March Madness Overview
by Chris Bucci on Friday, April 8th, 2016
Throughout the month of March, college basketball teams battle their way through a single elimination tournament, termed March Madness due to the fan frenzy it creates, to secure the NCAA men’s Division 1 title. While Villanova eventually claimed the title, at the outset every team had dreams of hoisting the trophy. Although many fans dislike “bracket-busting” upsets, such as underdog Middle Tennessee’s unforeseen victory over two-seeded Michigan State, these upsets provide much of the flavor and excitement for the tournament.
This year’s underdogs were particularly adept at upsetting their higher seeded opponents. An unprecedented 13 lower seeded teams, including the previously mentioned Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and Yale Bulldogs, who snuck into the tournament for the first time in 54 years, won in the first round. The Michigan State Spartans’ loss was particularly crushing; fans thought star senior Denzel Valentine, recently named player of the year by the Associated Press, could lead the team to its third national championship. Instead, despite two-seeded teams’ historical winning percentage of 94% in round of 64 matchups, the Spartans failed to dominate their less talented opponent. Middle Tennessee’s advancing to the round of 32, along with Gonzaga’s upset of three-seeded Utah in the second round, paved the road for the ten-seeded Syracuse Orange to cruise into the Elite Eight against one-seeded Virginia. Down by 15 at one point, Syracuse managed to surmount a formidable comeback and ultimately booked their tickets for the Final Four with a six point margin of victory.
On the other side of the bracket, the favorites faired much better. Except for a few unlikely round of 64 results, the top-seeded teams dominated, resulting in elite eight games featuring the one and two seeds pitted against each other. Both two seeds, Oklahoma and Villanova, ultimately advanced to the final four, played in Houston, and ended Oregon and Kansas’s seasons in the process. Despite the apparent strength of these teams, Vegas set North Carolina, poised to reach the final with a likely win over Syracuse, as the favorite heading into the final four. Led by senior all-american Brice Johnson, the Tar Heels fought back against the sky-rocketing Syracuse team, coached by Jim Boeheim in his incredible 40th year with the team. On the other hand, not much separated Oklahoma and Villanova heading into their evenly matched game…except for 43 points. Villanova cruised to the championship game with the largest margin of victory in Final Four history.
However, no amount of upsets or absolute slaughters could prepare fans for what could be described as the greatest championship game in NCAA tournament history. Forgetting about the first 39:50 of the game, the final 10 seconds themselves made sports history. Down by three, UNC senior Marcus Paige hit a tremendous double clutch three to tie the game with four seconds to play. Not to be outdone, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a DEEP three at the buzzer to secure Nova’s first championship in 30 years. The perfect end to one of the most entertaining tournaments in recent memory.
While many alumni of big basketball schools obsess over their team’s success in March Madness, the majority of fans simply enjoy the excitement of it all, perhaps by soaking in the game action or by filling out predictive brackets. For example, Sam Oldshue (II) says his favorite part of March Madness is the “higher level of defense many college teams play, compared to the pros.” During what could be a dreary stretch of the sports year devoid of any professional playoff, March Madness certainly fills the void with its trademark pizazz.
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