This year, the month of March came by faster than anyone expected. On the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown, there was one thing many Americans were looking forward to: the NCAA Men’s March Madness Tournament. The tournament features the best college teams in the U.S. — it is full of excitement, bets and many, many upsets! Although it is the only time many of us actually watch college basketball, it is still a time for friends and family to enjoy together and participate in bracket drawings in the hopes of getting recognition or, in some cases, money.
Every tournament has a crowd favorite, the team who has proved in their season that it has what it takes to win the national championship. There are many teams that had the upper hand coming into this year’s tournament. One favorite was Gonzaga, the number one seed in the West, sporting an impressive undefeated record of 26-0. Senior Corey Kispert led his team with two stand-out players, sophomore Drew Timme and freshman Jalen Suggs, this was quite literally the team to beat. Another favorite coming into the Big Dance was Illinois, with a 23-6 record and an all-around roster with two All-Americans, junior Ayo Dosunmu and sophomore Kofi Cockburn, freshman star Andre Curbelo, and many experienced players; this year they were bound to live up to their name: the Fighting Illini. However, as it is with many top seeds, there are going to be upsets and games that no one ever sees coming, which is exactly what happened this year.
The Fighting Illini only survived past the first round and were unfortunately sent home in the next round by a menacing eighth seeded Loyola Chicago. Let’s just say many felt the impact of that one on their brackets. Gonzaga, on the other hand, was sent home in one of the most surprising final games ever. The team won by more than 16 points before they faced UCLA in the quarterfinals, where many believe they met their first real competition. The Bruins participated in the play-in game as the 11th seed and trailblazed past their competition, including two huge upsets against second seeded Alabama and first seeded Michigan. This quarterfinal game was everything but easy for Gonzaga, who had to put everything on the line to advance. People claim this was one of the best Final Four games ever in the history of the event, ending in a buzzer beater to send the Bruins home and continue the Bulldogs’ path to the championship. Baylor, the first seed coming from the South, won by more than nine points in all their games. Throughout the final game, they dominated Gonzaga, toppling them from their undefeated tier and coming home with the first ever title for the university. Gonzaga, like the few teams who have gone undefeated in their season, could not shake the fate of losing in the finals, a feat only seven other undefeated teams have accomplished. In the end, Baylor’s win was well-deserved, putting all their efforts in each game and dominating their opponents until the final buzzer.