NCAA March Madness 2019: Virginia Silences the Doubters


Joseph Frescott , Sports Editor

For all college basketball fans, the middle of March is like an early Christmas, as it marks the beginning of the March Madness tournament. The tournament features 68 college teams, each having great seasons in order to qualify them for this competition. A week before the tournament on a day known as “Selection Sunday”, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Selection Committee chooses which teams make the tournament and which seed these teams are placed. From there, they create the matchups and announce them on a live broadcast. This marks the beginning of the tournament for many fans who watch, hoping their favorite teams get in.

The first two rounds of the tournament tend to be the most exciting of the entire tournament, as the biggest upsets of the entire tourney usually occur within the first few days. One of the biggest storylines coming out of the round was that three out of four of the 12 seeds advanced to the next round, leaving only Auburn as the last remaining 5 seed. The 12 seeds that advanced included Murray State, Liberty, and Oregon. The Oregon Ducks were the only one of these teams to make it out of the opening weekend, beating 13 UC Irvine after upsetting 5 Wisconsin. As for the other schools, Murray State guard Ja Morant had one of the best tournaments despite not making it past the 2nd round, putting up insane numbers through two games. He nearly averaged a triple double for the tournament and solidified himself as a top prospect in the upcoming draft.

The clear favorites to win this tournament was the Duke Blue Devils, led by Freshman sensation Zion Williamson. The Blue Devils had three of the top 5 NBA prospects in the upcoming draft, with RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish rounding out the big three. They were ranked the number 1 overall seed and looked unstoppable coming into the tournament. Duke didn’t look unstoppable through the first 3 rounds, however, only beating 9 seed UCF by a point and 4 seed Virginia Tech by two points in two of the best games of the tournament. In the Elite Eight, Duke matched up against Michigan St. and was a repeat performance when it came to how close this game was. The only difference in this game was that Duke ended up on the losing side of this back and forth battle, ending their tournament run by a score of 68-67. This win gave Michigan State their first Final Four appearance since 2015.

In the West region of the bracket, 1 seed Gonzaga was the clear favorites to win their region, with 2 seed Michigan and 4 seed FSU looking like the two biggest upset teams. Like every year, one team surprised all College Basketball fans, and this year that team was 3 seed Texas Tech. Known for their outstanding defense, Texas Tech beat their first 3 opponents by an average of 18 points. Coming off of a dominating first 3 rounds, Texas Tech squared off against Gonzaga, and immediately this game was an instant classic. Texas Tech came out on top in one of the best games of the tourney, winning by 6 and moving onto the schools first ever Final Four.

The Midwest was arguably the toughest section of the entire bracket, with a ton of really talented teams. After being the only 5 seed to not be eliminated, Auburn played their best basketball of the year, upsetting 4 Kansas and 1 North Carolina consecutively with their lights out shooting. In their matchup with the Tar Heels, the Tigers lost one of their best players in Chuma Okeke, a devastating injury for the team moving forward. Playing shorthanded, Auburn looked like their cinderella run would come to an end at the hands of a solid 2 seed in Kentucky. Despite these injuries, the Tigers beat Kentucky in an overall great game, and moved onto their first Final Four, making them the second team in this tournament to reach this stage for the first time.

After losing in arguably the biggest first round upset in history in last year’s tournament, few people had any faith in 1 seed Virginia. They were picked by most to be upset again in this year’s tournament, as the common belief was that Tony Bennett couldn’t bring his team deep in the tournament. Despite these doubts, this year’s Virginia Cavaliers team was different and proved so in the first few rounds. They started off by blowing out their first two opponents, they faced a tough Oregon squad, which gave them one of their biggest challenges. This game saw Virginia win by a small margin of just 4 points. This led to a game that saw Virginia take on Carsen Edwards and the 3 seeded Purdue Boilermakers. After coming off of a huge overtime win against Tennessee, Purdue looked like the hottest team left in the entire tournament. However, despite Carsen Edwards 42 point performance, Virginia outlasted Purdue in an overtime thriller, winning 80 to 75.  

With the Elite Eight finished, the Final Four began in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The first game saw two of the biggest underdogs in the tourney square off, with Virginia playing Auburn. This was the most controversial game of the tournament after a missed double dribble call, as well as a questionable shooting foul, gave Virginia the 1 point win in heartbreaking fashion. As for the second game of the night, the Texas Tech Red Raiders looked dominate like they have for most of the tournament, dominating Michigan St. by 10. This ultimately set up for a matchup that no one saw coming, Texas Tech vs. Virginia, with each team fighting to be their schools first tournament champion. After maintaining a 10 point lead for most of the game, Virginia almost choked away the game when Texas Tech stormed back to take a 3 point lead with 12 seconds left in regulation. Virginia answered with a three of their own to tie the game, and Texas Tech followed with a missed game-winner to forced yet another overtime game. In overtime, Virginia went back to how they played in most of this game, dominating Texas Tech and securing the teams first ever title. Junior guard Kyle Guy was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, averaging close to 20 points per game. The Cavalier’s storybook season proved to be one of the biggest comebacks in the history of sports, as Virginia went from suffering one of the biggest losses of all time to NCAA Champions.