By Timothy Harrison
The University of Virginia made history in the 2018 NCAA Tournament by becoming the first ever number-one seed to lose their opening round game to a 16 seed. Fast forward a year later and the University of Virginia is the National Champions of Men’s College Basketball. However, it was not an easy ride. The journey was filled with clutch shots, thunderous dunks, controversy, triumph, and of course, heartbreak. Without further ado, let’s review the madness.
The story from round one that captured the eyes of fans was the performance by Murray State point guard Ja Morant. Morant carried the underdog 12 seed Murray State Racers past five seed Marquette in convincing fashion, as Morant posted a triple-double. UC Irvine was the lowest seed to advance as the 13 seed Anteaters knocked off four seed Kansas State to win their first ever tournament game. Other upsets included 12 seed Liberty defeating five seed Mississippi State and the 12th seeded Oregon Ducks blowing out the fifth seeded Wisconsin Badgers. Overall, the first round of the tournament disappointed the majority of college hoop fans as there was a lack of upsets when compared to the past tournaments.
The matchup that attracted the most attention pinned the Duke Blue Devils against the University of Central Florida. All eyes were on the soon to be number-one draft pick Zion Williamson from Duke and the seven foot, six inch Tacko Fall from Central Florida. UCF was a millimeter away from shocking the world by upsetting the tournament favorite Duke. However, Aubrey Dawkins’ layup attempt somehow rolled off the rim and the Blue Devils escaped by one point to set up a Sweet 16 matchup with Virginia Tech.
On another note, Oregon ended UC Irvine’s Cinderella run as they coasted past the Anteaters. Round two also saw defending champion and hometown favorite Villanova get brutalized by Purdue. This round did not consist of any upsets whatsoever. In fact, the only lower seeded team to be victorious was the fifth seeded Auburn Tigers who defeated the fourth seeded Kansas Jayhawks by a score of 89-75.
Round 3: The Sweet Sixteen
We started with 64 and now we are down to 16. The story of the Sweet Sixteen had to be the Auburn Tigers taking down the college basketball powerhouse and number one seed North Carolina with ease. North Carolina’s arch enemy, the Duke Blue Devils played in another nail biter against conference foe Virginia Tech. Somehow, someway Duke escaped as Virginia Tech missed a wide-open tip-in that would have sent the game into overtime. Another point of focus would be that two of the three seeds, Texas Tech and Purdue, took down the favored two seeds, Michigan and Tennessee, to clinch a berth to the Elite Eight. The Sweet 16 had many fans on the edge of their seats as more teams pack their bags and head back to campus.
Round 4: The Elite Eight
With only eight teams remaining, the stakes are as high as the madness. Two of the three remaining number-one seeds were sent home. Tournament-favorite Duke witnessed their luck run out as Michigan State edged them by just one point in another down to the wire finish. Top-seeded Gonzaga could not get past the Texas Tech Red Raiders and their stellar defense. Two SEC programs battled as Auburn rallied to upset second-seeded Kentucky in a close game. Lastly, Virginia topped Purdue by five points to complete a historic comeback. This time last year, Virginia was on the wrong side of history, becoming the first ever number-one seed to lose its opening round game, and now they are heading to the Final Four.
Round 5: The Final Four
The Final Four is undoubtedly one of the largest stages in college basketball. Four teams have outlasted the others and fought all the way to the final weekend. The four remaining teams were Virginia, Texas Tech, Michigan State, and Auburn. The first game to tip off was Auburn against Virginia, and it did not disappoint. The game went back and forth with both teams taking control at one point. However, the game was decided by a missed call that has been the topic of conversation since it occurred. Virginia point guard Ty Jerome lost control of the ball in the final seconds of the game as his team was down two. He picked the ball up and continued to dribble. This was a double dribble violation, which would have resulted in Auburn taking over possession. But, the referees either did not see the play or decided to not call the violation. This led to Virginia’s Kyle Guy being fouled on a three-point shot attempt, knocking down all three free throws, which ultimately sent Virginia to their first ever National Championship.
The other game was not as exciting. Texas Tech continued their outstanding play on the defensive side of the ball by holding Michigan State to only 51 points.
This was also Texas Tech’s first ever National Championship appearance. The Virginia and Auburn game stole the show and gave the fans all the madness they could handle.
The National Championship
The final game of the college basketball season pinned the Virginia Cavaliers against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in an intriguing matchup. Virginia’s slow, methodical pace versus the grueling defense of Texas Tech resulted in an instant classic. The teams traded baskets back and forth throughout the whole game. The end of regulation had the entire arena on their feet as DeAndre Hunter knocked down a game-tying three-pointer with 12 seconds left that sent the game to overtime. Texas Tech started overtime hot, but it was not enough. Virginia dominated the final two and a half minutes of overtime and was crowned National Champions for the first time in school history. Philly’s own DeAndre Hunter led Virginia with 27 points, making his case as a top 10 NBA draft pick. Kyle Guy was awarded the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award for his performance.