social media yesterday: If it’s one game for the fate of the world and Scott Drew is coaching … well, we’re all speaking Klingon.) Hawaii over Cal? Didn’t pick it but thought hard about doing so. (Cal was awfully young.) But not Michigan State.

The Spartans seemed no worse than the second-best team in the country, but that’s why we watch this tournament. Because the expanse between “seeming” and “doing” can be as broad as the Pacific Ocean.

When Middle jumped ahead 15-2, you thought, “Whoa.” But you also thought, “Long way to go.” But full credit to Kermit Davis Jr. — his dad coached at Mississippi State back in the day — and his Middle men for never yielding the lead. As coach Moreland Smith (played by G.D. Spradlin) said to Henry Steele (played by Robby Benson) in “One On One”: They “clung to it like grim death.”

(An aside here: Henry Steele’s girlfriend was played by Annette O’Toole — my favorite actress of all time.)

And now you’re saying: Biggest upset ever? What about N.C. State over Phi Slama Jama? Sorry, Jimmy V.’s Wolfpack were a No. 6 seed and the ACC champs. Villanova over Georgetown? No. 8 beat a No. 1 it had already played twice. Texas Western over Kentucky? The Miners were ranked No. 3 in the land and had lost only once. Northern Iowa over Kansas? NIU wasn’t even a double-digit seed. George Mason over UConn? That was a No. 11 over a No. 1, a spread of 10 seeding slots, and that’s huge. Not as huge as this, though.

This was No. 15 over No. 2, and it was more stunning than any of the seven previous 15-over-2s because none of those No. 2s were considered a Final Four lock. Michigan State was — but is no longer. Or, put another way, Izzo no longer.

One thing more: Georgia State had a rough season, finishing 16-14. On Dec. 22, Georgia State beat Middle Tennessee.

And one more thing: Ernie Johnson Jr. just said that CBS Sports’ NCAA contest now includes no perfect brackets. That’s on the afternoon of the tournament’s second full day.

And this, too: Ken Pomeroy’s rankings had Michigan State No. 5 to Middle Tennessee’s 106; Dr. Joel Sokol’s LRMC had the Spartans No. 4 to the Blue Raiders’ No. 126.

A bit of research: Here’s where the No. 2 seeds unseated by No. 15s were ranked in the Associated Press poll entering the NCAA tournament:

Syracuse in 1991: No. 7 (lost to Richmond).

Arizona in 1993: No. 5 (lost to Santa Clara).

South Carolina in 1997: No. 6 (lost to Coppin State).

Iowa State in 2001: No. 10 (lost to Hampton).

Missouri in 2012: No. 3 (lost to Norfolk State).

Duke in 2012: No. 8 (lost to Lehigh).

Georgetown in 2013: No. 8 (lost to Florida-Gulf Coast.)

Michigan State in 2016: No. 2 (lost to Middle Tennessee).

Reader Comments 0

15 comments
OH:IO
OH:IO

Biggest Upset?


I'd go w/ App State in the Big House. 

FalcoonFan1966
FalcoonFan1966

@OH:IO  "We just witnessed the biggest NCAA tournament upset ever." I think he's talking basketball.

OH:IO
OH:IO

1A?


Not in my bracket

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

1979, how about Penn (#9 seed in their region, out of 10 team) beating the #1 seed, North Carolina in second round? Or Penn reaching the Final Four by also beating Syracuse,  #4 seed in the region?  That was darn improbable.  

"In the East, the Round of 32 was called Black Sunday because of Penn's upset of #1 North Carolina and St. John's upset of #2-seeded Duke, both in Raleigh. Penn went all the way to the Final Four before losing to eventual champion Michigan State. Both teams had to defeat higher-seeded opponents in the Round of 40 to have the chance to beat UNC and Duke. Penn beat three higher-seeded opponents to reach the Final Four, "  Wikipedia, 1979 NCAA Tournament page

HG3
HG3

Bradley, you are, quite simply, an idiot.

Drexel-Gal
Drexel-Gal

This just proves what Ozzie and Harriet (Nelson) told us over and over in the 1950s: "Every day's a holiday, with Hotpoint."

Peachs
Peachs

Parity, basketball, unlike football, gets a shot at the big boys every year and proves they ain't as big as they look.  Hype in football gave a lot of teams national championships that don't deserve them, and we will see a spread of the wealth, in the coming years, like we are seeing since the playoffs started three years ago.  The SEC has won one time, the ACC, and Big 10 once, the truth is a fickle mistress. 

UGA75
UGA75

Mark Badly, I hate to admit it but you nailed this column. As much as I despise you and your sorry columns, you have to give the devil his (your) due. Good Column, word I never expected to say to you.

Tuckerite
Tuckerite

The P5 conferences get too many slots in the tournament. Every mid-major conference with a first round win in the preceding 4 years should get at least two slots.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Ever?


Really?

jslanier
jslanier

@MarkBradleyAJC Michigan lost to Appalachian State in 2007. Only FCS opponent to ever beat a ranked FBS team