Virgina busts brackets and Duke disappoints

Max Domel, Staff Writer

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From March 19 to April 8, 68 men’s college basketball teams competed in the famous and beloved national March Madness tournament. This year, the University of Virginia’s Cavaliers came out as champions. The tournament is well known for being unpredictable, hence its name, and the events that occurred this year were no exception.
Every year millions of Americans fill out official tournament brackets and enter bracket competitions to correctly guess the winners of as many games as possible. There are four regional “brackets” of 16 teams. Each regional winner is one of the final four teams, and every team is given a seed that determines their schedule. This year, according to surveys and recorded data from the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), only 0.02 percent of people correctly guessed the Final Four teams and just 0.3 percent predicted Texas Tech facing Virginia in the national championship. Most of the nation was expecting Duke to take the 2019 title.
In the first round of the tournament, many lower seeded teams upset higher-ranked opponents, an aspect of March Madness that is all too familiar. Three out of four 12 seeded teams beat the five seed; 75 percent of 10 seeded colleges beat the seven seed and every eight seed was defeated by the nine seed. Besides these, many other upsets came from two emerging powers in this year’s competition: Auburn and Texas Tech.
Although Auburn was the fifth seed in their bracket, they put on an amazing performance throughout the tournament and beat higher-ranked teams including Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky by larger margins than ever expected. Against North Carolina, Auburn finished with close to 100 points and won by 17 points, mainly due to insane back-to-back plays in the second half. Nearly everyone on the roster was knocking down three-pointers. Texas Tech also had a fantastic March Madness run in 2019, particularly in the Sweet 16, by shockingly beating Michigan (two seed) by 21 points, followed by extreme defeats of Gonzaga (one seed) in the Elite 8 and Michigan State (two seed) in the Final Four. Both teams made school history this year by making it to the Final Four for the first time ever.
Another important team to highlight from March Madness 2019 is Purdue, the school that beat 2018’s champion Villanova in the second round followed by a major win in overtime against Tennessee, which was the highest-scoring game of the tournament with a final tally of 99 to 94. Purdue showed their dominance even as a No. 3 seed with high-skilled players such as Carsen Edwards and Matt Haarms. Sadly their road ended in the Elite 8 against the champions, Virginia, despite high effort until the buzzer by Edwards and his teammates.
Duke’s team this season was led by freshmen superstars Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett that repeatedly proved to the nation why they were unstoppable this season. However, for such a powerful squad, Duke had a rough time in every game and barely made it to the Elite 8. Against the University of Central Florida (UCF), Williamson was finally put to the test against their huge center, Tacko Fall, who is seven feet and six inches tall. He battled it out with Williamson at the rim throughout the whole game in one of the most entertaining matchups this year.
UCF was ahead of the Duke Blue Devils until the very last moments when RJ Barrett rebounded a loose shot, followed by an unlucky UCF play at the buzzer where BJ Taylor barely missed a layup, allowing Duke to move on to next round. The same thing happened in Duke’s next game against Virginia Tech, but their luck finally ran out against Michigan State when they got a taste of their own medicine, busting everyone’s 2019 brackets.
In the first Final Four game, held between Auburn and Virginia, the eventual winners found themselves down by three points at halftime, and frankly were outplayed in the second half by Auburn, but were rescued by clutch shots from Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter. The game came to a dramatic end when Auburn’s Samir Doughty fouled Virginia’s Kyle Guy while shooting a three-pointer, leading to “Mr. Clutch” stepping up and making all three free throws to win. After the game, video footage showed that the referees possibly missed a double-dribble call on Ty Jerome, but who knows how that would have changed things. In the other Final Four game, Texas Tech and Michigan went back and forth until eventually, Tech’s Matt Mooney went on a hot streak, scoring 22 points, to lead them to victory towards the national championship.
On April 8, 2019, Texas Tech University and the University of Virginia competed in one of the most thrilling championship games in years, one that spilled into overtime after Texas Tech missed the narrow opportunity to score on the last play of the game. For the majority of regulation time, the lead changed often, but Virginia was able to finally push past Tech’s defense, one of the best in the nation, and put the game to bed, 85 to 77. Texas Tech’s Brandone Francis had 17, while David Moretti and NBA prospect Jarrett Culver scored 15 each. Virginia’s biggest star, De’Andre Hunter scored 27 of their points, followed by Kyle Guy with 24 and Ty Jerome with 16. Yet what makes their victory even more incredible is that Virginia lost to the last place team in their bracket last year, the first time in history that a 16 seed beat number one. The phenomenon almost occurred for a second time this year against Gardner-Webb.
All in all, for those that watched this year’s March Madness tournament, it was quite a thrilling and emotional ride. It was filled with amazing stories of underdogs and national superpowers, players with many charming, unique skills and true madness. In the end, Virginia walked away with the trophy, obtaining the title of “national champions” for the first time ever.