The Road to Houston

Josh Scott

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This year’s college basketball season has been filled with many surprises and shocks. From Alabama being the number 1 team for the first time in school history, to North Carolina dropping from number 1 to out of postseason play. The college basketball tournament, March Madness is considered by many to be the best sporting event of the year due to the idea that anyone can win it and upsets happen frequently.

If you’re not familiar with March Madness, it is organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and features 68 teams from across the country. The tournament is played in a single-elimination format, with the winner being crowned the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Champion. The main bracket, consisting of 64 teams, is divided into four regions, each with 16 teams. The teams are seeded based on their performance during the regular season, with the top teams receiving higher seeds and easier match-ups. Despite the seeding, there are always multiple big upsets in the first round or two of it.

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This year the top teams in the bracket were Alabama, Houston, Purdue, UCLA, and Kansas. The tournament saw several historic upsets and surprises. Kennesaw State, Furman, and Texas Southern made notable appearances, with Texas Southern tying the record for most losses ever to make the tournament. Fairleigh Dickinson also made history by becoming only the second 16-seed to defeat a 1-seed, upsetting Purdue in the first round. They became America’s team. Additionally, a 15-seed defeated a 2-seed for the third consecutive year, with Princeton upsetting Arizona and later reaching the Sweet 16 by defeating Missouri.

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Virginia suffered another early upset, as they were knocked out in the first round by Furman. The defending champions Kansas were also eliminated in the second round against Arkansas, continuing the trend of defending champions failing to make the Sweet Sixteen.

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The Final Four featured three teams making their first-ever appearance, including Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, and Miami. This year’s Final Four was also marked by a lack of highly touted high school prospects, with no former McDonald’s All-Americans participating for the first time in tournament history. The Final Four teams featured a number of unranked players, with only eight rotation players ranked in the top 100 of the composite recruiting rankings of 247Sports. In the Final Four, San Diego State sneaked past Florida Atlantic 72-71, while UConn took care of business against Miami (FL) 72-59. 

San Diego State’s men’s basketball team has reached the championship game of the NCAA tournament by relying on their tough defense and clutch performances in the closing stages of games. The team ranks fourth in the country for defensive efficiency, and this has been key in their run to the final. Although their offense has not been particularly explosive, different players have stepped up in various games. Despite trailing at halftime in six consecutive matches, the Aztecs have won them all, including the Elite Eight and Final Four contests.

The UConn Huskies’ impressive run to the NCAA championship game was largely predictable, despite some difficult periods during the regular season. The team ranks first overall in Bart Torvik’s predictive rankings due to their efficient offense and defense. The key to their success was which version of the team would show up, but they have been dominant in the tournament, with Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo leading the way. The Huskies have been impressive on both ends of the court, holding Gonzaga to just 54 points in the Elite Eight and scoring 88 points against Arkansas in the Sweet 16. They are the only team to have won all of their games comfortably in a tournament that has been characterized by close matches and parity.

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The University of Connecticut Huskies won the NCAA basketball championship for the fifth time, defeating the San Diego State Aztecs 76-59. Adama Sanogo was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the final game. At halftime, the Huskies had a 12-point lead, which could have been even larger if the Aztecs hadn’t been lucky enough to avoid a bigger gap. However, the Huskies’ defense, led by Sanogo and Donovan Clingan, dominated the Aztecs. Tristen Newton led all scorers with 19 points and 10 rebounds, helping UConn maintain their lead throughout the game.

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