Every March, college basketball fans sit glued to the television for hours at a time to watch their favorite team, on top of other countless great teams, in the NCAA Tournament. Each tournament, there are upsets, buzzer beaters, and moments that define the “Big Dance.”
For some reason, however, the 2019 version just did not seem the same.
The first round might be part of this. No team higher than a 13-seed won its Round of 64 matchup, a rare thing considering how recent years have been. To top it off, even the 12-seeds and 13-seeds that did pull off upsets were not that big of upsets, either. No. 13-seed UC Irvine took down a Kansas State team without its best player in Dean Wade. 12-seed Oregon beat a very talented Wisconsin team, but the Ducks were already one of the hottest teams in the country.
Of course, some people saw 12-seed Murray State over Marquette before it even happened, as superstar Ja Morant went off for a triple-double. Lastly, and maybe the most surprising upset of them all, 12-seed Liberty defeated 5-seed Mississippi State. After all, the Flames came in to that game at 28-6 and winners of five in a row. Meanwhile, Ben Howland’s club had lost three of five before that one.
To add insult to injury, there were not any buzzer-beaters in the first round. Not only that, but the only buzzer beater in the second round – a Tremont Waters lay-in to lift LSU over Maryland will be argued as a travel by Terrapin fans for eternity. Granted, there were some very close finishes. Duke and UCF battled for nearly the entire game, while Tennessee and Iowa had an overtime classic. However, these games still just did not have the same feel that normally comes with March Madness.
This past weekend, the Final Four may have saved the tournament. In the first game, Virginia came back yet again, as Kyle Guy got fouled in the corner with less than a second to go in regulation and nailed three free throws to give the Cavaliers their first NCAA Championship appearance. Two hours later, Chris Beard and his crew of overlooked at Texas Tech beat Tom Izzo and Michigan State, setting up a defensive minded championship game.
For the general lack of excitement in the tournament, Virginia and Texas Tech was the exact opposite. The two teams played solid defense, but as the game went on, the players locked in, hitting threes everywhere. Virginia ultimately won, 85-77, in the first overtime championship game since 2008, when Mario Chalmers and Kansas beat Derrick Rose and Memphis.
The 2019 NCAA Tournament as a whole was not what fans wanted. However, Virginia and Texas Tech put on a show in the title game, proving that one game can really define the whole tournament.
Matthew Mlodzinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Mlodzinski_15.