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Another year of March Madness has come and gone. After not having the tournament last year due to the global pandemic, teams and fans were even more eager to get to games than ever before. With new restrictions, this caused for a slightly different year.
Dominant college basketball programs like Duke University and University of Kentucky were forced to miss the upcoming tournament due to positive COVID-19 cases, which shocked the college basketball fan base, as these teams are regularly picked as favorites each year. However, lots of fans still filled out brackets and watched patiently as the games followed.
This year was filled with lots of upsets, one of the biggest coming in the first round of games. As second seed Ohio State set to take on fifteenth seed Oral Roberts, Oral Roberts pulled out an impressive win. Going on to take down seventh seed Florida, almost no one had them making it to the sweet sixteen. Other upsets following the first round of games included fourth seed Purdue losing to thirteenth seed North Texas, as well as eleventh seed University of California, Los Angeles taking down sixth seed Brigham Young University.
Following the first round, lots of brackets were already busted as the second round started. Key wins included, University of Southern California beating Kansas and Loyola Chicago taking down the number one seed Illinois.
Moving into the sweet sixteen, people were surprised to see pretty low ranked teams making it this far, like eleventh seed UCLA, fifteenth seed Oral Roberts, and eighth seed Loyola Chicago.
Elite eight teams included first seeds Baylor, Michigan and Gonzaga. Second seed Houston, third seed Arkansas, sixth seed USC, eleventh seed UCLA, and twelfth seed Oregon State. With wins over Arkansas, Oregon State, USC, and a big Michigan upset, Gonzaga, UCLA, Baylor, and Houston would move on to the National Semifinals.
With Baylor beating Houston 78 to 59 and Gonzaga beating UCLA with a buzzer beater three pointer, it would be a battle of the first seeded teams, as Gonzaga and Baylor squared off in the National Championship.
Both very dominant and anticipated programs, fans knew this would be a good game, as they showed their skill throughout the entire tournament. Taking place on April 5, the National Championship drew in millions of viewers. As Baylor went on to beat Gonzaga 86 to 70, it is the program’s fifth national championship.
People around the country fill out brackets every year, including students at Decatur. As brackets were filled out, students placed bets to see who would win. Junior Bailey Pusey and her friends get a big group of people every year to participate in a pool bet, meaning whoever wins gets all the money.
Pusey commented on her personal bracket this year stating, “…I think a lot of the games were upsets. I based a lot of my picks off of the seeds but my bracket really took a turn for the worse when Texas lost.”
A friend of Pusey and another Decatur junior, Hannah Mourlas organizes the group every year. As this is a lot of work, she also places a bet within the group, stating, “…I got all my friends together and everyone put in five dollars. My bracket came in third overall which I was happy about since there were 25 people in the group, but if Gonzaga won, I would have gotten first place. It is a fun thing I have been doing for years now.” The winner of the pool bet went on to win 125 dollars.
Senior Katelyn Davis was asked to fill out a bracket for Richard Ferro’s zoology class. Ferro asks the students to fill out one every year for extra credit. Davis went out on a limb and took underdog and eighth seeded Loyola Chicago to win the whole thing. Although they came up short, they made it further than a lot of people thought, playing Oregon State in the sweet sixteen.
Commenting on why she took such a low seeded team to win, Davis stated, “…because you never know how the tournament will play out. You never know how motivated they are to get it done.” Loyola Chicago did just this and proved never count the underdog out.
College basketball proves even still in a global pandemic, sports are a way for people to come together. Whether you put money on it or just enjoy the thrill of the game, March Madness is an annual event and will be for years to come.