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Recap: Crazy 2018 March Madness Tournament Finishes with Epic Finale

Evan Spinney, Reporter

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It’s the year of unexpected wins in college basketball.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) holds a single elimination tournament for division one colleges known as March Madness every year. It starts with a round of 64 teams, then a round of 32, that becomes the sweet 16, elite 8, final 4, and finally breaks down to only two teams. The teams who qualify for the tournament are seeded based on their record from the regular season- the better the record, the higher the seed.

Making brackets for this tournament has become a very popular and a fun competition for friends and family to partake in. Creating a good bracket is what everyone aims for, but good is about as far as people get. Nobody has ever constructed a perfect bracket, and with upsets, the odds of creating a perfect bracket is 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (or 1 in 9.2 quintillion).

This year is historic when talking about upsets. If it wasn’t already obvious that a perfect bracket is not possible, this year proved that it’s even more impossible than it already was.

The University of Virginia (UVA) Cavaliers basketball was one of four number one seeded teams this year. All the number one seeds play the lowest ranked team in their division; UVA played the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers. If there was ever a true underdog story, it’s the story of UMBC. The 31-3 Cavaliers were highly favored not only to win this game but to win the whole tournament, having the best season record out of all competing colleges and the least amount of losses than any other team.

UMBC and UVA both started out pretty slow but played equally. The score at the end of the first half was 21-21. Unexpectedly UMBC was able to keep the score close and not give UVA a lead before the second half of play.

Within four minutes of play in the second half, the Retrievers gained an 11-point lead over the Cavaliers. After that, their lead was never less than 12 points, UMBC’s biggest lead being 20 points towards the end of the game and with the final score being 74-54, Retrievers. Talk about a real upset.

This marks the first time in NCAA March Madness history that a 16 seeded team advanced to the second round of the tournament.

The Retrievers’ record was 25-10 before March, and they were ranked a 16 seed. Other teams such as Oklahoma University (Oklahoma Sooners) had a worse record, 18-14 to be exact, that were included as a higher seed.

Former professional basketball player and NBA analyst Charles Barkley questioned Oklahoma’s spot in the NCAA tournament. Oklahoma star Trae Young has been compared to Steph Curry as a college freshman, but his time competing was cut short as the Sooners lost to Rhode Island in the first round. Young announced that he is entering the NBA draft this year.

The midwest region of teams, where the Sooners are located, had the least amount of upsets in the first two rounds while the southern region of teams had the most low ranked teams winning against higher ranked opponents. Not only did an 11 seed beat a number 6 seed, but in the next round they won against a number 3 seeded team.

Seven seed Nevada beat 10 seed Texas in the first round, which is not an upset, but in the second round, Nevada played 2 seed Cincinnati and won that game too.

In the sweet 16 however, Nevada lost to Loyola-Chicago IL, an 11 seed, that made it to the final four for the first time in 55 years. If Loyola would have won against their number three seed competitor Michigan, it would have been the first time in history an 11 seed won a final four game.

Loyola’s run fell through when they lost to Michigan 69-57. The Ramblers lead most of the game and drove to the basket successfully a number of times, but they couldn’t stop Michigan’s big man Moritz Wagner, who played for 36 minutes and scored 24 points. Wagner tied the game at 47 points each after hitting a three pointer in the second half of play.

Wagner was crucial in helping Michigan advance to the finals, but he couldn’t do much in the final game himself.

He played 33 minutes, scored 16 points, got seven rebounds and had one assist. He was still no match for Villanova’s sixth man Donte DiVincenzo. DiVincenzo did not start this game, but when he came off the bench it seemed like he should have. Michigan held a steady lead through the course of the first half, but DiVincenzo kept it a close game until eventually Villanova took the lead.

The Most Outstanding Player scored 31 of Nova’s 79 points.

Villanova took the lead over Michigan in the second half and turned it up a notch with better defense than in the first half and confident shooting, allowing them to take a lead as high as 19 points over the Wolverines, and win the NCAA title.

Florida State guard PJ Savoy (5), celebrates after defeating Xavier in a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, March 18, 2018. Florida State defeated Xavier 75-70. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) 

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Recap: Crazy 2018 March Madness Tournament Finishes with Epic Finale