A historical tournament

Noah Latta (left) and Jacob Phillips (right) express how they feel about the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game. The Wisconsin Badgers fell short in the final minutes and ended up losing to the Duke Blue Devils, 63-58.

This year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament has been one of the most unique and unpredictable tournaments in NCAA history.

According to fivethirtyeight.com, this year was supposed to be “easier” to predict compared to last year. This year, there was a 1 in 1,610,543,269 chance, compared to a 1 in 7,419,071,319 chance last year. The odds are greater this year because the tournament was very “top heavy” in that there was a larger gap between the really good teams and the bad teams–with no teams in-between. But only one day of the tournament proved to be a lot more difficult to predict than most originally thought.

After 24 hours, only 273 out of 11.57 million brackets in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge were perfect; with a record of five one-point games on Thursday. That number quickly diminished to 32 out of 11.57 million after only the first six games Friday (March 20).

And then there was one. After only 34 games there was only one perfect bracket left, but it only took one more game to end the streak. Perfect bracket holder, “Malachi”, who asked to keep his identity unknown, had picked Ohio State to defeat Arizona; unfortunately the Buckeyes were defeated 73-58.

And then there were four. With three 1-seeds (Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke) and a 7-seed (Michigan State), the unpredictable rocky road that is the NCAA Tournament led to some of the most predictable final four contestants. The games themselves ended up being somewhat unpredictable.

Michigan State held close against Duke in the first half and in the beginning of the second, but were outplayed and outscored towards the end. This resulted in an 81-61 loss.

The Wisconsin vs. Kentucky game was one of the most exciting games of the tournament this year. The undefeated Wildcats had bested the Badgers in last year’s tournament with a buzzer-beater, but Wisconsin wouldn’t let that happen this year. Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison tried for another last second shot, but couldn’t get it to land. The game winded down with Wisconsin shooting free throws and the Badgers overcame the Cats 71-64, ending Kentucky’s perfect season.

And then there were two. Wisconsin and Duke (two 1-seeds) would battle it out in Indianapolis for the National Championship. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke head coach, went into the game with four national championships, but was 0-3 against 1-seeds in national championship games.

This year’s game was one for the history books. From the start, neither team would go quietly, and at halftime we were right where we started; no team with a lead. In the second half, the Badgers exploded and gained a nine point lead–their largest lead of the game–with thirteen minutes left.

After Kryzyzewski’s timeout at the thirteen minute mark, the team decided they would not go quietly. Grayson Allen, Duke guard and one of the four key freshmen on the team, had scored six points, drawn a foul from Sam Dekker, and stolen the ball from Frank Kaminsky making the score 48-45, all in under a minute.

The upward trend continued for the Blue Devils while the Badgers struggled to stay ahead. The Blue Devils took the lead at the four minute mark and the Badgers couldn’t catch up. With a final score of 68-63, Duke and Mike Krzyzewski won their fifth National Championship.

Students at Leesville were fired up about the Championship game. “I was disappointed in the referees,” said Jacob Phillips, Leesville sophomore and die-hard Wisconsin fan when asked how he felt after the game. Next year he hopes to see his Badgers play just as well and make it to the Championship game.

On the other hand, Noah Latta, Leesville sophomore and loyal Duke fan, was a little more satisfied with the way the game turned out. “I was pretty excited,” he said. “Before the game I didn’t think we’d win, but we did, so that’s pretty hype.”

With the possibility of Duke losing four players (Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow), three of which are current freshmen, students like Latta feel that  “the incoming freshmen will have to try to fill [the current freshmen’s] roles, but no one can replace Jahlil Okafor. The new freshmen need to do what the freshmen did last year,”.

Wisconsin put up a good fight and would have been a perfect National Championship candidate, but it was exciting to see a local team bring the National Championship back to the basketball powerhouse that is the ACC.


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