Virginia Survives Magnificent March Madness


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Virginia players celebrate their first NCAA men’s basketball national title.

After becoming the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament last year, the University of Virginia Cavaliers avenged that embarrassment by winning this year’s national title. They upended #3 tourney seed Texas Tech 85-77 in the final for their first national championship in school history.

“I told them, you guys face pressure that no team in the history of the game has faced,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett on the official NCAA March Madness postgame interview after the big win.

“We came in together and said that we were going to win a national championship, and to be able to hug each other with confetti going around is the greatest feeling I have ever felt in basketball,” said star Virginia guard Kyle Guy.

This year’s March Madness could have been the most entertaining tournament ever with there were 17.2 million brackets entered in the ESPN Tournament Challenge, a free online competition that awards the winner an all-inclusive trip to the 2019 Maui Jim Maui Invitational basketball competition in Hawaii and a $10,000 Amazon gift card. How does one win? A participant must be the one to pick the most correct winners in the 64-team tournament. According to Sports Center, after one round this year, only nine brackets were still perfect.

Eleven upsets and one of the deepest college classes in history in terms of the caliber of the athletes made this year one of the best tournaments ever. The biggest upset was probably Auburn, a #5 seed, trouncing the University of North Carolina, a #1 seed, 97-80 in the Sweet Sixteen. Tar Heels top-10 draft prospect Coby White only put up 15 points in that game, while the Tigers were led by star forward Chuma Okeke who scored 20.

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Auburn center Austin Wiley reacts after his Tigers were whistled for the controversial foul at the end of their semifinal game against Virginia.

Unfortunately, Okeke tore his ACL late in that game against UNC. Okeke, being Auburn’s best player on the floor, really upset the team when he went down, but it gave the Tigers even more motivation than just winning a national championship. Now they were “Doing it for Chuma,” a phrase that became the team’s rallying cry.

Auburn then upset #2 seed Kentucky in the Elite Eight to advance to it’s first ever Final Four.

Sadly, Auburn’s Cinderella story came to an end in controversial fashion against the eventual champion, the University of Virginia. Auburn went on a 15-2 run in the final stretch of the game and led Virginia 62-60 with only seconds remaining. However, with .6 seconds left in the game, Guy, Virginia’s shooting guard, missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. However, the referee, James Breeding, called a foul on Auburn’s Samir Doughty, who, although he contested the shot with his hands straight up in the air, bumped into Guy’s hip.

Auburn fans thought they had the game, but Breeding, who has reffed the last 10 NCAA national championship games, made a controversial, game-changing call. Guy proceeded to make all three of his free throws which gave Virginia the 1-point win over Auburn as the Cavaliers broke the hearts of the Tigers and their fans.

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Zion Williamson, the consensus #1 pick in the NBA draft this summer, had an outstanding March Madness, but his Blue Devils fell short of reaching the Final Four.

Duke, another heavy favorite and the team that all eyes were on during the season, started off the tournament in dominating fashion by blowing out North Dakota State 85-62. In the next round, though, Duke fans were given a scare when the Blue Devils barely survived the University of Central Florida which was led by 7’6” center Tacko Fall.

Duke made some crucial last-second shots and Zion Williamson, the number one prospect heading into this year’s NBA Draft, hit the game-winning and-one shot with the free throw to give the Blue Devils the 77-76 win. The following game couldn’t have been more similar with Duke again only winning by one basket against Virginia Tech 75-73. Virginia Tech missed two crucial tip-in layups for the tie to send the game to overtime, and Duke walked off the court with a ticket to the Elite Eight.

However, their title hopes would end in that round against #2 seed Michigan State 68-67. With time winding down, Michigan State forward Kenny Goins hit a three-pointer to give the Spartans a two-point lead. On the ensuing possession, Duke’s shooting guard, RJ Barrett, considered by many to be the number two prospect in the nation, got fouled and went to the free throw line. He missed them both, ending the Blue Devils’ shot at another championship. Some other unexpected losses were Gonzaga losing to Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, the University of Michigan losing to Texas Tech in the Sweet Sixteen, and Michigan State losing to Texas Tech in the Final Four.

Almost every single game this season was down to the wire and filled with controversial and surprising fouls and calls, and even though some fans are disappointed, many are calling this the best March Madness Tournament ever. What made the tournament so exciting, surprising, and entertaining was how unpredictable the games were. Yes, a #1 seed ended up winning the title, but the great thing about the men’s NCAA basketball tournament is that any team can win on any given day. As Zion Williamson said after Duke’s near loss to UCF, “That’s why they call it March Madness.”