By Mark Dourmashkin, Staff Writer ||
As soon as the calendar turns to March, the word “bracket” has a whole new meaning. People who don’t even follow college basketball fill out a bracket. Before the tournament starts everyone believes they can create the perfect bracket. Year after year, you always tell yourself this is going to be the year. Unfortunately, the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are forever against you: 9.2 quad-trillion to 1. When filling out a bracket, lower your expectations, go with your gut, and enjoy one of the best post-season tournament’s the sports world has to offer.
This year, like most years, no one had a perfect bracket. In fact, only 486 people who filled out brackets online, picked the correct final: University of Connecticut “UConn” vs. Kentucky. University of Connecticut was the first #7 seed to make it the championship, and Kentucky was only the third #8 seed to make the finals. Going by the numbers, this year’s championship game seemed unusual. However, once you looked at the names of the two schools playing in the game, what “seed” they were didn’t matter. UConn and Kentucky are two powerhouse schools for college basketball and are expected to do well every year. The appearances by the two schools wasn’t as surprising as seeing the #11-seed Dayton Flyers in the Elite Eight; or even Stanford knock off #2-seed Kansas in the third round.
Parity is growing in college basketball, and it’s growing fast. The 2006 NCAA tournament miracle run by George Mason, then Butler in 2010, and then Florida Gulf Coast in 2013, all show why anyone can win. This year, Dayton was the tournament’s Cinderella team. Upsetting Ohio State in the very first game of the NCAA tournament set the tone for the rest of the tournament. The eleventh-seeded Flyers then knocked off college basketball powerhouse Syracuse Orange and defeated Stanford to make it to the Elite Eight. Besides Dayton, only Tennessee and Stanford were the other double-digit seeds to make it to the Sweet Sixteen.
For the entire season, most of the country was only exposed to four players in college basketball: Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, and Andrew Wiggins. The “year of the freshman” was heavily advertised and constantly on SportsCenter. However, only Randle from Kentucky made it to the Final Four. On the road to the finals, Randle helped lead Kentucky past three of the four teams who were in the 2013 Final Four: Louisville, Michigan, and Wichita State. Wichita State entered the NCAA tournament undefeated — only the second time since the Indiana Hoosiers did it back in 1976. Kentucky beat all these teams by starting five freshmen. Immediately, this Kentucky team is being compared to the “Fab Five” on Michigan in the early 1990s. Unfortunately for Kentucky, they ran into the wrong team in the final game. The UConn Huskies, led by their guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright and their defense, stopped the freshmen of Kentucky in the championship game, winning 60-54.
Harvard defeating Cincinnati, Mercer beating Duke, and North Dakota State knocking off Oklahoma; that is why the NCAA tournament is called March Madness. The NCAA tournament is the time where players we have never heard of shine. It’s a time where teams help put their schools on the map. It’s a time where seniors say goodbye and stars are born. This year, Napier seized the moment and helped UConn capture its 4th championship since 1999.
Senior Mark Dourmashkin is a staff writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.