By Owen Lynch
Every March, sports fans and people across the country strive to make the perfect bracket. This year, one of the wealthiest men in America, Warren Buffett, said that he would give anyone who could make a perfect bracket one billion dollars. Despite the life-changing money that one could earn for doing so, no one was able to make the perfect bracket. In fact, after the first twenty-five games (of 63 in the tourney) only three of the 11 million brackets created on ESPN remained flawless, to put into perspective how many upsets occurred early on.
In the first round, of the thirty-two matchups, only eight of the games resulted in the lower-seeded team winning. The most notable of these upsets was number fourteen-seeded Mercer defeating the eminent, well-renowned three-seeded Duke Blue Devils. This game was the game that busted the majority of America’s brackets early on. Three of the four twelve seeds won in the first round while two of the eleven seeds advanced as well. Of these upsets, the only one that people were really shocked by was Duke falling to Mercer, A) Because many people had to look up what Mercer was, B) Duke is as aforementioned, a program that is great annually. The other upsets were certainly surprising, but anyone with any March Madness experience knows there are upsets each year; the hard part is predicting which game(s) have an upset in store. What made this year’s tournament uniquely surprising was the upsets in the later rounds.
This year’s round of thirty-two is where some of the most shocking upsets occurred. Ten-seeded Stanford beating two seeded Kansas was an outcome that hardly anyone predicted. Kansas was without their star center, Joel Embiid, but many people thought next year’s potential #1 overall NBA pick, Andrew Wiggins, would be able to carry them past a mere ten seed. Instead, Wiggins contributed four points and four turnovers, the type of stat line that no team can afford from their leader, especially when missing another one of their stars. Other surprising results in this round included one-seeded Wichita State losing to eight-seeded Kentucky; eleven seeded Dayton defeating Syracuse; seven seeded UConn defeating Villanova.
This year’s Final Four, consisting of #1 Florida, #7 UConn, #2 Wisconsin, and #8 Kentucky, was unforeseen by millions including myself. Of the millions of brackets entered on Yahoo Sports only 191 people correctly picked this Final Four. The contrast in team styles made for a very interesting Final Four weekend in Texas. Florida was arguably the most consistent team in college basketball in the regular season, earning a one seed with a very well-balanced team across the board. UConn’s performance was inconsistent throughout the season. Standout guard, Shabazz Napier led the Huskies this far and has been the catalyst for the Huskies during the tourney, posting a stat line of 23.2 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, and 4.5 assists. Wisconsin is a very-well disciplined, hard-nosed team who is lights out shooting from the perimeter. They are led by center, Frank Kaminsky, whose brilliant performances are largely the reason the Badgers made it to Texas. Kentucky is one of the most interesting stories of the season. The Wildcats were pretty mediocre all season long but made it into the tournament as an eight seed. What’s interesting about that? They were preseason ranked the number one team in the nation because of an incredible freshman class. This team led by freshman, Julius Randle and twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, realized its potential in March.
The matchups for the Final Four were Florida vs. UConn and Wisconsin vs. Kentucky. Kentucky beat Wisconsin 74-73 on an Aaron Harrison game-winning three pointer with 5.7 seconds left to go. Kentucky’s athleticism and star forward Julius Randle both played key roles in shutting down Wisconsin’s best player, Frank Kaminsky, limiting him to eight points and five rebounds, numbers far lower than the stats he was averaging entering this game. UConn defeated Florida 63-53 after forward DeAndre Daniels took control, finishing with 20 points and ten rebounds. Star UConn guard, Shabazz Napier finished the game with 13 points and six assists. The final was set: Kentucky vs. UConn. In a game where the Huskies never trailed, UConn took the championship on a final score of 60-54 behind 22 points from Napier. This year’s UConn run is nearly analogous to UConn’s 2011 championship run when future NBA guard, Kemba Walker, led them except this time it was Napier who led the Huskies to glory.