March Madness Recap


The Baylor Bears Dominated the Indomitable Team to Win Their First Men’s NCAA Title (Getty Images/AP Images/Ringer illustration)

Luke Smith , Sports Writer

This year’s March Madness tournament was certainly entertaining and shocking. After last year’s tournament being canceled due to Covid, all of this year’s games were played in Indianapolis with no fans as a way to take measures to prevent Covid from spreading. This recap will include in-depth analysis of the most notable teams and players from this year’s tournament as well as predictions for teams to watch next season.


Gonzaga Bulldogs: Leading up to the championship, Gonzaga was 31-0 on the season, cruising past almost every team they played. According to the ESPN tournament challenge, 69% of participants chose Gonzaga to win in their initial brackets. Then, they were routed by Baylor 86-70. “When they’re consistently just more aggressive on both ends, it was hard to generate rhythm,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We’d score a couple of times, we wouldn’t ever get consecutive stops to kind of close some gaps – we turned the ball over, we missed free throws.” While the Bulldogs will lose lottery picks Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert, they would be automatic championship contenders with the return of Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard. 


UCLA Bruins: The Cinderella team of this tournament, UCLA was an 11 seed that made it to the Final Four before losing to Gonzaga 90-93 off a deep 3-pointer from Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs. Going into the tournament, UCLA had lost 4 games in a row and many people didn’t take them seriously. In fact, 66% of bracket participants had them losing in the first round. Then, they really proved themselves by beating 2 seed Alabama 88-78 in the Sweet 16 and 1 seed Michigan 51-49 in the Elite 8. While they ultimately lost to Gonzaga, their valiant performance was one we won’t soon forget as it became one of the most exciting basketball games in the tournament and beyond. 


Texas Longhorns: As a 3 seed, hopes for Texas basketball were at the highest they’ve been in a long time for this tournament after being Kansas twice in the regular season and winning the Big 12 Championship for the first time in program history. Nevertheless, it was an all too familiar feeling for Texas sports fans; disappointed but not surprised. 77% of bracket participants put Texas in the Sweet 16 and 41% put them in the Elite 8, but they were unfortunately stunned by 14 seed Abilene Christian in the first round 52-53. Despite Abilene Christian’s poor shooting (29.9% from the field and 16.7% from the 3-pt line), Texas’s incredibly sloppy play (over 20 turnovers) ultimately cost them the game. Shortly after the tournament, Texas fired Shaka Smart and hired head coach Chris Beard from Texas Tech. Beard is known for his tournament success, most notably making it to the championship in 2019, so Texas fans can and should be optimistic about this hire. 


Oral Roberts: A small school in Oklahoma some people had never even heard of and a 15 seed in the tournament, 95% of bracket participants had them losing in the first round. Then, they went on to stun 2 seed Ohio State in the first round 75-72 and 7 seed Florida in the second round 81-78. Finally, they lost a heartbreaker to Arkansas in the Sweet 16 70-72. What many people didn’t realize was that guard Max Abams is one of the best scorers in the country, averaging an incredible 24.5 points per game. This team was definitely interesting to follow in the tournament. 


Baylor Bears: While Baylor was a 1 seed in the tournament and one of the best 3-pt shooting teams in the country, many people initially overlooked them as Gonzaga seemed like the clear favorite. Most participants either had them losing in the Final 4 or the championship. They left nothing to prove after beating Gonzaga in the championship 86-70, shooting an excellent 44.8% from the field and 43.5% from 3. Guards Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell are both projected 1st round draft picks while 2 of the other starters are seniors, so Baylor will have some rebuilding to do. Baylor has proven themselves to be a recognized basketball school, winning their first championship in program history. 


Houston Cougars: At the 2 seed, expectations for Houston were fairly mixed. Some predicted Houston to make a deep run and others thought Houston would get knocked early since they don’t play in a competitive conference. Either way, Houston excelled in the tournament, making it to the Final Four with one of the best defenses in the country. However, notable players such as DeJon Jarreau and Quentin Grimes will either be leaving or going to the draft. If Grimes returns next season, Houston has a good shot at making the tournament as a high seed. 


Illinois Fighting Illini/Loyola Chicago Ramblers: A 1 seed and a bust to many brackets, 75% of participants put Illinois in the Final Four, 54% put them in the championship and 31% chose them to win. Unfortunately for many brackets, they fell to notorious dark horse Loyola Chicago in the second round 58-71. 92% of participants chose Illinois to beat Loyola Chicago, so it definitely was a shock to many when they lost by 13. After this game and in the ESPN second chance bracket, 76% of participants put Loyola in the Elite 8 and 44% put them in the Final 4, so it was another surprise when they lost to Oregon State 58-65. This game was significant because it busted a lot of people’s initial brackets and put a lot of faith into Loyola Chicago again, even though they lost in the next round. 


Iowa Hawkeyes: Iowa had a lot of hype around them going into the tournament, mainly coming from center Luka Garza (24.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG). 64% of bracket participants put Iowa in the Elite 8 and 18% put them in the Final Four, so a second round loss to Oregon 80-95 was big. Despite scoring 36 points, Wooden Award winner Luka Garza and the Hawkeyes were knocked early, which was fairly unexpected.