March Madness has come and gone once again. The one time of year where almost everybody becomes not only a college basketball fan, but also a basketball genius as they fill out their bracket. Unfortunately, there was once again no perfect bracket. But whether or not your bracket was busted, it would be hard to find a fan that would say this tournament did not live up to expectations.
One of the storylines of every tournament is the question of which team will play the role of Cinderella and shock the nation by moving on. The first few rounds of the tournament were packed with exciting, close games and several upsets, but none bigger than the ones from University of Alabama Burmingham (UAB), Georgia State and University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA). UAB was fourteenth-seeded taking on the heavily favored third-seeded Iowa State, a team many predicted would make a run deep into the tournament. UAB shocked the nation and busted many brackets by winning in a 59-60 stunner. The eleventh-seeded UCLA Bruins defeated the sixth-seeded Southern Methodist University, and in what was one of the most memorable moments of the tournament, fourteenth-seeded Georgia State defeated third-seeded Baylor on a late three from R.J. Hunter, the son of head coach Ron Hunter. The image of Ron Hunter falling to the ground following the shot is one that will be remembered for a long time.
As the tournament continued to the Final Four, college basketball saw familiar faces back as Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin and Michigan State all made it to Indianapolis. Michigan State was the only non-first-seeded team to make it, as coach Tom Izzo showed once again why it isn’t smart to bet against his team in March. The biggest storyline of the tournament was without a doubt Kentucky’s pursuit of perfection, as they entered the tournament undefeated and were looking to be the first team to complete an undefeated season since 1976. But it was just not meant to be when they ran into the Wisconsin Badgers in a rematch of last year’s semifinal. The Badgers exacted revenge this year and pulled off the upset in a 71-64 thriller. Duke, on the other side, dominated the Spartans and set up a Blue Devils-Badgers national championship.
The championship was a back and forth affair until midway through the second half when Wisconsin took a nine point lead. Duke responded, however, with an unlikely hero in Grayson Allen, who went on a personal 8-0 run to get Duke back in the game. The Badgers offense struggled in the last minutes of the game and paired with clutch shooting from the Blue Devils, who were also aided by some missed calls in their favor, gave Duke its fifth national championship by a score of 68-63.
This tournament gave college basketball fans some memorable moments, highlighted by Wisconsin ending Kentucky’s perfect season, Michigan State’s unlikely run and, of course, Duke’s championship win. The tournament lived up to its reputation as one of the best sporting events of the year and left everyone looking forward to next year.