Lancer Media Madness: Takeaways from this year’s tournament
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Another year, another month of surprises.
Throughout the course of 30 days, we have seen championship qualified teams crumble in the spotlight, as well as epic March triumphs from teams that were written off early.
Defending champions Villanova came into March with high hopes after winning the championship game last year. Equipped with an outstanding 29-4 record, the ceiling was unlimited for the Wildcats. But within a week, Wisconsin reduced them to nothing but an afterthought.
South Carolina, 2-5 in their last 7 regular season and conference tournament games, suddenly got hot and defeated basketball powerhouses Duke and Baylor. This was their first Final Four in school history. With every tournament, we learn new things about teams that we were blind to before March. Here are some of the Lancer Media Madness team’s key takeaways from this year’s tournament.
Gonzaga proves their worth
Yes, I know they lost the game, sinking their perfect regular season to BYU, a team outside the RPI-Top 150 teams. I know they lost to North Carolina in the championship, which still stands as one of the ugliest championship games ever played.
With no team shooting over 36% from the field, Gonzaga didn’t seem in their rhythm. With 14 turnovers and foul trouble for Zach Collins and Przemek Karnowski, things just didn’t go the Bulldogs’ way.
Despite all this, they have nothing to be ashamed of. With a history of always crapping the bed in big moments, this year’s team stood out among other great Gonzaga squads. They looked more composed and focused than any other team in the tournament pool, reaching their first Final Four and National Championship. In their last 19 straight seasons of making the tournament, the farthest they had reached before this year was the Elite 8.
All year, they received criticism for playing bad teams in their mediocre WCC conference. Guided by the veteran leadership of Mark Few, as well as Wooden Award finalist and Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss, the Bulldogs danced their way through March with a swagger not found in past teams, Expect to see similar seasons and better finishes from Gonzaga in the coming years. They are no joke.
North Carolina redeems themselves
All UNC players and fans alike craved for redemption after a previously year of heartbreak.
When it came down to the infamous buzzer-beating three to win the game for Villanova, the Tar Heels were shell-shocked. The day after and leading into this year’s season, coach Roy Williams preached the word “redemption” to his players. And boy, were they ready.
This year sitting again at the #1 seed, and going 27-7 in the regular season , UNC came out in the tournament with winning mentality. Playing with an unmatched intensity and at a heightened level from last year, the Tar Heels fought to the end against Gonzaga for their 6th National Championship. Their tournament run was especially highlighted by defeating Oregon 77-76. In an instant classic, UNC prevailed after they missed four free throws in a row, potentially losing the game. They were, however, lucky they escaped alive pulling down three offensive boards after those free throw misses. Another masterful and magical season by North Carolina, another tournament run in the books.
Never doubt the underdog
This year’s tournament was impossible to predict. Just because a team is labeled as an 11 seed, doesn’t mean that they play like an 11 seed. Xavier pulled out a game against favorited Arizona, putting the red hot Wildcats into the cold zone. Villanova defend a national championship being labeled as a 1 seed, being beaten in almost every category against the 9 seeded Wisconsin Badgers. A defending champion playing against a team who played like a defending champion. And who can leave out our Final Four’s own South Carolina? Beating Coach Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils is an astounding feat that not many other teams can share. Add that onto steamrolling Baylor by 20 points, shutting down dreams of Florida and then coming into Glendale to run with the big dogs of Gonzaga.
Crazy? No, it’s March Madness.