March Madness recap

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Spencer Saltz, Staff Writer

Can you say Madness? In arguably the most competitive, confusing, and down-right thrilling NCAA tournaments of all-time, this year’s March Madness provided viewers with some of the craziest games all year. With only four teams remaining, Gonzaga, UCLA, Houston and Baylor, their runs have been complete polar opposites, and their worlds will collide this weekend. 

Of course, the most surprising team left in the tourney is UCLA, an eleven-seed team, that had to participate in a play-in game in order to qualify for March Madness. Led by shooting guard Johnny Juzang and forward Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA has won their games playing “disruptive defense”, set up by coach Mick Cronin, and by playing an old-school kind of inside, getting the rock down low and scoring from the post or the midrange. This style of play has given them wins against six-seed BYU, two-seed Alabama and one-seed Michigan. Their defense and offense will be put to the test on Saturday when they play Gonzaga, regarded as the best team in the country.

At the beginning of this year, Gonzaga was said to be the best team in the NCAA, but little did everyone know that this Gonzaga team is possibly the best college basketball team we have ever seen, and clinging to a perfect record. With their four-headed monster in point guard Jalen Suggs, shooting guard Joel Ayayi, small forward Corey Kispert and power forward Drew Timme, there is a reason why many people don’t see this team losing. With coach Mark Few at the helm, they play an up-tempo, fast paced offense and tough defense on their opponents, they average 91.6 points per game, while only allowing 68.5 points per game. UCLA needs to be perfect to beat this college basketball superpower.

In a tournament with crazy upsets, no team has benefited more than the Houston Cougars. A two-seed, Houston is yet to play a single-digit seed in the entire bracket. Facing what some may call “mickey mouse competition”, Houston has been the slayer of teams punching above their weight. Consistently playing stellar defense, guards Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser have been the main threats on both sides of the ball. After receiving a fright from Rutgers, Houston has clearly tightened up loose ends, and has begun a strategy surrounding the modern concept of living and dying by the three pointer, which has brought them to this point. Their inexperience against good teams will be on full display against Baylor, where they hope to prove doubters wrong.

The Baylor Bears have been playing second-fiddle to the Gonzaga Bulldogs throughout the whole college basketball season. With a chance to change the narrative, the Bears must persist with the efficient basketball they have been playing all year long. With a guard trio of Marcio Teague, Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, Baylor has been playing incredibly efficiently, as coach Scott Drew looks for those high-percentage shots on offense. As long as Baylor keeps this consistent role going, there is no reason why they can’t beat any team in the final four.

The final four teams are all great stories, the real cinderellas have been three colleges that shocked the entire college basketball world. Oral Roberts, a fifteen-seed, was matched up to play Ohio state, a two-seed. In an incredible game that went into overtime and came down to the final shot, the Golden Eagles stunned the country with their constant half court press and quick style of play. Guard Max Abmas had played every single second of every game in the conference tournament and NCAA tournament, and was mere inches away from sending Oral Roberts to the Elite Eight for the first time in their history. While Oral Roberts almost got to the Elite Eight, Oregon State made that dream a reality. After finishing last in the PAC-12, the Beavers won their conference title, giving them a twelve seed in the tournament, and until facing Houston, they played incredibly hard and came made it all the way to within six points of a final four. The woman, the myth, the legend, Sister Jean was allowed to attend Loyola Chicago’s March Madness games, and it is suffice to say that she helped. Loyola’s luck seemed to run out three years ago after making a final four, but the magic was not gone. Center Cameron Krutwig was one of the bracket’s breakout stars, leading Loyola, an eight seed to an insane win over number one seed Illinois, adding to the legend of the one and only, Sister Jean.

With millions and millions of brackets busted, March Madness has definitely lived up to the hype. After a year-long hiatus last year, we have been pining for excitement, and it is exactly what we got. This whole tournament is not done yet, and there may be many more surprises on the way.