As a whole, 2016 was one of the wildest years in sports.
The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors after the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in a little bit and Kris Jenkins hit a three at the buzzer to win the national championship and cap off an insane NCAA Tournament.
2016 was a great year for mid-major programs as well. There was abundance of exciting games that ended in upsets, buzzer beaters, and sometimes a combination of the two. As we prepare for the madness that 2017 will bring, let’s remember some of 2016’s excitement.
Middle Tennessee knocking off Michigan State
It’s rare that a 15-seed beats a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. It’s even rarer when the 15-seed controls the entire game and beats the 2-seed convincingly. Middle Tennessee did just that when it beat a Michigan State team that many picked to win the national championship.
Fort Wayne shocks No.3 Indiana
The Mastodons are owners of the biggest upset of the season thus far, and one of the biggest upsets in the history of college basketball in Indiana. Fort Wayne stifled a high-powered Hoosier offense, and the Mastodon guards carried the load offensively as they pulled out a 71-68 win in overtime. Jon Coffman’s post game speech remains one of the best things you’ll see this season.
Northern Iowa winning the MVC at the buzzer...
Wes Washpun and his glorious flat-top got the members’ bounce to win the Missouri Valley title game and sent Northern Iowa to the Big Dance where they would face the Texas Longhorns.
...then hitting a half-court shot to stun Texas...
Paul Jesperson’s half-court heave to take down the Longhorns was one of the best moments of the entire tournament, and it seemed like fate that the Panthers would make a run in March after two straight game winners at the horn.
...and then collapsing in monumental fashion against Texas A&M.
Sorry Panther fans, but this was one of the biggest collapses we’ve ever seen in the Big Dance. The Panthers had a 12-point lead with under a minute left, and all they had to do was simply hold on. As we all know, they didn’t, and eventually lost to the Aggies in overtime to complete one of the wildest three-game stretches in history.
Little Rock rallying to beat Purdue
Speaking of collapses...HELLO PURDUE. In a classic 12-5 upset, Little Rock answered every punch that Purdue threw at them behind the late-game heroics of Josh Hagins. He hit big shot after big shot and finished with 31 points as the Trojans rallied to beat the Boilermakers in double overtime.
Yale getting their first tournament win in over 50 years
Yale took advantage of their first tournament game in 54 years, and kicked off last year’s tournament with a 12-5 upset over Baylor (apologies to our own Austin Brown). Yale controlled the glass against an athletic Baylor team, and held off a late surge to complete the upset behind Makai Mason’s 31 points.
Saint Mary’s beating Gonzaga in Spokane
After snapping an eight-game losing streak to the Bulldogs earlier in the season, the Gaels went into Spokane and completed the regular season sweep for the first time since 1995. We can only hope that this year’s matchups are just as good.
WAC Championship Game
How could a list of best games be complete without our friends from the WAC? Cal State Bakersfield and New Mexico State battled down to the wire for the right to go to the big dance. Dedrick Basile’s three at the buzzer sent the Aggies packing and gave CSBU their first appearance in the Big Dance since becoming a D-1 program in 2006.
Stephen F. Austin beats West Virginia on the back (and beard) of Thomas Walkup
Thomas Walkup captivated the country with his ginger lumberjack beard and his ability to get buckets on anyone and everyone. He scored 33 points against West Virginia as the Lumberjacks pulled off a 14-3 stunner to get Brad Underwood a win over his mentor Bob Huggins.
Holy Cross wins the Patriot League as a 9-seed
The Crusaders made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2007 after a furious run through the Patriot League tournament. After toppling top-seeded Bucknell in double overtime, Holy Cross survived Lehigh’s barrage in the final minute to take home league title and punch their ticket.
Florida Gulf Coast wins the A-Sun title in OT
The Eagles sure do have a flair for the dramatic. After beating top-seeded North Florida by 30 in the semifinals, FGCU needed overtime to beat Stetson. Stetson’s Divine Myles thought he had an open look to send it to another OT, but Zach Johnson swatted it away send the Eagles dancing once again.
Arkansas State stuns Georgetown
The Red Wolves have been a pleasant surprise so far this year, and their signature win over Georgetown kicked off their ascension. The Red Wolves dominated the Hoyas throughout, and were able to hold off a late rally to prevail 78-72 for Grant McCasland’s first win over a Div. I foe.