NCAA Men’s Tournament Recap: Looking Back at a March Madness for the Ages
The 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has come to a close after three weeks of thrilling, competitive basketball.
The heavily anticipated “One Shining Moment” closed out the big dance in what was a season of adjusting to circumstances. With that, some key moments came out of March Madness this year.
Summit League Surprise
Most brackets never expected the 15th-seeded Oral Roberts Golden Eagles to make it past the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes. But they did just that, and they managed to find their way to the Sweet 16, busting many brackets in the process.
Two players stood out for Oral Roberts: guard Max Abmas and forward Kevin Obanor. The combo managed to be the key points producers for the Golden Eagles by scoring at least 20-plus in each of the team’s two wins this postseason. Incredibly, Abmas played in all 125 minutes of Oral Roberts’ Cinderella run.
The Golden Eagles’ games were battles to the end with the difference being single digits every time. Their loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks came by just two points, and Abmas almost hit a game-winning 3 to send the Golden Eagles to the Elite Eight.
First Wins in Program History
This year’s tournament provided two different teams their first Division I postseason wins in program history. The Abilene Christian Wildcats and the North Texas Mean Green finally got the chips off their shoulders with victories.
For the Wildcats, they faced the third-seeded Texas Longhorns fresh off a Big 12 championship. Abilene Christian could not make a shot, but the defense made up for those miscues by forcing 22 turnovers from Shaka Smart’s team.
Texas had a better field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage, but the Wildcats defense locked down the Longhorns. This led to the infamous “Horns Down” celebration by the Abilene Christian bench after the upset win.
As for North Texas, the Mean Green offense limited turnovers while hitting their shots down the stretch against the fourth-seeded Purdue Boilermakers. Cleaning the glass was a problem for the Mean Green, but making their shots in crunch time aided in their case, especially in overtime, where the Boilermakers failed to score a single point.
Most fans expected the Big Ten or the Big 12 to have the most teams making deep runs, but the West Coast showed out in Indianapolis. The Pac-12 had four teams enter the second weekend of March Madness with the 11th-seeded UCLA Bruins making it all the way to the Final Four.
The conference ended its tournament run with a 14-5 record, shocking the nation and giving the “Conference of Champions” the respect it deserved. The run by UCLA to go from the First Four to the Final Four will be a run to remember, all thanks to the guards Johnny Juzang and Tyger Campbell.
Defense Wins Championships
The Baylor Bears have been known for their defensive efforts all season long, and that claim rang true on Monday night. They took a stand against the No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga, which has the best scoring offense in the nation, and made the Bulldogs look vulnerable.
Throughout the whole tournament, Scott Drew’s team flustered opponents with its intense pressure and high-intensity perimeter shooting. This was magnified tenfold in the national championship.
The Bears kept the previously undefeated Bulldogs to 70 points: 20 below their season average. They did so by getting into the faces of the guards and forcing turnovers early to create momentum and a tempo that Gonzaga could not recover from.
Along with their explosive defense, the Bears’ 3-point shot proved to be fatal to Mark Few’s defense, as Baylor shot 43.5% from behind the arc. The 3’s rained down in Lucas Oil Stadium, and Gonzaga could not keep up.
This performance gave Baylor its first title in program history and Gonzaga its lone loss of the season. Scott Drew delivered on his promise when he took the job back in 2003 after Baylor’s scandals of the early 2000s.
As the 2020-2021 season ends, teams start to regroup and rebuild for next year’s tournament. New Orleans will play host to the Final Four, where either Baylor can defend its title or a new team will claim the crown.
Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.