The madness of March

Eric Fenstermacker, Reporter

Where is the one place that Bears, Bulldogs, Bruins, and Cougars can coexist? It is not the mountains, and it for sure cannot be the cities. It’s March Madness, of course, and madness it was. 

This year, 68 men’s college basketball teams searched for that “one shining moment” after last year’s tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak. In Indianapolis, players are excited to finally chase that coveted championship. 

But, they may not be the most excited. Fans, who had to wait a whole year for these games are now able to watch their team run the gauntlet. One of the most widespread traditions by fans of the March Madness tournament is to fill out a bracket. People take some time to predict the outcome of each game of the tournament. Some do it as a competition for money, while others do it for fun and to test their knowledge of the game. No matter what reason people have for filling out a bracket, it has become a tradition that is never going to die.

College basketball’s March Madness has been described by past players, analysts, and coaches as a “long and winding road.” That “road” to the Final Four this year was paved by upsets, buzzer-beaters, and history-making moments that brought fans edge-of-your-seat excitement throughout the tournament. The madness began in the first round when the small, fifteen seeded Oral Roberts claimed a victory over the heavily favored, number-two-seeded Ohio State. Both Abilene Christian and North Texas, also small schools, made the tournament for the first time and won their first round games. The University of Virginia, defending champions, were positioned to make a run at the championship, but Ohio University stopped them before they could even get started in the first round.

The second round was no exception to the madness as Cinderella stories were born. Loyola-Chicago scored a victory over betting favorites, the University of Illinois. Oral Roberts again became the giant slayers as they upset Florida. The round of sixteen teams is given the title of “Sweet Sixteen” every year. This year, many would say the term “Sweet Sixteen” described the round perfectly. While upsets were not as common as the other two rounds, UCLA was able to overcome all doubts and continue their Cinderella story in the “Elite Eight.”

The Elite Eight consisted of Arkansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, Houston, Michigan, Oregon State, UCLA, and USC. This round featured some unforgettable moments, like UCLA’s overtime victory over Michigan, as well as Baylor continuing to dominate.

UCLA quickly became the team to watch as they entered the Final Four as a number eleven seeded team. Their Cinderella season was exciting to fans, but ultimately they fell short of a championship appearance. The undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs stood in their way in the Final Four game. This was one of the most watched games of the tournament. The game saw 15 ties and 19 lead changes, according to ESPN. The game entered overtime, and Gonzaga became too much for the Bruins. Gonzaga won and claimed their spot in the championship game. On the other side of the Final Four, Baylor continued to dominate with a victory over in-state rival Houston.

The National Championship stage was set. The Baylor Bears vs the Gonzaga Bulldogs. This game featured several NBA prospects. From the tip-off to the final buzzer, Baylor took no prisoners and dominated the entire game. The final score was 86-70 in favor of Baylor. Jared Butler, Baylor’s leading scorer said, “In your one shining moment, you have to reach for the sky.” The closing moments of the game saw confetti falling and the Bears cutting down the nets and hoisting the trophy.

As many saw the Baylor Bears win the championship, one could only describe the tournament as madness. Upsets, domination, and excitement made this tournament unlike any other. Now fans will wait for the unpredictable tournament to once again come around in 2022. Who will be the next champion? Who will be the next Cinderella? Find out in next year’s March Madness.