Beware the Ides of March: 2014 NCAA Tournament Thrills

Tommy Switzgable ‘15
EE Staff Writer

Kevin Pacelli ‘14
EE Co-Editor-in-Chief

It’s that time of year again: that month-and-a-half between the Super Bowl and Opening Day. Sports fans around this time crave some drama, and they look no further than the NCAA tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.

For those with limited sports knowledge, March Madness is the annual NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. 68 teams from across the country compete in the tournament’s infamous do- or-die format.

Teams are split into four regions across the country (West, Midwest, East, and South), with each region consisting of 16 teams. Each team is then given a seed based on their strength from one to 16, with the format being that the one seeds play the 16 seeds, the two seeds play the 15 seeds, and so on.

These David vs. Goliath matchups lead to instant classics and upsets, a term used for when the lower seed beats the higher seed.
The first two days of the tournament are the most fun to watch and also the most dramatic because we get to see these upsets happen. Every year a little no-name school rises to the occasion and beats a historical powerhouse.

This happened last year when tiny Florida Gulf Coast University, arguably the best Cinderella story to happen in the NCAA, beat powerhouses Georgetown and San Diego State to become the first team with a 15 seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen (Oh yeah, each round of the tournament has catchy alliteration to it that relates to the number of teams left standing. They are the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four).

This year was no different. 14 seed Mercer was able to handle the test against three seed Duke, busting the brackets of sports fans across the nation.

This year’s tournament has been a good one. Many strong teams have faced lesser-known but equally as strong teams. Bryce Cotton, for example, led his red-hot Providence Friars against the legendary North Carolina Tar Heels in the first round, resulting in a close finish that saw the Heels on top. Another team that has shocked people across the nation is the Dayton Flyers, who managed to take down six seed Ohio State, three seed Syracuse, and ten seed Stanford before losing to one seed Florida in the Elite Eight.

The team on upset alert to start the tournament was the undefeated Wichita State Shockers. Despite their 34-0 record, they had played some of the weakest teams in the country, with only two wins against BPI top 50 teams and only one win against a top 25 team (St. Louis). They lost in the second round to eight seed Kentucky.

Perhaps the most interesting story of the tournament, however, was the fact that the final consisted of seven seed UConn and eight seed Kentucky, the highest combined seed in a final in NCAA Tournament history. While both teams had been ranked as Top 25 teams prior to the start of the a season, neither had been able to earn one of the top few seeds in the tournament, and their runs to the championship game will be remembered for years to come.

In the end, it was UConn that came out on top with a 60-54 victory. Senior point guard Shabazz Napier was able to take command of his squad the way he had all season, scoring 22 points for the Huskies. In a tournamnet full of close finishes, shocking upsets, and acrobatic highlights, the UConn Huskies were once again able to shock the world with an improbable run to the title.

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