Joey Peterson —
Yes, there were upsets. Yes, there were shockers. Yes, there was madness, and no, your bracket was not perfect; it was actually in the shredder after day one. Better luck next year.
Yale and Makai Mason got the madness started with a win over Baylor, and Taurean Prince told everyone what a rebound was during his press conference. Purdue was cruising and then they were not, eventually Josh Hagins of Arkansas Little-Rock hit a big time shot to force overtime and eventually a double overtime win. Duke survived a scare and Arizona was left shocked after Wichita State completely dismantled them. The eleven seeds did not behave like such, going 3-1 against the six seeds. Providence made a buzzer beating layup to end day one.
Day two had people questioning their sanity, first when the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State knocked off one of the title favorites in round one. Barack Obama picked Hawaii, and the Rainbow Warriors came through for him. Stephen F. Austin and star player Thomas Walkup, looking more like a lumberjack than the mascot itself, beat West Virginia. Adam Woodbury pushed his way to a game winner, but no big deal, the refs didn’t see the push. Northern Iowa’s Paul Jesperson pulled up at midcourt and banked it in at the buzzer, which had everybody in Merrill, Wisconsin saying, “I know that guy!” Shortly after, Octavius Ellis’s dunk at the buzzer was waved off on replay.
The stage was set for one of the best round of 32 games ever when Indiana and Kentucky clashed, but Yogi Ferrell was too much for the Wildcats. Gonzaga destroyed Utah to get to the sweet sixteen after limping into the field. Rex Pflueger tipped the Irish to victory, sending the Lumberjacks back home with their hearts broken. Bronson Koenig channeled his inner Steph Curry with a step-back three at the horn to knock of second seeded Xavier. Northern Iowa was up twelve points with 34 seconds left, but somehow found a way to complete the greatest collapse in college basketball history by losing in double overtime. Coach K was a little salty after the Blue Devils got beat handily by Dillion Brooks and the Oregon Ducks.
Then there was four. First, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield proved to be more like Buddy Buckets after averaging almost 30 points-per-game while leading the Sooners. The Villanova Wildcats, the team that everyone doubted at the start, was roaring loud behind the senior leadership of Ryan Arcidiacono. North Carolina seemed to be meshing its mighty talent together at the right time. And then there was Syracuse, a team who by no means even belonged in the tournament, but found themselves among the last four remaining.
Both semifinals were blowouts, as the stage was set for Villanova and North Carolina. A back and forth game, and by many people’s accounts a poorly officiated game, but at the end the players made the big plays. First was Marcus Paige, who hit an off-balanced, acrobatic three to tie the game. However, time still remained, and Arcidiacono handed the ball to Kris Jenkins, who rose up and drilled the shot at the buzzer to end the college basketball season with a bang and give Villanova their second men’s basketball championship.