As the yellow and green confetti fell from the rafters, the Baylor Bears held up the NCAA men’s basketball championship Monday night April 5.
The Bears were picked as champions in only 10.4% of brackets according to ESPN which is the third most behind runner-up Gonzaga (34.4%) and Illinois (15.2%).
Baylor reached the final four one time before but that was back in 1950. Their road to make it to the grand stage started back in November en route to a 28 – 2 season. Baylor’s only loss in the regular season was to Kansas back in February and they didn’t lose again until the Big 12 tournament. Baylor lost in the semifinals to Oklahoma State during the Big 12 tournament but set their focus to winning a national title.
Baylor and Gonzaga played each other five times and Gonzaga had never lost until there was a championship on the line. Baylor had previously lost the first four meetings with the Bulldogs and while history wasn’t on their side the bears found a way to defeat history too. Baylor’s head coach Scott Drew became their first head coach to bring Waco, Texas a championship in men’s basketball.
In the championship game, Baylor made Gonzaga play to their strengths and forced the bulldogs to struggle right out of the gate. Baylor hit their first four three-pointers and was electric from behind the arc. The Bears shot 43.5% from behind the arch while they held Gonzaga to only 29.4% three-point shooting. Gonzaga cut the lead to being only down 10 after the first half as they went on a 9 – 2 run in the last five minutes of the half as the halftime score was Baylor 47 and Gonzaga 37. However, Baylor came right back after the break and never let up. Between defensive stops and the creation of turnovers by the Bulldogs, Baylor jumped to as high as 20 points in the game. When it looked as if Gonzaga may fight back, they never could get close enough to take control.
Baylor handled Gonzaga from start to finish as they never trailed en route to its first men’s basketball title with an 86-70 win as they took down the undefeated. Baylor guards Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell and Macio Teague led the way all-around. Butler had 20 points, three rebounds, and seven assists, while Mitchell collected 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists, and Teague added 19 points and one rebound as this trio’s combined efforts hoisted the Ferris Mowers NABC National Championship Trophy.
The women’s national championship Stanford rewrote the history books as well when they won their first title in 29 years. Stanford beat Arizona 54 – 53 on Sunday, April 4 in a thriller to end the madness of their seasons. Stanford and Arizona met twice during the regular season, as Stanford rolled past Arizona both times, winning by double digits in each game. The third and final game came down to a wild back and forth effort from both teams that resulted in a last-second shot attempt by star Arizona guard Aari McDonald that missed to give Stanford the victory.
The final winner of the tournament was Torch Sports Reporter Brandon Wirth, who proved to have the best ESPN bracket challenge here at the Torch. His bracket would score 1,220 points after he correctly picked Baylor to beat Gonzaga to win the National Championship.
I would come in second in the challenge with 810 points after my pick, Gonzaga lost to Baylor in the championship.
Sports reporter Brody Keiser would come in third with 800 points. His bracket would be held back due to his championship pick, Iowa, losing to no. 7 seed Oregon in the second round of the tournament.
In last would be Sports Editor Brendan Sanders, who picked Ohio State to win the championship. They became the ninth team to lose to a no.15 seed team in the first round, losing to Oral Roberts 75 – 72. Thus, Sanders saw his bracket only score 690 points.
Overall, the return of March Madness brought magic back to the month of March after being snatched away last year. With magical moments such as Jalen Sugg’s buzzer beater three in the Final Four against UCLA to Aari McDonald’s last second shot attempt raising the heart rates of millions around the world, it was refreshing to finally get to re-embrace the madness.