On March 17th, also known as Selection Sunday, the field of 68 Division 1 basketball teams was released, marking the beginning of one of the nations most beloved pastimes, March Madness. The division 1 men’s basketball tournament is a month long phenomenon full of heartbreak, jubilation, and most of all madness. The tournament was one of the most anticipated events of 2019, with almost all credit due to Duke’s Freshman sensation Zion Williamson. The 6’8 285 pound guard out of Spartanburg, South Carolina, has been putting the country on watch since his high school highlight video dropped on youtube, amassing over 2.9 million views to date. In addition to Williamson, the Blue Devils are home to Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett, who rounded out the top three players from the 2018 recruiting class.
The highly favored Blue Devils came into the tournament as the overall 1 seed, along with UNC, Gonzaga, and UVA. After having been the first 1 seed to ever lose to a 16th seed, UMBC, in the 2018 tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers came into 2019 with a vengeance, and were prepared to make a much deeper run than in years past. UNC had just come off of an ACC championship defeat to the Blue Devils, but were looking to continue their regular season success with the help of Coby White, and 2017 National Championship hero Luke Maye. Lastly, the Zags, were just one of three teams to take down Duke all season, and looked to potentially repeat what was a nation shocking upset.
In the first and second round games, taking place, in Des Moines, Iowa, Hartford, Connecticut, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Jacksonville, Florida, 12 of the 64 games were upsets, and out of the 4 5th seed and 12th seed matchups the 12th seed won 3. One of those 12th seeds was Murray State, home of internet sensation and projected top 5 pick Ja Morant. Another South Carolina Native, Morant averaged a double double throughout the entire season with 24.5 points per game and 10 assists per game. Unfortunately the Racers Cinderella hopes came up short against Florida State in the second round in a 90-62 defeat. After a 5th of the first round games had lower seeds become victorious, only Oregon and Auburn advanced to the sweet sixteen as underdogs.
With all the one seeds still alive the Sweet Sixteen was primed for at least one bracket busting upset. Low and behold one of the hottest teams in the tournament fell victim to madness of March. The UNC Tar Heels entered the tournament as the fastest team in the nation averaging 74.3 possessions a game. Unfortunately their search for a second title in three years ended in Kansas City at the hands of the Auburn Tigers in a decisive 97-80 victory. On the other end of the bracket the Purdue Boilermakers had a 14 point advantage against the Tennessee Volunteers to only force the game into overtime with 2 seconds left on a last second foul call. The next 5 minutes belonged to the Boilermakers as they were the ones who emerged in a 99-94 victory.
With three of the one seeds still alive in the Elite 8, again it was almost inevitable that one of the tournament’s most favored teams would have their seasons cut short, but almost no one saw the Blue Devils not cutting down the nets in Minneapolis. In a 68-67 victory the 2nd Seeded Big 10 champions Michigan State Spartans took down what seemed like college basketballs goliath. Cassius Winston and company got the job done regardless of a 24 point 14 rebound performance by Williamson and a 21 point outing by RJ Barrett. After being down at halftime to 16 seed Gardner-webb in the first round, and potentially being apart of yet another historic upset, the Cavaliers found themselves boarding a flight to the North Star State after a 80-75 victory over purdue. Texas Tech and Auburn also found themselves headed to the Final Four after taking down 1 seed Gonzaga 75-69 and Kentucky 77-71 respectively.
After 3 weeks, only four remained and it was the fairytale ending the nation hoped for all along. Texas Tech handled the Spartans in a 61-51 victory, propelling them to their programs first ever national championship. Along with the Red Raiders, the Virginia Cavaliers continued their road to redemption in a 63-62 decision after a last second foul call down 60-62 resulted in Kyle Guy hitting three consecutive free throws to put the Wahoos in their first national championship as well. In a battle of firsts it was the Cavaliers who emerged victorious avenging their historic first round exit from last year. After a D’eandre Hunter three with 12 seconds left, overtime was needed to crown college basketball’s next champion. In overtime the Cavs victory was only secured in the last thirty seconds of the game due to a couple of free throws made by none other than the Final Fours’ most outstanding player Kyle Guy. As much as this year’s tournament was anticipated, I can confidently say it lived up to the hype, with controversial calls, nail biting decisions, and a first time champion this March was certainly full of madness.