Last year’s tournament was by far the most exciting tournament that I have ever watched from beginning to end; sure the George Mason run was amazing, but the Final Four that year was plagued by blowouts. The previous year, North Carolina upsetting Illinois (after Illinois made that incredible comeback on Arizona) was a great game to watch, but the title game wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. The only tournament in recent memory that even compares to 2008′s was 2003. Once again it was a very thrilling final, and there were a plethora of first round upsets (the Maryland-UNC Wilmington game, in which Drew Nicholas had the last second prayer slip through the bucket, reminds me of Drake-WKU).
However this years tournament tops it all; and to prove it let’s take a look at each round and its highlights:
Mayo vs. Beasley: A lot of people had been waiting to see this all season. Two of the most decorated freshman in college basketball who led their teams into the NCAA tournament only to meet each other in the first round. Beasley played a much better game, and Kansas State moved on easily, but for awhile this game was as thrilling as any.
Curry gives a preview: Stephen Curry goes off for 40 points against Gonzaga. Anyone that doubted this kid was eating their words after this performance, and it wasn’t even the most impressive thing he did in the tournament.
Duke-Belmont: Nobody (except Duke fans) wanted to see Duke win this game, but also no one in their right mind thought it was even going to be close. If it wasn’t for Gerald Henderson’s last second layup to win the game, this would probably be the biggest upset in NCAA history.
First Round Upsets: Villanova proves their worth in the tournament by beating red hot Clemson. Drake, who had a marvelous season, bows out in the first round of an overtime thriller with Western Kentucky. Siena destroys Vanderbilt, and San Diego beats UConn in OT. Oh yeah, all of this happened in Tampa.
The Second Round also did not disappoint any college hoops fans:
Duke finally loses: I hate to be a Duke hater, but I’m sure many of you were very happy to see Duke be upset this early in the tournament. Sure, it wasn’t as thrilling as if Belmont would have done it, but it was thrilling nonetheless.
Stanford-Marquette: Another tremendous tournament game between two teams from the best conferences in the nation. It took overtime and a Brook Lopez shot that seemed to defy gravity for Stanford to come away with the win.
Big East troubles: Who would have thought that by the time the second round was over that Villanova, West Virginia, and Louisville would be the last three Big East teams standing? Georgetown lost a thriller to Davidson, Notre Dame succumbed to the Washington State defense, Marquette lost in the thriller to Stanford, and Pitt was overcome by Michigan State.
Close calls: Texas A&M almost pulled off the upset of UCLA if not for a Russell Westbrook steal and dunk, and Tennessee also survives overtime with Butler. Texas and Memphis, the top seeds in the South Regional, have trouble getting past their opponents as well.
After the first four days of the NCAA tournament, I was shell-shocked witnessing all of these exciting games, but the Sweet 16 had even more to offer:
Davidson does it again: They squeaked by their first two opponents and many people were saying that was only because they were playing in their home state, but once again “Curry and the Cats” (I may be trademarking this phrase and making T-shirts) put the doubters to rest. This time it was against the best defensive team in the nation, and Davidson won by 17!
Overtime……again: On the other side of the bracket West Virginia was putting their own upset run together, and were very close to making the Elite 8 but Drew Lavender and Xavier pulled it out in overtime.
UCLA has troubles with WKU: Western Kentucky played probably one of the best basketball games that they were capable of playing, but UCLA proved to be too much for the 12 seed that had put together a thrilling run.
Other teams seperate themselves: North Carolina, Louisville, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas all won in blowout victories. It looked as if they were setting up for some great Elite 8 match-ups.
After that round everyone was talking about Davidson and if they would build on what George Mason did in 2005:
Davidson comes “oh so close”: If Jason Richards shot goes in not only would we have had a different National Champion but it could have been Davidson. I know that sounds crazy but they were playing some of the best basketball at the time, and we could have seen the same result against a UNC team if they came out with the sloppiness they displayed in the first half of the Kansas game. However, the miracle run came to an end and Davidson went home, but the good news was that Stephen Curry was only a sophomore.
All One Seeds advance: For the first time ever the committee got it exactly right, the top-four teams would play in the Final Four. It was setting up to be a great finish to a great tournament.
UCLA-Memphis: Memphis got to work early and really ran the court on UCLA, a team that many had picked to win the entire tournament. UCLA kept it close but never really looked like they were going to win the game.
Kansas-UNC: Kansas dominated right out of the gate and looked as if they would blowout the “best team in the nation”. However, UNC fought back and it seemed like they were destined for a miracle comeback, but right when you thought UNC was coming back, Kansas shut the door and moved on to the final.
National Title Game: Do I have to explain this? The improbable comeback, Memphis’ free throw woes, Chalmers’ shot, and Kansas winning easily in OT. You all saw it, and I’m sure you all loved it. This was the best final that I have ever watched. Kansas was crowned NCAA champions.
Well, there is good news and bad news about last year’s tournament. The good news is that it was unbelievable and for all of us that witnessed it, we may have seen the best tournament ever. The bad news is that there might not be one that will ever top it. Of course each tournament will have thrilling moments, but this one had it all: an incredible Cinderella with a player everyone loved to watch, great games in every round, overtimes galore, and of course an amazing National Title Game. I hope I’m wrong but I don’t know if I’ll ever see a tournament quite as good as 2008′s.