The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

The Art of the Upset


We’re back. It’s that time we look forward to all year: the time of the underdogs, the Cinderellas, and the parity. March is the month of the upset. Everyone loves upsets, but there is something special about them that few can put their finger on.

Why do we love a good shocker? Why do we cheer for the underdog? Why do we want David to beat Goliath? Those are things we all generally root for, but why?

Schadenfreude is defined as the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, pain, or humiliation of another. Remember that. We’ll get to it later.

For nearly 20 years, Tom Brady was the New England Patriots. He won six Super Bowls, four Super Bowl MVPs, three MVPs, and many other accolades in his time with the Pats. His dominance led to a dynasty, which then led to a national and worldwide hatred of the New England Patriots. Simply, if you weren’t a Patriots fan, you despised them. You got tired of them winning over and over again.

In Super Bowl 51, Brady and the Patriots played the Atlanta Falcons. At this point, New England was already a dynasty with four Super Bowls. Atlanta, on the other hand, hadn’t won really anything in their franchise’s history. No one was thrilled to see the Patriots play yet again for a championship, so NFL fans hoped for the Falcons to pull it off and win their first Super Bowl.

Now, we all know how that went, but that is what it means to root for David against Goliath.

It’s similar in College Basketball.

Let’s just say for the argument that Duke is college basketball’s equivalent to those Patriots, a dominant, omnipresent force. Year after year Duke gets top recruit after top recruit; it’s a never ending cycle of the Blue Devils staying a top program. One would rather see a team who has earned it more win rather than Duke. Not to say that Duke hasn’t earned all the success they’ve had, but there is a significant difference between Duke University and Western Illinois University. Only of these programs lives on third base.


Background photo courtesy of Phil Roeder

In March Madness, sometimes, you get a 13 seed beating a 4 seed. Occasionally, you get a mid-major making a run. But very, very, very rarely do you get the grand-daddy…

Twice ever has a 16 seed knocked off a 1 seed, quite possibly the most extraordinary feat in all of sports. The 1 seed has a 98.7% winning percentage against 16 seeds.

In 2018, the #16 UMBC Retrievers faced off against the mighty, number #1 overall seed, 31-2 Virginia Cavaliers. The first round of the tournament is essentially an off week for 1 seeds, but this time, no one saw the complete opposite coming. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County crushed Virginia 74-54 to become the first 16 seed to win a game in the Big Dance.

No one seriously thought UMBC would win or that Virginia would lose, but we all wanted it to happen. Many believed that a 16 seed would never beat a 1 seed. How did UMBC do that?

The best way to describe this win could be joy. I was in a state of disbelief when the Retrievers pulled this off. Now, as a Louisville fan, it did feel good to see an ACC foe embarrassingly fall in historic fashion. Most of all, you just felt good for UMBC, a school that many people probably never heard of prior, now somehow beating the title-favorites.

The second 16 seed victory came in 2023 when the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights upset the Purdue Boilermakers. This one might have been even more improbable. The Knights came into that game with a poor 20-15 record. Purdue’s unstoppable 7’4” Zach Edey averaged 22 PPG and won the Player of the Year Award. Also, the Boilermakers won the Big Ten Tournament. The most shocking part is that FDU wasn’t even supposed to be in the NCAA Tournament at all. They lost in their conference (NEC) Championship Game. The only reason they made it to March Madness was because Merrimack, the conference champion, was ineligible for the Tournament, thus punching the Knights’s ticket.

And somehow, against all odds, they etched their name in history.


Photo courtesy of Phil Roeder

While these are perhaps two of the biggest upsets in college basketball lore, there is one that is just different.

Kentucky/Saint Peter’s.

On March 17, 2022, the 15 seeded Saint Peter’s Peacocks from New Jersey faced off against the 2 seeded Kentucky Wildcats. In what was supposed to be a prep game for the Cats, the Peacocks became the tenth 15 seed to ever beat a 2 seed. This wasn’t your normal NCAA Tournament upset. Kentucky, a college basketball power, somehow lost to a tiny school from Jersey City.

For the record, the University of Kentucky has nearly 30,000 more students than Saint Peter’s.

Let’s dissect this a bit more. The Wildcats came into the game with a 28-7 record, while the Peacocks were 19-11. In what world should UK lose to a 15 seed? You still scratch your head thinking about it. How could someone predict that a team as prestigious as Kentucky, with a Hall of Fame head coach, better facilities, an N.I.L presence, and more would fall to Saint Peter’s? The answers to these questions can be found when looking at the X’s and O’s of the game, but when you really think about it, is hard to grasp. Perhaps the Peacocks just simply wanted it more.

In this time of year, talent won’t solely win you games. 68 teams have a shot at a championship. In a time where anything can happen, belief, fight, and determination make the champions.

The art of the upset might simply be that it is hard to predict and understand. Upsets seem so impossible, yet are so common.

As said earlier, Schadenfreude is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, pain, or humiliation of another. Maybe it makes sense now; we all enjoy a good surprise, especially when it brings another up.

It’s called March Madness for a reason. Who’s next?

About the Contributor
Mason Sedelmeier
Mason Sedelmeier, Staff Writer
Mason is a passionate, but depressed sports fan. He is a diehard supporter of the Minnesota Vikings, all things Louisville Cardinals, and overall enjoys a majority of sports. He is still a proud organizer of the Kirk Cousins Fan Club. You might even catch him at Photo Club on Tuesdays.
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