Jake Deemer – Staff Writer
Yet again, millions of Americans have been either mesmerized, captivated, emotionally moved or infuriated by the NCAA Tournament—or a combination of a few of those emotions in just a few weeks in a month so famously known as March Madness.
The roller coaster of emotions starts with a promising bracket you filled out for your office poll as it crumbles to pieces before your very eyes—on opening night.
Everyone has their picks, upsets, sleeper-picks, national champion, etc. One thing is for sure: the NCAA Tournament will deliver unforgettable moments, improbable situations and great competition.
Here’s how it happened:
The first day started with absolutely no upsets; a couple of close-calls with Notre Dame escaping from Princeton by two points but nothing too serious until Reggie Upshaw Jr. led 12-seeded Middle Tennessee to a victory over fifth-seeded Minnesota.
From that point on, numerous underdog teams emerged from the shadows; Northwestern complimented their first NCAA Tournament appearance with a win, and J.P. Macura played an integral part in 11-seed Xavier sending Melo Trimble and the sixth-seed Maryland home packing.
The first round continued on the second day with a thriller between Oklahoma State and Michigan that came down to the last play.
USC followed up a play-in game with a victory over SMU, and Rhode Island inevitably dominated Creighton.
Things were just getting started; the second round started to heat up when defending champion Villanova was upset by a Wisconsin team that contains a lot of tournament experience.
Gonzaga played a wretched second-half against Northwestern by giving up an 18-point lead, but managed to hang on down the stretch to pull out a win.
Florida State came into the tournament as a three-seed and was able to secure their first tournament win since 2012.
Nevertheless, the Seminoles were no match for red hot Xavier losing 91-66.
Michigan continued its excellent play after avoiding a tragedy with airplane difficulties.
The Wolverines upset second-seed Louisville—a very strong defensive team.
Top seeds Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Oregon and UCLA survived the second round, while South Carolina shocked the world by stunning Duke, 88-81.
The Sweet Sixteen opened with Oregon winning by dodging a bullet from Derrick Walton Jr’s last-second shot.
West Virginia had one of the worst possessions in the final 10 seconds in recent memory; Gonzaga held off the Mountaineers by three points.
Kansas steamed through Purdue, while Xavier continued its magnificent run by shocking second-seed Arizona.
South Carolina’s head coach Steve Martin continued to finesse his way through the tournament through pressure defense.
Wisconsin and Florida swapped a pair of buzzer-beaters, Florida won 84-83.
The Elite Eight had some of the most exciting games in the tournament with Oregon upsetting the heavy favorite Kansas; and Luke Mayes with a final second jumper to beat Kentucky.
SEC Player of the Year and South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell prolonged his masterful senior season when the Gamecocks held off Florida.
The Final Four was set with South Carolina v. Gonzaga, and Oregon v. UNC.
South Carolina and Gonzaga were both making its first Final Four appearance in college history.
Despite a South Carolina comeback late in the second half led by PJ Dozier and Sindarius Thornwell, Gonzaga ended the Cinderella season for South Carolina’s Frank Martin and company.
Nigel Williams-Goss led the Bulldogs in scoring with 23 points; Gonzaga won 77-73.
In the night cap of the Final Four, North Carolina secured two key rebounds inside the last 10 seconds against Oregon resulting in a victory 77-76.
Setting up a National Championship game with Gonzaga and North Carolina.
Gonzaga would be in search of its first National Championship in school history, opposed to North Carolina looking for its sixth title.
Both teams exchanged leads many times. Isaiah Hicks drove in with under 30 seconds to play and hit a clutch lay-up to put the Tar Heels up 68-65.
Gonzaga would have 25 seconds to tie it up with a 3-pointer, but a shot was blocked by Kennedy Meeks leading to a fast break for a Justin Jack lay-up that put the game away.
North Carolina wins its sixth National Championship a year after a buzzer beater loss to Villanova in the championship game.