Another March in the books means another successful NCAA tournament. Although the Final Four/championship game was somewhat disappointing (all thanks to Villanova, they were clearly the best team this season), there was no shortage of madness for fans. Here is a condensed “One Shining Moment” to honor the end of the tournament.
UMBC makes history
Thirty years from now, this tournament will be remembered for one thing above all else—the year a one seed lost to a 16 seed. And they didn’t just win—the University of Maryland-Baltimore County absolutely dominated Virginia, the number one overall seed.
No, the Retrievers didn’t advance to the Sweet 16—they fell to the Elite 8-bound Kansas State Wildcats—but they proved that their monumental victory wasn’t a fluke, losing by just seven in the second round. But this group will be remembered forever, in their school and throughout the country. No longer will the 1-16 upset be deemed impossible. It may happen again, and it may take another 33 years, but it will never happen again for the first time.
Cheers to you, Retrievers.
Jordan Poole beats the buzzer
The Wolverines played for the National Championship on Monday, but it almost didn’t happen—down two in the waning seconds of regulation, the Wolverines needed a hero—they got two. The more obvious was Jordan Poole, a freshman from Milwaukee who beat the buzzer with his leg-split shot and broke the hearts of Houston fans everywhere.
But the underlying hero was Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rakhman, the assistor on the play. Far too often we see players jack up contested shots to win the game, but similarly to Ryan Arcidiacono in the championship two years ago, Abdur-Rakhman chose to pass up eternal glory for the good of the team.
Unfortunately for Houston’s Devin Davis, this game will be the one that got away—he was 8/8 on free throws to start the game—he finished one for four, with the chance to put the game away.
The power of Sister Jean
UMBC was the historic story of this tournament.
But the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and their beloved Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt were the biggest story of the tournament. Whatever you choose to believe, there may have been some divine intervention in the Rambler’s run to the Final Four—Loyola won their first three games by a total of four points, including clutch shots in each game by different players. Donte Ingram beat the buzzer against Miami, Clayton Custer got the lucky bounce against Tennessee, and Marques Townes put the game away against Nevada.
The Ramblers fell short in the Final Four, but a quote by head coach Porter Moser sums up this team’s run. As he walked to the locker room after the loss to Michigan, he told senior Ben Richardson to “keep that head high walking through here because you changed the direction of this whole program.”
We won’t soon forget this team.
They were not only epic comebacks—they were epic upsets as well.
Up 12 with 10 minutes to go, few expected the number one seed Xavier to cave to the Seminoles. But Florida State chipped away, and a critical (and controversial) fifth foul call on J.P. Macura completely turned the tide, as the Seminoles defeated their first number one seed in tournament history.
If that game was a great comeback, our next game is one for the ages.
Before we can talk about that game, we have to acknowledge the Nevada Wolfpack coming back from down 14 against the Longhorns in the first round—a thriller on its own.
But down 22 with 11:34 left against the Cincinnati Bearcats, the game was surely over—I was ready to Seth Davis-Sharpie the Bearcats to the Sweet 16. They were too good defensively to blow a lead.
That’s why they play the games. Nevada chipped away, led by Cody and Caleb Martin, and the Wolf Pack reached their first Sweet 16 since 2004.
Kansas-Duke was the game of the tournament, and quite frankly, it’s not that close. There were closer games in terms of points, and there were more intense finishes.
But wire-to-wire, this game stood above all others—two heavyweight programs exchanging blows, one led by outstanding freshman, the other riding senior leadership. Nine out of ten starters scored double-digits, and Malik Newman played the game of his life, scoring 32 points, including all 13 of Kansas’s points in overtime.
And finally, the illustrious career of Grayson Allen comes to an end after a controversial four years at Duke. Allen had the chance to be the hero, to send the Blue Devils to the Final Four—his last-second shot bounced off the rim four times before falling out, and you just got the sense that it wasn’t meant to be.