A team that lost in historic fashion last year has risen amongst the ranks and achieved the ultimate glory: a national championship. Going into the tournament, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Gonzaga were viewed as overwhelming favorites to win the tournament; in addition, there were a few teams that were not ranked at the top that could make deep runs in the tournament such as Oregon, Florida State, Tennessee, and Murray State, lead by the famed prospect Ja Morant. However, the overarching headline that eventually loomed over March Madness was how Duke would perform. Headlined by Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and RJ Barrett, Duke was a top pick for national champions in many brackets.
Then, much like any other year, the first round featured a number of not only exciting games, but historic upsets. Liberty beating Mississippi State, Murray State vanquishing Marquette, UC Irvine overthrowing Kansas State, and Oregon conquering Wisconsin. Although several of these upsets were predicted, many a bracket was left in ruins. After this upheaval, the second round featured a number of heartbreaking defeats such as UCF’s lose to Duke, which came down to a missed shot that rattled off the rim in the final moments. The second round also saw the end of the much-anticipated run by Murray State in the tournament, a story headlined by the monster performance of Ja Morant, who truly exemplified why he deserves to be a top 5 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
Heading into the Sweet 16, the conversation morphed into how beatable Duke was, how well Auburn was playing, and if this finally would be Virginia’s year. The Sweet 16 left many of these questions unanswered. Duke narrowly escaped Virginia Tech after previously barely escaping UCF. Auburn proved that they were a force to be reckoned with after beating now both Kansas and North Carolina. A new name also emerged as a result of the sweet 16: Carsten Edwards. Carsen Edwards, guard from Purdue, demonstrated why he should be in the conversation among the likes of Ja Morant and Zion Williamson as he led Purdue into the Elite 8.
In a star studded battle between a growing powerhouse in Tennessee and Purdue, Carsen Edwards proved once again his worth knocking off the two seed Tennessee. The Elite 8, however, proved to be the end of the road for the Duke Blue Devils and Zion as Michigan State was able to pull off the narrow upset winning 68-67. Also, Gonzaga’s journey was cut short by Texas Tech, and the proud Boilermakers were forced to pack up their tools and head home. The Final Four then stood as Texas Tech, Michigan State, Virginia, and Auburn, none of whom many predicted would make it to this stage of the tournament. The Auburn vs Virginia game came down to the wire and ultimately a foul on Auburn, giving Virginia three free throws that secured their victory. The Michigan State and Texas Tech game showed flashes of why Michigan State deserved to be in the Final Four, but ultimately demonstrated the sheer power of the Culver-led Texas Tech team, who physically dominated the Spartans.
The national championship then featured a powerful showdown between Texas Tech and Virginia. However, Virginia was able to pull away from the Red Raiders and win their first national championship with a final score of 85-77.