By Lexi Weaver || Copy Editor
“The ball is tipped, and there you are…” The first time I heard One Shining Moment live—the song that’s nearly synonymous with the conclusion of March Madness—was when I was in eighth grade. I’d been homesick that day, and late that night, I headed downstairs, wrapped in a blanket, to watch the end of the 2016 NCAA championship game with my dad when I couldn’t fall asleep. Lying on the couch in my living room, I watched as Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a game-winning buzzer-beater to propel the Wildcats to a victory over North Carolina—and the tournament-classic montage of highlights set to One Shining Moment commenced.
I would be the first to admit that I’m the most unlikely March Madness fan. Painfully unathletic and the sort of person who makes “not understanding how football works” a personality trait the first Sunday in February of each year, sports and I don’t exactly mix. Despite this, basketball has always been a part of my life, growing up with my dad who is a high school basketball coach and a life-long fan of the sport. However, years of attending games in small high school gymnasiums aren’t what first pushed me to become a college basketball fan for approximately 3 weeks out of the year; instead, it was my relentless competitive side. While March Madness is first and foremost a competition for the teams, it is also a competition for those watching it, and I stand by the fact that anyone can guess the winners of games correctly regardless of how much one actually knows about basketball. Much like the tournament itself, being a fan is anyone’s game—anyone’s chance for that coveted “shining moment.”
“But time is short, and the road is long…” The road to the Final Four this year was paved by upsets, buzzer-beaters, and history-making moments that make the tournament so exciting to watch. The first round of 64 teams boasted thrilling matchups: 15-seed Oral Roberts’s overtime victory over 2-seed Ohio State, first-time tournament victories for Abilene Christian and North Texas, and Ohio’s upset of reigning champ Virginia.
The second round followed suit with Loyola-Chicago toppling number 1-seed Illinois, Syracuse upsetting West Virginia, and Oral Roberts continuing their impressive performance with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. There, true upsets became few and far between, but the Oregon State Beavers served up a big win over Loyola-Chicago. The UCLA Bruins headed to the Elite Eight with a 10-point victory over 2-seed Alabama, following that performance up with yet another overtime victory to knock out the number 1-seed Michigan.
UCLA soon became the team to watch, as their exciting run from the First Four (with an overtime victory, nonetheless) led them to the Final Four. There, Baylor easily played to a 20-point victory over fellow Texas team Houston, while UCLA and undefeated Gonzaga took to the courts for what ended up being one of the most thrilling games of the tournament.
“Feel the beat of your heart, feel the wind in your face…” From the moment Gonzaga entered the tournament with its 26-0 record, they became the team to beat. The Bulldogs dominated every game they played, living up to their number-1 nationwide ranking, and were projected to cruise to a 14-point victory over the 11-seed UCLA. The Bruins, however, had other plans. Gonzaga was faced with its toughest matchup yet, with UCLA starters Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. refusing to let the Bulldogs fall into a comfortable lead. There were 15 ties and 19 lead changes over the course of the game, according to ESPN. Near the end of regulation, it looked like Gonzaga’s perfect season was coming to an end when a charge call helped push the game into overtime, a point at which in previous games the Bruins had broken away for the win. However, both teams kept the score close, and with the seconds ticking away and double overtime looming ahead, Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert passed the ball to freshman Jalen Suggs, who pulled out all the stops for the 50-foot game-winning three-point shot right at the buzzer, securing the win with a final score of 93-90.
“And when it’s done, win or lose…” As someone who loves watching basketball games that can make your heart race even when you’re just sitting on the couch, I almost wish the UCLA-Gonzaga game had been the championship game. But the Baylor Bears, in their first NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship victory in school history, made Monday night one to remember.
Right from the tip-off, the Bears dominated this game, at one point forcing Gonzaga into a 19-point deficit. While Gonzaga made up some of that gap, trailing by 10 points at halftime and later cutting Baylor’s lead to 9, that was the closest this game ever got. Despite predictions leaning towards a victory for the heavily-favored Bulldogs, Baylor proved on the court why they deserved to win the title. Baylor’s defense caught Gonzaga off guard, their offensive rebounds gave them ample opportunities for second-chance points, and the combination of forcing turnovers and hitting threes made toppling a basketball behemoth like Gonzaga look easy. Baylor’s three leading scorers, Jared Butler (22 points), MaCio Teague (19), and Davion Mitchell (15) helped pave the way to their victory, and soon Baylor had defeated the undefeated Gonzaga, 86-70.
“One shining moment, you reached for the sky…” As the green and yellow confetti began to rain down upon the newest March Madness champions, I was awaiting the traditional playing of One Shining Moment to truly bring the tournament to a close. I remembered how I saw the tournament’s very first tip-off and the opening notes began to play, and I came to the realization that the title “One Shining Moment” is somewhat of a misnomer. While the tournament montage shines in its own way, March Madness is all about the moments as a whole. It’s about the thrill of watching a game head to overtime, the frustration when the team you’re cheering for suffers a crushing loss, the exhilaration of the upsets, the buzzer-beaters, and the victories that will one day become part of sports history.
Gonzaga’s victory over UCLA proved that anything can happen in one shining moment, but Baylor’s championship win made it clear that it’s the moments along the way that add up to the one “big” moment when they cut down the nets. Yes, I waited all the way until the end to watch One Shining Moment. But nothing is quite the same as experiencing all of the tournament’s moments over the course of a month, whether they make the highlight reel or not, along the way. That’s what I love about watching March Madness. That, and attempting to win my family bracket pool. Still looking for that shining moment.
First-year Lexi Weaver is a Copy Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.