2018 College Basketball March Madness Review

Villanova+players+and+fans+celebrate+together+after+the+Wildcats+won+the+2018+men%27s+college+basketball+championship.
Villanova players and fans celebrate together after the Wildcats won the 2018 men's college basketball championship.

Villanova players and fans celebrate together after the Wildcats won the 2018 men's college basketball championship.

Villanova players and fans celebrate together after the Wildcats won the 2018 men's college basketball championship.

Colling Birge, Sports Writer

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Just three weeks after the final game of March Madness, it’s gone in what seems to be in the blink of an eye. It was a crazy year for college basketball as there just seemed to be no clear-cut favorite to win this year’s tournament. For the first time in history a 16 seed defeated a one seed, an heavy underdog made it to the Final Four, and the national champion won for the second time in three years. 17 million brackets were filled out on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge App and none of them beat the astronomical odds for perfection after the first round.

In the round of 64, plenty of upsets happened as expected, but no one could predict the craziest upset in March Madness history. For the first time in the history of the NCAA Tournament, a number 16 seed beat a number one seed. Now the all-time record for 16 seeds versus one seeds is a robust one for 136. The UMBC Retrievers (University of Maryland Baltimore County) beat the number one overall seed Virginia Cavaliers 74-54. Virginia, who entered the tournament 31-2, had just won the ACC tournament (a conference many consider the best basketball conference in Division I), and UMBC had just beaten Vermont in the American East Conference Championship game with a last-second shot.

Another big surprise was number four seed Arizona, a team many had going to the final four, losing in the opening round to Buffalo 89-68. Also Loyola-Chicago ended up making a huge and surprising Final Four run, and it all started with beating six seeded Miami on a buzzer-beating three point shot. 13 seed Marshall and 11 seed Syracuse rounded out the first round upsets with Marshall beating four seed Wichita State 81-75, and Syracuse, who was the last team to be put into the tournament, beat six seed TCU 57-52.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright
Via flickr.com

The round of 32 was just as intense as the first round. Once again Loyola-Chicago won on a last-second shot beating third seed Tennessee 63-62, and also in the south region, UMBCs magical number 16 seed run came to an end losing to Kansas State 50-43. Fifth seeded Kentucky beat Buffalo (who upset Arizona 95-75), and second-seeded Cincinnati blew a near 20 point second half lead to Nevada 75-73. In the west region, ninth-seeded Florida State beat top-seeded Xavier 75-70, and Gonzaga held off Ohio State 90-84. Also in the west region, defending national champion North Carolina was run out of the stadium by Texas A&M, and Michigan’s second-half comeback and buzzer-beating three helped them prevail over Houston 64-63. In the east and midwest region, all the teams expected to win did except for one game. In the midwest, Syracuse, once again was the underdog, beat Michigan State who was the fourth most popular pick to win the title behind Virginia, Villanova, and Duke.

With the first weekend of the tournament gone, only 16 teams were left heading into Thursday night March 22nd. The Sweet 16 wasn’t as crazy as the first two rounds most of the upsets ended up losing except one: Loyola-Chicago. On Thursday night, Michigan began the Sweet 16 destroying Texas A&M 99-72 to advance to their third Elite Eight since 2013. Loyola-Chicago advanced to their second Elite Eight in school history and the first since the year they won the title in 1963 – beating Nevada 69-68. Kentucky and Kansas State went at each other after that game concluded in the south region with Kansas State hanging on to beat the Kentucky Wildcats 61-58. To end the first night, Florida State advanced to their first Elite Eight since 1993 beating last year’s runner-up, Gonzaga, 75-60. On Friday, Villanova went off against West Virginia and struggled at first, but the Wildcats pulled away in the second half to win 90-78 where they would end up meeting Texas Tech for a shot at the Final Four. The Red Raiders beat Purdue 78-65. Kansas went on to beat Clemson 80-76 and Syracuse’s season ended after losing to Duke 69-65.

The Elite Eight had a lot of storylines – with the matchup no one could’ve predicted in Loyola-Chicago and popular human mascot Sister Jean going up against Kansas State. Could Villanova get back to the Final Four where they were in 2016 when they won the national championship? Could Kansas finally get back to the Final Four after being so close the past several seasons? Could Grayson Allen lead Duke to a national championship his senior year like he did his freshman year?

To start off the Elite Eight, the magic of Sister Jean continued as Cinderella story Loyola-Chicago beat Kansas State 78-62 to advance to their second Final Four in school history in San Antonio. In the West region, out in L.A., Michigan held off Florida State to go to their second Final Four since 2013, and that would set the matchup of the two hottest teams since January: Loyola-Chicago (winners of 14 straight) and Michigan (winners of 13 straight). Villanova beat Texas Tech 71-59 to advance to their second Final Four in three years, and Kansas had to go to overtime to make a comeback against Duke, beating the Blue Devils 85-81 to advance to their first Final Four since 2012.

Via Lance King, Getty Images

With 58 teams down in two weeks and the final weekend in the Alamodome in, San Antonio featured the Final Four teams: Loyola-Chicago, Michigan, Villanova, and Kansas. To start off, Loyola-Chicago got going early against Michigan leading by seven at halftime and eventually leading by 10 in the second half. However, Michigan caught fire in the last 10 minutes, eventually took the lead, and pulled away from the Cinderella story beating them 69-57.

The next game wouldn’t typically be called nail-bitter. Villanova was hitting shots right out of the gate and surprisingly blew out Kansas 95-79. It all came down to Michigan and Villanova for the title.

Monday, April 2nd, 2018, the day of the National Championship, saw the three seed from the West region, Michigan Wolverines, advance to challenge the one seed from the East region, Villanova Wildcats, in the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Michigan was searching for their second championship and their first national championship game since 2013 when they lost to Louisville.

Villanova was looking for their third championship and their second national championship since 2016 when they beat North Carolina on a buzzer-beating three.

Michigan got off to a hot start with junior big-man Moritz Wagner hitting the first couple of buckets for Michigan. It took Villanova the first 10 minutes of the first half to get going, but once they did there was no looking back. Villanova sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo came off the bench for Villanova and got on fire early. DiVincenzo sparked a big run for Villanova as they led at halftime 37-28.

In the second half, it was more of the same for Villanova and DiVincenzo as the Wildcats outscored Michigan in the second half 42-34 to win the national title 79-62. Donte DiVincenzo scored a game and career-high 31 points (including 12 in a row at one point in the second half) and was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player (MOP).

Villanova was the second most popular choice for the national championship of fans, trailing only Virginia. After winning two national titles in three years, Coach Jay Wright and these Villanova Wildcats are potentially turning into a college basketball dynasty.

 

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