Granted, the unknown looms with the Final Four still ahead. But even without one of sports' greatest weekends, be bold and rank 2016 as one of the thrilling NCAA Tournaments of your lifetime. Here's 5 reasons why it is just that:
1) For just the eighth time in 122 tries (6% of the time), a 15-seed shocked a No. 2 seed when Middle Tennessee left pre-Tournament bracket darling Michigan State and Hall of Fame Coach Tom Izzo flummoxed for 40-minutes. Wherever the Blue Raiders came from, there's no doubt where they're headed. ...Into the heart of that office secretary. You know the one. She knows nothing about college basketball, but is from Oakland, California. She loves her local NFL team, and her favorite color matches the sky. Dig?
2) Rare as a half-court buzzer beater is to win a game in the regular season, it's even more of a unicorn in March. But there it was... when Northern Iowa's Paul Jesperson sent fans in the OKC into late-night dilerium with a prayer the Tournament hasn't seen the likes of in 35 years. You don't remember? I do. This 9-year-old watched in horror in 1981 when his favorite childhood team (Louisville) lost its bid to repeat as National Champion in the 2nd-round to Arkansas on U.S. Reed's halfcourt heartstopper. That kid spent the next hour and a half sitting on his basketball in his driveway - head in hands. But, I digress... Surely some young Longhorn fan out there had a similar moment this month. I feel your pain, Sparky.
3) Of all the people in that St. Louis arena, Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig might have been the only one who didn't see his own miraculous heave drop through the net. Koenig buried a 3-pointer from deep in the corner while falling out of bounds just as the horn sounded, putting an X through Xavier's Sweet 16 dreams. It happened at the end of Koenig's own bench, leading his teammates to mob him and help carry Bronson into Badger lore forever.
4) As improbable as Northern Iowa's First-Round win was, it's Second Round collapse might have provided the equal opposite emotion. Good thing I'm not the one commissioned to tabulate the odds of a team blowing a 12-point lead with :35-seconds left. Whoever is will see smoke and sparks coming out of his calculator. Texas A&M did the impossible by turning UNI over four consecutive times in the backcourt while hitting every shot it had to hit, forcing overtime.. and then a second, to pull off an epic rally - the likes of which we may not see again.
5) Buddy Hield.