March Madness Round by Round

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March Madness Round by Round

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As March Madness is now in the rearview window, college basketball fans can now look back on what was another incredible season filled with major upsets, amazing game-winners, and, of course, some Cinderella stories. Starting on Mar. 21, 64 of college basketball’s best competed to win the coveted NCAA men’s basketball championship. With last year’s champion Villanova, ranked noticeably low, the field was wide open. Let’s take a round-by-round analysis of the most exciting tournament in sports.

Round of 64:

The tournament kicked off with an upset, as 10-seed Minnesota hung on late to take down 7-seed Louisville. Other notable upsets on the day included 12-seed Murray State, 9-seed UCF, 12-seed Liberty, 10-seed Florida, 12-seed Oregon, 10-seed Iowa, and 13-seed UC Irvine all knocking off higher-seeded teams. Dominant performances came from the likes of UCF 7’6 center Tacko Fall, who managed 13 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocks against VCU. Duke phenom (and likely first overall selection in this June’s NBA draft) Zion Williamson had 26 points and 14 rebounds, and Murray State superstar Ja Morant registering a triple-double (17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds). Both had major contributions to their team’s early successes.

Round of 32:

After two days chock-full of upsets, the madness cooled down for a bit. The only lower-ranked seed to win its game was 5-seed Auburn, who upstarted 4-seed Kansas, which wasn’t exactly a bracket-buster. Still, there were many games that came down to the final buzzer. UCF almost pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament Duke, the tournament’s top overall seed, but a potential game-winning layup rolled off the rim in the dying seconds. 3-seed LSU took down 6-seed Maryland 69-67 on a layup with 1.6 seconds left in overtime. As expected, some players put up huge stat-lines: most notably, forward Brandon Clarke of 1-seed Gonzaga put up 36 points and 8 rebounds while hitting 15 of his 18 shots.

Sweet Sixteen through Title Game:

The final 16 started off with Gonzaga predictably beating 4-seed Florida State. Shortly after, 3-seed Purdue upset 2-seed Tennessee, one of the title favorites, in overtime. But the biggest upset of the night was 3-seed Texas Tech’s stifling defense only allowing 2-seed Michigan, last year’s national runner-up, to 44 points in a blowout win. The Red Raiders, coached by former Division II shot-caller Chris Beard, used its tenacious defense and aggressive press to put together the most unexpected run of the tournament, making it all the way to the national title game. En route, the team beat betting favorites Gonzaga and 2-seed Michigan State, who knocked off Duke during the Elite Eight. On par with Texas Tech’s run, Auburn dominated 1-seed North Carolina, cruising to an easy 97-80 victory. The most dominant individual performance of the tournament belongs to Purdue guard Carsen Edwards, who broke the record for most three-pointers in a single tournament (28). Despite putting up 42 points against Virginia, the Cavaliers were simply too talented to be taken down. Edwards was named the South Region’s Most Outstanding Player, marking the first time such an honor went to a player who failed to reach the Final Four since Steph Curry did so in 2008. Auburn’s hot streak continued when the Tigers took down 2-seed Kentucky, 77-71, to advance to the school’s first ever Final Four.

In the first game of championship weekend, Virginia kept up its last-minute heroics in a controversial game against Auburn. Down by 2 with less than 10 seconds left, Virginia had one last chance to tie or win the game. After a foul stopped Virginia from running the floor, star player Kyle Guy received the inbound pass in the corner and shot a 3-pointer, which he was fouled on. Many fans disagreed with the call, as there was minimal contact on the play. Auburn players were helpless as Guy swished all 3 free throws, crushing Auburn’s title hopes and sending the Cavaliers to the title game. Texas Tech’s defense once again prevailed as it held off the Spartans, 61-51. The stage was now set for the final game: Texas Tech and Virginia.

To little surprise, the game went down to the wire, in true March Madness fashion. Clinging to a three-point lead in the game’s final minute, Tech did everything it could to keep Virginia from tying the game, but Cavaliers guard De’Andre Hunter hit the biggest shot of his career, forcing the game into overtime. As the extra period progressed, Virginia slowly pulled away, avenging its first round exit last year in the best way possible: cutting down the nets in celebration.