Madness in March
Michael Bagley '21
As they say, anything can happen in March. Frankly, that is the only way to accurately describe the craziness and unpredictability of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, commonly referred to as March Madness. Every year, 64 of the best college basketball teams in the country compete on the national stage for a chance at taking the hardware back home to their campuses. It is one of the only times in sports where rankings seemingly don’t matter, as it really comes down to who is more hungry for the win. The 2021 tournament was no exception.
This year, there were more upsets in the tournament than in years past, with some notable surprises being Syracuse, Abilene Christian, Loyola-Chicago, Oregon and Oral Roberts. However, there was one team that defied all odds, handing out upset after upset like it was candy – the 11th seeded UCLA Bruins. The Bruins had one of the more impressive runs in the past few years – starting with a play-in game against Michigan State in the First Four Round and advancing all the way to the Final Four. UCLA was led by sophomore guard Johnny Juzang, who finished with 137 total points scored in the tournament, the second most points scored by a UCLA player in NCAA Tournament history, behind Los Angeles Laker legend Gail Goodrich.
Throughout the tournament, it wasn’t just Juzang on the floor producing for the Bruins. They also had outstanding performances from forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. and guard Tyger Campbell, as well as head coach Mick Cronin. The team left everything out on the floor every night they played and it showed as they shocked the world and made it to the Final Four, slotted up against the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
That Final Four game, between the Bulldogs and the Bruins, was a close, hard-fought, back and forth game that had to be pushed to overtime. With just seconds left in overtime, Johnny Juzang shot a floater, missed, got his own rebound, and put it back up to score and tie the Bulldogs at 90 to 90 with 3.2 seconds left. Bruins fans prepared for double overtime, but a freshman from Saint Paul, Minnesota had other plans. Jalen Suggs got the inbound pass, dribbled down to the logo, and threw up a shot that banked in as the buzzer sounded, sending Gonzaga to the Championship against Baylor.
But once again, in true March Madness fashion, the 31-0 Gonzaga Bulldogs fell to the Baylor Bears with a final score of 86 to 70, despite amazing efforts from Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Suggs. Many people collectively thought going into the tournament that Gonzaga was going to steamroll everyone they faced, but head coach Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears proved them wrong. As they say, anything can happen in March.