Raptors

NCAA Tournament Odds (As of March 23):

Loyola Chicago (20.00)


The Loyola Ramblers advanced to the Elite Eight on Thursday - just like we had all predicted.

(Yeah, right...)

But therein lies the beauty of the NCAA Tournament, better known as March Madness. Teams you otherwise wouldn't expect, or don't pay attention to during the regular season, or perhaps don't even know existed until a few days ago can seemingly come from out of nowhere and capture the heart of the sports world with surprise wins during this chaotic competition, punching their ticket into the upper echelon of the tournament against the odds.

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Doesn't everyone like an underdog story?

That's exactly what Loyola started this tournament as, continued to be through its first three games, leading to their meeting Saturday with Kansas State in the aforementioned Elite Eight, and will stay as so far as they're still alive.

When the first round got underway last Thursday, the odds for Loyola to win the entire tournament stood at 250.00 on PlayNow.com, and shifted once again the following day to 300.00 even after scoring a tournament-opening victory versus Miami.

The Ramblers were the very definition of a long shot, but they have so far defied the title, making it further than most would've realistically expected and doing so thanks to three nail-biting wins in which their largest margin of victory was two points - over Miami.

Now, those odds have certainly fluctuated over the last week as Loyola has advanced. Within the span of three days, the odds went from 100.00 to win the tournament, all the way to 10.00 to win following their wild, back-and-forth victory against Nevada on Thursday. A few hours later, they had shifted to 20.00 to win, and that's where they stood as of Friday morning.

The clock can strike midnight on a Cinderella Story at any time in this tournament, although it's difficult to deny the excitement that comes with watching a relative unknown get this close to the ultimate goal in an event in which the whacky and unexpected has a habit of occurring - and dropping our collective jaw to the floor in shock.

Of course, this year's tournament started with a pair of major upsets to two of the favourites, no doubt destroying your bracket. (It's OK. We sympathize.)

The Arizona Wildcats entered March Madness among the top-six favourites to win it all, with odds of 12.00. The Virginia Cavaliers were co-favourites alongside Villanova. And by the end of last week, both Arizona and Virginia had been eliminated in stunning fashion. In Virginia's case, its loss as a No. 1 seed to a 16 seed was historic.

Not only did both programs suffer upset losses - Arizona lost to Buffalo, and Virginia lost to UMBC - but both were completely blown out. Showing no fear, UMBC entered this game as a 20.5-point underdog (14.00 on the Money Line) and then promptly sent the Cavaliers to a 20-point defeat, ending their bid for a national title in a premature and flat-out embarrassing way. When it came to the NCAA Championship outright, about 15 per cent of the money was on Virginia to take it.

In the end, Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in the tournament.

Of the top-six favourites going into the tournament, only three were left standing by the time the Sweet 16 rolled around. Arizona - gone. Virginia - gone. Michigan State would later fall to Syracuse (the longest shot, as of Friday, to win the tournament, with odds of 90.00).

By Friday morning, ahead of the Sweet 16 schedule for the evening, Villanova was the favourite to win the tournament, followed by Duke and Michigan.

If this year's tournament has reinforced anything, it's to sometimes expect the unexpected.

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