March Madness 2016: An Erratic But Oh So Enjoyable Journey to the Final Four
By: Tanner Ballard
This year’s March Madness has been everything the sports junkie and casual viewer alike could have wished for, and more.
Expectations were high heading into the tournament after a regular season of big upsets and uncertainty for fans of teams who were expected to do well. While the odds of making a perfect bracket have been disputed recently (they’re ridiculously high regardless), this year the odds seemed even higher because of the rocky season it was for teams ranked high in the regular season AP poll.
Now, we’re down to the Final Four. There is a reason it’s called March Madness, after all. In less than 2 weeks, 64 teams have been eliminated from contention, leaving a hopeful four. Those four are the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Syracuse Orange, the Villanova Wildcats and the Oklahoma Sooners.
Let’s take a brief look at how each of these teams got here.
UNC, the only one seed in the Final Four, were widely considered to be one of the favorites, if not the ultimate favorite, to win it all. It’s really not much of a surprise that we find them here.
Led by the all-around beast that is Brice Johnson and the accuracy of Joel Berry, the Tar Heels have ridden a pretty easy road to the Final Four. They cruised past Florida Gulf Coast, Providence, Indiana and Notre Dame. All in all, their ability to score and finish out games has led them to this point and shows that they deserve their number one seed.
If your team is out and you’re looking for an underdog to root for, Syracuse is your team. The Orange are this year’s “Cinderella team,” coming all the way to the Final Four as a ten seed, a feat which has never been accomplished in the history of the tournament.
Syracuse plays the game with the beautiful strategy that is the 2-3 zone defense, with no man-marking, just shifts in and around the paint. They’ve held Dayton, Middle Tennessee, Gonzaga and Virginia to considerably low points and, while all of their games have been tight, they have always found a way to pull off the victory.
Villanova is also a team that people weren’t necessarily expecting in the Final Four. While they were ranked number one in the AP poll for the first time in program history this season, they’re a two seed in the tournament, and, let’s be honest, not many people outside of Philadelphia picked them to be this far, especially because they had to go through Kansas.
They did, however, make a late run to upset the Jayhawks in a shocking win to put the Wildcats in the Final Four. Their balance and efficiency on both sides of the court have allowed them to bypass University of North Carolina at Asheville, Iowa, Miami and Kansas.
The fourth and final team of the Final Four is the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners are an offensive powerhouse led by Buddy Hield, possibly the most electric and arguably the best college basketball player in the nation.
Oklahoma has been lighting up their opponents, and with a three-point percentage that is second in the nation, they’ve taken care of CSU Bakersfield, VCU, Texas A&M and Oregon.
These four teams are the superpowers of the tournament thus far, but each still has aspirtations of cutting down the nets in Houston on Monday April, 4th. That being said, where would we be without a few honorable mentions?
The first honorable mention goes to Middle Tennessee, who beat the NUMBER TWO SEED Michigan State, a team which many picked to be champions, including yours truly.
Middle Tennessee’s efficiency from three-point land and dominant performances from Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw allowed them to outlast a shocked and maybe overly confident Spartans team. This was only the eighth time a fifteen seed was able to beat a two seed in the history of the tournament.
The second honorable mention goes to Stephen F. Austin, a team who many were considering the big threat for an upset coming into the tournament. West Virginia discovered that threat to be very real.
The fourteen seed devastated the three seed by fourteen with an unbelievable performance from the senior guard Thomas Walkup, who carried his team with 33 points and 9 rebounds. Stephen F. Austin became the 21st fourteen seed team to beat a three seed.
While we will never forget Yale and their classic upset over Baylor, the third and final honorable mention goes to Northern Iowa, who beat the Texas Longhorns on a half court buzzer beater.
Paul Jesperson’s launch from midcourt may be the most memorable moment thus far in the tournament, and it provided a huge dose of excitement for all fans and viewers (expect those of the Longhorns, of course). Northern Iowa was an eleven seed beating the six seed Texas.
It’s been a fantastic tournament, with upsets, tightly contested games and an atmosphere only March Madness can bring. My bracket was busted a long time ago (thanks, Baylor), but if you were to ask me who out of the Final Four will win it all, well, I’ll give you my prediction regardless.
Oklahoma will outscore Nova, and UNC will overpower Syracuse. In the final, I’m picking Oklahoma over UNC. Call me crazy, but if Buddy Hield and company are feeling it on Monday night, watch out Tar Heels.
Here are the updated standings of the Newnan High School’s March Madness competition heading into the Final Four:
|Mr. Chris Swanson, Economics teacher||83|
|Tanner Ballard, student||70|
|Tie) Andy Callaway, student||67|
|Tie) Lucas Braschler, student||67|
|Mr. Michael Barnes, NHS Counselor||66|
|Mr. Josh Johnson, AP Language and Journalism teacher||64|
|Paul Slobodzian, student||60|
|Mekhi Winkles, student||57|
|Jacob Bruce, student||53|
|Paige Batten, student||52|
|Cameron McElwaney, student||48|
|Mr. Hap Hines, Physical Education teacher||47|
|Kaylee Farr, student||38|