Now that it’s been some time since March Madness 2021, it seems like an appropriate time to recap an unprecedented tournament. It certainly was a crazy year filled with upsets, close games, and other surprises. I think all college basketball fans can agree that even though their brackets were definitely busted, it was fun to finally get our long awaited March Madness back after last year’s tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19.
The first four games which are known as the play-in games set the tone for an exciting tournament. All of them were close and exciting, especially the UCLA vs Michigan State game. This wasn’t your average play-in game from the start, since the two teams were used to being ranked a lot higher. Michigan State were favorites, and a lot of people liked them to go far in the tournament, but the UCLA Bruins upset them in overtime. Using the momentum, this UCLA team ended up having a memorable run. They clawed their way to the Final Four, but lost their Final Four game to Gonzaga in a defeat at the buzzer in overtime.
The first round was a wild one. Out of the 32 games played in the first round, the underdog won 10. The craziest upset of them all was Oral Roberts’ defeat of Ohio State. Oral Roberts was the 15th seed and Ohio State was the 2nd seed. This is something that almost never happens. In fact, 15 seeds are 9-135 against 2 seeds. This means that only 6% of 15 seeds pull off this upset, and Oral Robers is part of that 6%. Not only did Oral Roberts beat Ohio State, they also beat the 7th seed Florida in the second round, taking them to the Sweet Sixteen. Almost everyone had Ohio State winning that game and going far too. Many people took this team to win the National Championship, only to lose in the first round. Unfortunately Oral Roberts lost to the third seed, Arkansas, in the Sweet Sixteen, ending the team’s Cinderella story.
Although there were some great upsets and exciting runs this year, no one could get past Baylor or Gonzaga. Both teams made it to the National Championship as 1 seeds, setting up a very good basketball game. Going into it, most people had their money on the Gonzaga Bulldogs to come out as the victor. They had gone undefeated so far this year and didn’t show any sign of slowing down. Led by projected top 3 pick in this upcoming NBA draft, Jalen Suggs, the Bulldogs were blowing teams out left and right. Then came the Baylor Bears. They were a gritty basketball team, but they never played in a close game all of the tournament up to the finals. This matchup seemed like one that we would remember for the ages, but that didn’t seem to be the case. Baylor came out guns blazing and went on a big lead on Gonzaga early. They kept their foot on the gas for the whole game. Gonzaga showed signs of life throughout the game, going into the second half down only 9. However, Baylor crushed their hope in the second half. Baylor was crowned National Champions, defeating Gonzaga 86-70. It was a well deserved win as I think we can all agree that they were simply the better team. They showed us that calling Gonzaga the favorite was a huge mistake.
Although this year was a crazy year in college basketball, with Duke and Kentucky out of the tournament, it was still a great year and tournament. Despite all the COVID-19 regulations, the college basketball fans were still able to witness a classic March Madness filled with upsets and broken brackets.