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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

TMW Recaps This Year’s March Madness

Ben Bartenstein

1. Dayton Dances to the Elite Eight

Who can forget the cover of the Dayton Daily News after the No. 11 seed University of Dayton defeated in-state rival and No. 6 seed Ohio State University? “THE UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON,” read the next day’s front page, mocking OSU and its infatuation with prefacing references to the college with “The.” However, the Dayton Flyers tourney run didn’t stop there. They soared on to the Elite Eight after rattling off victories over No. 3 Syracuse and fellow upset wonder Stanford. What a run for Coach Archie Miller and Company.

2. Early Taste of Returning Talent

As much as coverage has focused on NCAA one-and-done programs such as Kentucky, several teams—namely Final Four qualifier Wisconsin; Villanova, who made an early tourney exit after losing to eventual champion UConn; and Southern Methodist, second-place finishers in the NIT—demonstrated significant potential with rosters dominated by players returning next season. Wisconsin returns two National Player of the Year frontrunners in versatile 7-footer Frank Kaminsky and athletic small forward Sam Dekker. Meanwhile, four starters and up-and-coming sophomore Josh Hart will be back for a Villanova team that faced a tough Round of 32 draw against eventual National Champion UConn. Although Southern Methodist didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament, their run to the NIT Championship game came under Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown and a youth-laden team.

Zach Gilfix

3. The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

Images of Doug McDermott embracing his father/coach, the ASU bench in shock after their loss to Texas, and Aaron Craft lying on the court in devastation are just a few of the many displays of emotion from the tournament. From players screaming in jubilation to children crying in the stands, few sporting events can rival the levels of passion and emotion of March Madness.

4. Nailbiters

Twenty-one tournament games were decided by five or fewer points. The result was that fans were glued to their TV’s for the final few minutes of each game as they witnessed numerous buzzer beaters and overtime games. Of these tight affairs, some of the most exciting included NC State overturning a 12 point deficit against five seed St. Louis in overtime, Stephen F. Austin’s four point play to force overtime (They beat #5 seed VCU in 2OT), and DeAndre Kane’s winning shot for Iowa State in their second round squeaker over North Carolina. Unfortunately, the close games also entailed sitting through long official video reviews and timeouts, as many games’ finals minute lasted more than ten actual minutes.

Jake Greenberg

5. The Triumph of Veteran Squads

This year talks of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and the looming NBA Draft often superseded those of the unfolding season. Yet, the Final Four featured three veteran teams and the biggest names outside of Cal’s crop of one-and-dones were Frank Kaminsky, Shabazz Napier and Scottie Wilbekin, all of whom are seniors. Billy Donovan, Kevin Ollie and Bo Ryan each proved that a team that knows how to play as a unit can overcome the uber-athletic youngsters that rank higher on preseason polls. Thanks to this trio for reminding us that the tournament is more than just a scouting combine for June’s draft.

6. John Calipari is not a National Champion

I have three pieces of criteria for what makes a good year in sports: the Yankees don’t win the World Series, the Lakers don’t win the NBA Finals and John Calipari doesn’t win the National Championship. The man’s an excellent basketball coach who is able to take a group of incredibly talented players whose skill sets seemingly don’t fit together and mold a team out of them. However, he has left a trail of scandal everywhere he’s coached and a closer examination of his time at UMass reveals him to be, at least allegedly, a rather despicable leader. So let’s be happy that it’s fresh-face Kevin Ollie who will enjoy the glories of a National Championship and not the mischievous Calipari.

Eliza Ramsey

7. UConn’s Star Sophomore

In her first two years at Connecticut, Breanna Stewart has twice led her team to a National Championship and twice been named the most outstanding player in the Final Four, contributing 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in the title game. As a two-time most outstanding player honoree, Stewart joins an elite group of Cheryl Miller, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi and Chamique Holdscaw — though none of them achieved the feat in their first two years. She is a dominating force on both ends of the floor, who says she’s only just starting to get comfortable in the college game. After taking a quick moment to bask in the win, Stewart was already making plans to improve her ball-handling skills for next season, a move Coach Geno Auriemma says would make her “unguardable.” That’s a terrifying prospect for opposing teams, but as the most talented woman in the college game she deserves our respect.

8. Not So Fab #5s

There is one exception however — the five freshman starters for Kentucky were the first all freshman lineup since the University of Michigan team in the early 1990’s. The Kentucky squad mirrored their predecessors in going all the way to the championship game before losing. It was also not a good year to be a five seed in the tournament; only the St. Louis Billikens survived the first round, but were knocked out before the first weekend was complete. Twelve-seeds North Dakota State, Stephen F. Austin and Harvard all danced into upsets, ruining quite a few brackets in the process.

Daniel Ricci

9. Kentucky’s Run to the Title Game

It is not crazy to say that Coach Calipari and his young Kentucky Wildcat squad provided the four best games of the NCAA Tournament. After a hard-fought win over Kansas State in the opening round, the Wildcats faced off against the undefeated Shockers from Wichita State in what was probably the most anticipated game in the round of 32. A dramatic back-and-forth game came down to the wire and saw the Wildcats pull off a 78-76 victory over the top seed in the Midwest region. Kentucky next took on the defending champion Louisville Cardinals and trailed 18-5 to open up the game, before a second half surge and a late three by freshman Aaron Harrison carried the Wildcats to a 74-69 win. It wasn’t the last time that the country would hear from Aaron Harrison. He next delivered several clutch three-point shots to take the lead in the final seconds against Big Ten foes Michigan and Wisconsin in the Elite Eight and Final Four rounds respectively, bringing the Cats all the way to the National Championship game. Ranked as the preseason number one team, the Wildcats largely underperformed in the regular season, but the freshmen finally came together at the right point in the season, leaving them only one win shy of what could have arguably been the most improbable run in NCAA Tournament history.

10. Don’t Forget About the Women

Women’s basketball fans around the country had long been anticipating a Connecticut (39-0) versus Notre Dame (37-0) matchup. That hope came into fruition last Tuesday night as the two teams met for the National Title, signifying the first time in NCAA history (both men and women) that two undefeated teams met in the championship game. The contest renewed a long-time Big East rivalry that was crippled after conference realignment sent Notre Dame to the ACC and Connecticut to the AAC. The game itself turned into a laugher and somewhat of a letdown, as the Huskies stormed past the Fighting Irish for a 79-58 victory. It was a record ninth National Championship for decorated women’s coach Geno Auriemma. It was also the second time that the men’s and women’s team from the same school won the NCAA Tournament, a mark first set by UConn only a decade ago. For the Fighting Irish, it was their third title game loss in the past four years.

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    Michael CameronSep 9, 2019 at 2:12 am

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was wondering what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web savvy so I’m not 100 certain. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you