A Look Back at March Madness Ahead of the Tournament’s Final

After a wild win over Auburn to reach tonight’s title game, Virginia tries to complete their season of redemption. Last year Virginia became the first top seed to lose a first round game against one of the number 16 seeds. I wrote a review of the announcers after this year’s field was narrowed to 16 teams. Before a champion is crowned, it’s time to catch up on these last two weeks.

Unfortunately, Brian Anderson botched the call when Virginia tied Purdue at the end of their elite eight battle. Andrew Marchand wrote a great article about this, and the other top announcers who called sweet 16 action. Brian had to miss calling early season Brewers baseball because of the awkward schedules. This year’s opening day was March 28.

Like 2013, this year’s NCAA title game was scheduled for April 8. No NCAA basketball championship game has taken place later. For years we would have opening day on a Monday, and hours before the college championship game. This year, baseball teams opened before sweet 16 games. I’m not even counting the Mariners playing against Oakland in Japan days earlier.

Reggie Miller has a habit of jumping in on Kevin Harlan’s reads. His most recent comment reminded me of an exchange from earlier in the tournament. He interrupted one promo when Kevin was asking if people liked their sports news without the yelling and fake debates. That was for CBS Sports HQ. Reggie asked about people who want the yelling and fake debates. Harlan asked what Reggie was doing, as his read seemed to almost get sabotaged. He then told Miller that they could find it someplace else.

There were mixed reviews about how CBS handled the ending of Auburn and Virginia. Rules analyst Gene Steratore explained that a double dribble should have been called against the Cavaliers when Ty Jerome started a new dribble sequence after bouncing the ball off his foot. Game announcers did not comment about the blown call. Charles Barkley honestly stated that he didn’t even know this rule. Neither did I. Analysts said that officials just missed it, but I saw that play clearly.

People are either missing or ignoring the real story. I don’t think every official missed it. Instead, the men who were assigned to officiate this game and are considered to be top officials did not know the rule. Steratore used to officiate both basketball and football. There has been a recent trend of officials retiring for network jobs. The fear was that we would be left with inferior officials and the games could suffer. Sadly, it looks like this could be happening.

Grading the March Madness Announcers Heading Into Weekend Two

It is almost time for the remaining 16 teams to get back at it in my favorite sporting event. First, here is a look at each crew that called tournament games last week:

1. Spero Dedes/Steve Smith/Len Elmore or Jim Jackson/Ros Gold-Onwude:

I start with this crew because they were the worst. We were subjected to Spero calling First Four games. Jim Jackson joined the crew. I guess they wanted him to get extra work since this was his first time doing these games, but it was strange because he worked with two different crews. Smith and Jackson sound alike. I could not tell the difference. Elmore replaced Jackson on Friday. Those guys either did not listen to each other or were competing. All three announcers made the same point in a span of about five seconds.

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Awful Announcing‘s Ken Fang tweeted that he would take AT&T announcer Phil over Spero. Dedes remarked that a player would be shooting two free throws. I had no idea why he said that when it clearly was not a shooting foul and there was no double bonus situation. He eventually figured it out and corrected himself after about a minute. The biggest mistake for this crew was made by their reporter. Actually, two of them. Ros mistakenly said that UC Irvine was 0-9 in close games. Five points or less. She obviously meant 9-0. Although UC Irvine’s coach let the incorrect record slide, he did call out her math skills. They won 70-64. He mentioned that the margin was six points.

2. Brian Anderson/Chris Webber/Allie LaForce:

Although he is not the only person to struggle with this, Webber finds himself thinking or at least saying that day games are being played at night by using the word tonight. I did hear Webber catch himself once. When Washington played Utah State, Webber combined the two names and mentioned Washington State. They did not qualify. He also said that they had a good one going as the broadcast headed to break during a game that was not especially close at that particular time.

Virginia and North Carolina each trailed at halftime Friday. Two top seeds were down at halftime against 16s in one day for the first time. Anderson either misspoke or simply got the information wrong when he said that it was the first time a 16 held the lead over a top seed at halftime. It had just happened hours earlier. A March Madness TV twitter account then tweeted the same mistake. Probably because Anderson said it.

3. Brad Nessler/Steve Lavin/Jim Jackson/Evan Washburn:

Around the same time that Spero botched the call about a shooting foul, Nessler did it twice. One time for each team in Ohio State’s game against Iowa State. Brad called Buffalo Bulls games, too. Somebody tweeted that he called them the Braves more than once. I saw a shot that did not hit the backboard, but Nessler thought it hit glass. Maybe he borrowed Marv Albert’s glasses. Chemistry seemed to be an issue with this crew, and Nessler seemed to lose focus. I remember him complaining about the long days of calling games when he replaced Uncle Verne.

4. Carter Blackburn/Debbie Antonelli/John Schriffen:

I’m still salty (that’s what the kids call it these days) that Antonelli replaced Mike Gminski. Although a friend complained to me about her last week, I did not think she was terrible from what I heard. They had some horrible games. Especially Saturday. I did not hear them a whole lot. She should do at least one regular season game with Blackburn. Antonelli broadcasts the women until March Madness. Then, she comes to the men. I don’t get it. They should leave her with the women if she knows them well and is praised for her work on those broadcasts.

5. Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas/Lisa Byington:

A Seinfeld reference by Andrew about sending soup back went over well. There was an awkward moment when the person in charge of graphics erroneously advanced Syracuse instead of Baylor in the bracket. Catalon called them Butler at one point, but corrected himself. Probably because Baylor had a player named Butler. It also could have been because Butler knocked out Syracuse in Salt Lake City nine years ago. The Baylor-Syracuse game was in Salt Lake City. Catalon knows the history. He attended Syracuse.

6. Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner/Dana Jacobson:

This crew got off to a rocky start with the First Four. There was a strange transition from Harlan to Jacobson before the tournament even started, but that was more of a camera thing. Prairie View A&M’s head coach is Byron Smith. Bonner referred to him as Byron Scott. Kevin confused the substitution signal for a travel call in one game. He has made that mistake before.

7. Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Jamie Erdahl:

I am a big fan of all three. They were excellent. Four of their six games were close, and the Seton Hall game against Wofford was tight before a late run by the Terriers. They had two weekend games with no others at the same time. I listened to them a lot. They were fantastic calling the exciting Maryland-LSU contest.

8. Jim Nantz/Bill Raftery/Grant Hill/Tracy Wolfson:

CBS has to be thrilled with their top crew. I still think Hill is coming along slowly, but Raftery is amazing and Nantz does a very solid job. The energy and knowledge from Raftery is unreal. However, his humor takes the cake. I like when he compares basketball contact to a New York subway ride.

Previewing the Voices of March Madness: Selection Sunday Edition

It’s the best time of the year, and I don’t mean Christmas. March is the month of madness. Selection Sunday and the tournament’s first Thursday are like Christmas morning if you ask me. Jim Nantz is calling games this weekend. You know it’s crunch time. I think it would be nice if he could be bothered with at least one regular season game when CBS does not have golf, but so be it.

A number of things have grabbed my attention in the past week. Last weekend there was a video review in the Northern Iowa-Bradley contest. This should shock nobody, because these reviews are out of control. I thought there was clearly some unnecessary late contact, and guessed that it would be a common foul that was followed by a technical. Gene Steratore, who chimed in during NFL broadcasts on CBS, thought there should be nothing other than the original call. My guess turned out to be correct. After the ruling, we suddenly heard that Gene agreed with the call. They got it right. Not what he said a few minutes earlier. There was also some talk by Gene on another play that a player had the ball hit his head and go out of bounds. Analyst Dan Bonner said that Gene must have great eyesight because he didn’t see it. That’s because this didn’t happen.

Later, Clark Kellogg mistakenly said that a flagrant foul was called when highlights were shown. This happened more than once. I believe he said that a flagrant was ruled in three different segments. This could be because of the lengthy delay like we saw during Friday night’s Seton Hall-Marquette contest. The officials take too long reviewing plays. There are other games going on. People stop paying attention and concentrate on live action elsewhere. Speaking of losing concentration, CBS is going back to the old format for revealing which teams are making the NCAA Tournament.

Last year’s debacle was on TBS. CBS will carry the show this weekend. It will again reveal teams in bracket format. Last year’s show revealed schools in alphabetical order, and drew plenty of criticism. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. CBS’s 2019 show will again last 60 minutes, and ironically airs just before 60 Minutes.

There are no major changes in the tournament crews this season. Some sideline reporters have switched teams, and Jim Jackson was added to one crew. He had a mistake on Friday at MSG. A common question is whether or not to foul when up three late. He said there would be a decision if both foul shots were made. Gus Johnson tried to point out his error in subtle fashion by saying that the lead would be four if both free throws were good.

ESPN’s Jay Williams has been in the news. He was critical of Frank Howard for attempting to trip Duke’s Zion Williamson, and claimed to have also been critical when Duke’s Grayson Allen tripped players years ago. However, footage has surfaced of Williams saying that he liked Allen tripping people. Fox broadcaster Charissa Thompson used to date Williams. I was reminded of her mocking him one time. Jay’s twitter handle calls him the real Jay Williams. I remember her saying that somebody was real one time in a post. She stressed that word, and wasn’t talking about Williams. It seemed to be calling out her former man as a liar, or fake.


I have also been less than impressed with his pregame and halftime work in recent days. He could not wait to mention that a spread was covered after one game. It felt forced, although that is probably more of an issue I should take up with his bosses. ESPN is suddenly all over point spreads. In the past it felt special when somebody referred to gambling. Often the references were in passing, and the subject seemed taboo. Things have changed, and ESPN now has a daily gambling show. I’m sure they are focusing on promoting that. Getting back to Williams, he mistakenly called Duke’s superstar Zion Washington instead of Williamson. There were several times when something he said has gotten my attention in the past week, and never in a good way.

One more analyst has annoyed me lately. I thought Jordan Cornette’s performance was poor during the Monmouth game against Canisius. After Iona won the following night, he said they looked like a second weekend tournament team. Iona had been projected as a 16, and possibly playing on Tuesday or Wednesday. This guy has them taking out a 1, and then advancing after that! They might not even make it to Thursday. UMBC was the first team seeded 16 to beat a 1 last year, but even they didn’t win the next game. Actually, second weekend means a win in the sweet 16 as well. Apparently he has Iona making an incredible run.


After an Eventful Elite 8, The Final Four is Finally Set

Saturday’s¬†first game saw Loyola-Chicago complete the remarkable trek to San Antonio.¬† After winning three games by a total of four points, Loyola handled Kansas State 78-62. The Ramblers made 9 of their first 10 shots after halftime, stretching a lead of 12 to 23. Loyola made 13 straight after the break against Nevada¬†Thursday. A late shot by Kansas State spun out as they started to claw back. It looked like more divine intervention.

Brian Anderson says Loyola has that winning gene, but I can only assume that is a play on words with Sister Jean. I’ve been critical of that crew, but thought they did a good job¬†Saturday. Chris Webber was solid. I even heard Lisa Byington¬†address Brian Anderson by his first name at times. Head coach Porter Moser has gone under the radar. How many people even know his name? This guy is living in Sister Jean’s shadow. The team is confident. Their quick passing makes me think this is what ball movement used to be like.

I can see why Sister Jean says they remind her of Loyola’s 1963 championship team. As Kentucky struggled¬†Thursday, I started to think that Loyola could beat them. Once Kansas State advanced, I was all in on the Ramblers taking out K-State. Even after Loyola made the Sweet 16, ESPN said they had about a 1% chance of winning it all. Considering the Nevada game being basically a toss-up, that seemed low. Early this morning I saw their latest odds at 12-1. Michigan then took out Florida State in an ugly game. Leonard Hamilton’s postgame interview was also ugly, and his coaching wasn’t pretty either. FSU inexplicably decided not to foul down 58-54 with about 10 seconds remaining. The best explanation anybody can come up with is the spread was 4, or 4.5 in some places.

Villanova fell behind 9-1 against Texas Tech but quickly bounced back and went to halftime up 13. The Wildcats won by 12. Villanova has been consistent throughout the tournament. They covered all four games.

The Duke-Kansas game concluded this weekend’s action. It lived up to expectations. Kansas hit a late three to force overtime, delaying 60 Minutes and their Stormy Daniels interview. Grayson Allen nearly ended it in regulation for Duke, but his bank shot did not drop. Malik Newman had 32 points for Kansas, including all of the team’s 13 points in overtime. Kansas won 85-81. The Jayhawks are headed back to San Antonio. Kansas won it all in 2008. The Alamodome also hosted that Final Four.

It will be Loyola-Chicago against Michigan on Saturday night. Villanova will meet Kansas in game two. The winners will play for a championship on Monday. I will be forced to find something else that can give my life meaning after that.

Summarizing the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 Action & Looking Ahead to More Madness

My media thoughts about the tournament will have to wait. The upsets¬†came fast and furious¬†Thursday. I run a sweet 16 pool. It’s not pretty. Nobody went better than 2-2 on the first night. Only Michigan held serve. Since their bracket has opened up, Michigan could be headed to another title game. Of course, that’s what people said about Kentucky. So much for that theory.

Kansas State knocked off John Calipari’s boys in a physical game. Kentucky can only blame themselves. They missed a number of free throws. PJ Washington went 8-20 at the charity stripe. Kentucky failed to take advantage of what I thought were some favorable calls.

Live Footage of Kentucky’s Season Going Up In Flames:

Loyola-Chicago was only a slight underdog, but they pulled off another upset. Their three tournament victories have been by a total of four points. Even Sister Jean didn’t see this one coming. She picked her school to lose in the sweet 16, although she did say they make the title game in her dream bracket. I don’t think anyone had Loyola-Chicago against Kansas State in the elite eight ten days ago. 9 against 11. It has never happened before. Only one person had it in my sweet 16 pool. He doesn’t know anything about college basketball and has Loyola-Chicago winning it all. That person¬†was in sole possession¬†of first place after night one.

This was a wild game. Nevada jumped ahead by a dozen but fell behind before rallying from double digits down for a third straight game. In the end, Nevada fell 69-68 after choosing not to foul when down one with seconds remaining. Loyola-Chicago clinched it with a three, and Nevada’s meaningless answer was not enough.¬†Florida State knocked off Gonzaga in the night’s biggest surprise. Two 9s made the elite eight in a matter of minutes. That had only happened four times before last night. The Seminoles are stunning opponents and prognosticators. FSU has had better expectations and seeding before with disappointing results. They seem to be embracing an us against the world mentality. However, they are not the only ones.


Friday’s¬†action was basically chalk. Kansas went up by 20 and held on to win by 4. That disappointed some¬†gamblers. People¬†liked Clemson. Maybe they were overly impressed with their destruction of Auburn. Villanova trailed by six¬†before hitting West Virginia with a big spurt. The Wildcats pulled away late and won 90-78. Syracuse hung tough but came up short against Duke. Missed free throws hurt the Orange. They had two chances to tie on a foul shot in the second half. Both were missed, as was a late foul shot¬†in the final seconds. Texas Tech defeated Purdue in a minor upset. The Red Raiders have advanced past sweet 16 action for the first time in their basketball program’s 93-year history.

As the games wind down, I start to get sad. You know this wonderful event is almost over. We’ll see who can continue their magic carpet ride all the way to San Antonio. It’s Loyola-Chicago against Kansas State and Michigan facing FSU. Then Villanova takes on Texas Tech in¬†Sunday¬†action. Finally, we get a heavyweight battle between Kansas and Duke in the marquee¬†Sunday¬†evening window as Jim Nantz gets his familiar spot leading into 60 Minutes. Enjoy the remaining games.

Grading Each Team of Announcers In March Madness

Jim Nantz / Grant Hill / Bill Raftery // Tracy Wolfson:

I didn’t really think Grant Hill was needed when they put this team together. Raftery is more than capable. I think CBS was reluctant to hire Bill for the A team based on his age, but he is definitely a fan favorite. Raftery, approaching 75, has not lost a step. Hill seemed shaky at first, but I think he is finding his way. Raftery will not last forever, sadly. CBS wanted someone they did not have to worry about after Greg Anthony was charged with soliciting a prostitute.

Hill provided them with a name, good reputation, and youth compared with other analysts. Raftery often praises Hill and sets him up well. It works. Nantz has been calling the title game for about 30 years. I kind of like him as a studio¬†host (he did this years ago for football and basketball) because he’s good with knowledge but doesn’t really have a golden voice in my opinion.

Greg Gumbel holds things down in the studio these days. Nantz does a solid job. Gus Johnson isn’t walking through that door. There is nothing we can do. Nantz finally got to call a Houston game during their conference tournament. In fact, two of them. He waited more than 30 years. Jim attended Houston, and Tracy’s Wolverines knocked them out on a buzzer beater this past weekend.

Brian Anderson / Chris Webber // Lisa Byington:

Brian Anderson is an up and coming announcer. I was annoyed when they elevated him above Ian Eagle, but so be it. During his first March Madness tournament, he aggravated me by continuously pointing out that these games are win or go home. We know. We’re not new to this. You are. I think he is great at baseball, and I’m glad that he now does the LCS on TBS over Ernie Johnson.

Chris Webber doesn’t impress me. I don’t think he is good doing NBA games. I’d like to see him do a Michigan game and have to talk about getting in trouble. Not that he would. Lisa Byington does not say the announcers’ names when doing a report. Somebody else will thank Ian or whoever is throwing it over to them. I feel like she is afraid of saying the wrong name because she isn’t used to these guys.

Kevin Harlan / Reggie Miller / Dan Bonner // Dana Jacobson:


Kevin Harlan has been doing the tournament for many years. I miss him on radio. He still does football on the radio, but used to call some basketball games there as well. Recently I was disappointed when he thought a travel had been called. The official was just signaling that there were substitutions but no timeout. That’s a college thing. He should know that. I’m a hard marker.

Reggie Miller is okay. Not my favorite analyst, but I guess I’m just used to him. Dan Bonner is good. When these guys swoop in for the tournament, CBS wisely likes to mix in someone who knows the college game. Jacobson hasn’t really bothered me too much. Sometimes that is the best thing you can say about a sideline reporter.

Ian Eagle / Jim Spanarkel // Allie LaForce:

This is an excellent team. Ian is one of the best. He finally gets to do the second weekend on television. We’ll see what happens next year. Verne Lundquist could be returning after back surgery. I miss Verne. So many legendary calls. Spanarkel is terrific. He has chemistry with Ian because they worked together on Nets games. They were paired together longer than any other team until Greg Anthony was suspended. Raftery moved up, and Spanarkel joined Verne to replace Raftery.

This wasn’t the first year Ian talked about how more tournament games have been played in Dayton than any other location. That is one of my few pet peeves with him. Many were played there years ago, but of course, there are four every year now. I don’t even consider them tournament games. Allie played basketball. She knows what is going on, and isn’t bad to look at either.

Spero Dedes / Steve Smith / Len Elmore // Ros-Gold-Onwude:

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I have been bashing Spero for years. I’ll leave it at that. I’m not a big Steve Smith fan, but at least we’re not stuck with him saying BA all the time because he’s not with Brian Anderson anymore. Len Elmore is the typical college guy who is there to educate the announcers who don’t know much about these teams, although Spero has done some college games.

Back in 1992, Len called Duke-Kentucky with Verne Lundquist.¬†Len tried to reference it, but said Louisville instead of Kentucky. That’s not good. It was a classic game. You have to get that right. Ros is the best part of this team. She did a good job interviewing Sister Jean from Loyola-Chicago.

Brad Nessler / Steve Lavin // Evan Washburn:

Brad Nessler didn’t seem to be overly enthusiastic. I’m still mad that he does SEC games now instead of Verne. The Dick Neer twitter account knocked his enthusiasm, so I felt vindicated. He had complained about doing four games¬†in one day¬†before the tournament started. Occasionally I would flip on Gary Cohen. He did it on¬†radio. His call was the local Seton Hall broadcast, so it’s a little different. Still, that was quite a contrast.

I liked Nessler years ago. They replaced Verne with another fairly old guy who has less energy. Lavin isn’t terrible. He does studio work. I think he is probably better there. I’m not big on male sideline reporters. Evan¬†took over for¬†Jenny Dell on NFL broadcasts. I’m still holding a grudge.

Andrew Catalon / Steve Lappas / Jamie Erdahl:

I like Catalon. He just tries too hard sometimes. Occasionally he’ll yell a little too loud. Or late. It’s like he realizes he’s not quite excited enough or should put more into¬†his call so it goes viral. I also noticed this when he was calling an NFL game. He’s lucky. This is what I say about someone who does a good job. Others are not as fortunate. Catalon and Lappas are both local guys. I have heard them on WFAN. Lappas definitely knows his stuff, and I enjoy listening to him.

Jamie Erdahl works the sideline for this crew. She is one of the top NFL reporters. Erdahl works with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green on football broadcasts. However, she is only my second favorite Jamie from Minnesota. NHL and MLB host Jamie Hersch takes the cake.

Carter Blackburn / Debbie Antonelli // John Schriffen:


I have been listening to Blackburn for years. He does a good job calling basketball and football, but for some reason, it has not translated well into the tournament. His games are usually not great. I used to like Mike Gminski. Last year it seemed awkward when Antonelli was inserted into the crew.

Now it looks like CBS was just phasing out Gminski, who did not return this year. I have not seen enough of Schriffen to really make a judgment, but there are reasons this crew is ranked below all others.

The top four teams will work again the next couple days and this weekend. You know what they say during infomercials. But wait…there’s more! I have other media thoughts. Expect an article¬†very soon.

Running Through the Madness From a Wild First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament

No sporting event is like the NCAA Tournament. I wrote this minutes before seeing that Dan had just posted an article saying the same thing. If you don’t like it, I’m pretty sure there is something wrong with you. Most likely you’ve never really given it a chance. You’ll probably be won over. People use the “one and done” term when describing players who attend college for just one year, but the magic of this tournament is the one and done format. Single elimination. Only football provides this drama, but teams play once each week. There are fewer teams and games.

Villanova started off the weekend by running away from Alabama after a competitive first half. The second game¬†in Pittsburgh saw Duke handle Rhode Island. Kentucky overpowered Buffalo. Then, things got interesting. Loyola-Chicago defeated Tennessee in dramatic fashion. Sister Jean’s guys seemed to benefit from divine¬†intervention as the winning shot bounced around and fell through with seconds remaining. Her story has been getting even more attention than the UMBC upset, and¬†Loyola-Chicago is not done yet.

Kansas outscored Seton Hall in a typical bad beat game. The Pirates hit Kansas with a classic backdoor. Gonzaga beat Ohio State in a wild contest. The Zags went up 15-0, fell behind, and rallied back with a late 11-0 spurt to go ahead for good.

Texas Tech knocked out Florida in a close game. Neither team went up by double digits. Texas Tech’s biggest lead was 58-50, but Florida came back and tied the game¬†at 64. Michigan provided some¬†excitement by beating Houston on a buzzer beater. You have heard of brackets being busted. That shot saved many brackets. This ending showed us the ecstasy of hitting a winning shot, but also the agony of missing free throws that could have won it for Houston.

On to Sunday. After Purdue held off Butler, Syracuse upset Michigan State. The Orange have quite a following. They remind me of Notre Dame. So many fans, but a lot of haters as well. Jim Boeheim did it again. His zone has been frustrating opponents for decades. It was like pulling teeth, but Syracuse held on.

There was so much more to come. Texas A&M routed North Carolina. The game was in Charlotte. One of the themes in this tournament has been underdogs blowing out favorites. Not often in the grand scheme of things, but Arizona and Virginia were also defeated by large margins when heavily favored.

Next up was Nevada and Cincinnati. The Wolf Pack defeated Texas after falling behind by 14¬†on Friday. Cincinnati went up by 22. I switched to the Auburn game and looked at some tweets. Since my eyes were not on the game and scoreboards up top, I didn’t realize what was happening. Suddenly people started tweeting¬†about Nevada¬†going on a 16-0 run. When all was said and done, Nevada had rallied to win.

As for Auburn, Charles Barkley’s school lost by 31. It wasn’t even that close. Kansas State ended UMBC’s magical tournament stay. It was there for the taking, but UMBC could not knock down a key shot. They had numerous chances to grab a second-half lead. For the first time ever, seeds 1-4 in a region all failed to make it into a sweet 16. The door is open for Kentucky.


FSU rallied late¬†and knocked out number one Xavier. I started to worry when last year was brought up. Xavier upset FSU last year. That¬†game took place¬†in Florida. It was a blowout that would have fit well with the shocking results of this year’s tournament. Florida State rallied in Nashville last night after the impressive Nevada comeback earlier on the same floor. West Virginia outclassed Marshall to conclude¬†Sunday’s¬†action. I didn’t even get to the announcers yet. As they say, stay tuned.

No Matter What Happens, UMBC Will Be The Team Of The Tournament

The NCAA Tournament is well, madness. No other major sport has anything that resembles March Madness. Upsets, buzzer beaters, and bad beats are what make these three weeks so special. Players come and go, teams win and lose, but once in awhile, a story comes around that is universally beloved and captivates the nation. This year, that title belongs to the UMBC Retrievers.

A 16 seed had never beaten a 1 seed going into Friday night. On the 136th edition of a 16 vs. a 1, finally, history was made. UMBC defeated Virginia 74-54,¬†etching their name into March Madness immortality. UMBC did not just win the game, they blew the Cavs out of the gym. UMBC was 54% from the field and 50% from 3 while Virginia shot 41% from the field and an abysmal 18% from 3. That is a recipe for an upset.¬†It’s weird that in a year where experts talked about how Penn could be the 16 seed to finally be a 1, the 16 seed to get the least attention ended up shocking the world.

As the game went on, UMBC continued to make shot after shot while Virginia continued to struggle and lose their identity of tough defense and efficient offense. UMBC was up 16 with over 8 minutes left and I still questioned if this was possible. “Virginia has to make a run, right? There’s no way UMBC wins this game.” Wrong.

While the game was going on, the UMBC Athletics Twitter Account decided to upstage the play on the court with witty remark after witty remark.

UMBC’s cinderella run ended in a 50-43 loss to Kansas State, but in the grand scheme of things, no one will remember that loss. Teams win and lose all the time in this tournament, but it’s rare to get remembered. I bet that if you were to ask the common basketball fan who was in the Final Four last year, I bet more than 50% of people could not answer that. I’ll go one step further and say 50% of people could not name who was in the title game last year.

However, people will remember UMBC and their magical upset. Their win will become a “where were you when it happened” type of moment. UMBC won the hearts of the American public and for that, we thank you.

Author’s Note: I’m fully aware that if Loyola Chicago wins the championship, they will be the team that everyone remembers. I’ll keep that article in a draft for now.