Baylor wins upset-ridden March Madness


Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos

Trying to beat the Clemson defense, Rutgers junior Ron Harper jumps in the air to attempt a shot, in the First Round of the 2021 NCAA March Madness basketball tournament on March 19.

Dylan Scheel, Business Manager

Every year, 68 college basketball teams from around the country compete in March Madness, hoping to be crowned as National Champions. However, in March of 2020, the tournament was canceled before it could even start due to COVID-19. This year, the teams were back and able to play. The teams had to take lots of precautions including taking COVID-19 tests weekly and quarantining in the “NCAA bubble.”

The tournament is broken down into four regions with 16 teams in each region. These teams are ranked 1-16 based on their regular season and conference championship play. Fans around the country make brackets and try to predict who will win all the games. The tournament is started with the “first four” which are four games that decide the final four teams included in the tournament. This year’s “first four” games included: Norfolk State vs. Appalachian State, Mount St. Mary’s vs Texas Southern, Wichita State vs. Drake and Michigan State vs. UCLA. The winners of the first four were Texas Southern, Drake, Norfolk State and UCLA.

The tournament then officially began with the round of 64 where all No. 1 seeds coasted to victories. There were multiple upsets including No. 13 Ohio beating No. 4 Virginia in the West Region, No. 13 North Texas beating No. 4 Purdue and No. 14 Abilene Christian beating No. 3 Texas. The most notable upset in the round of 64 was when Midwest Region No. 15 Oral Roberts shocked No. 2 Ohio State in a 75-72 victory. With all the upsets in the first round, only 121 brackets were left perfect after the first day of play.

In the second round of the tournament, Oral Roberts continued their reign of upsets by beating Florida 81-78. No. 11 Syracuse led by Buddy Boehiem’s 25 point night took down No. 3 West Virginia 75-72, while No. 8 Loyola Chicago forced No. 1 Illinois into 17 turnovers on route to a 71-58 victory. No. 11 seed UCLA and No. 12 Oregon State avoided elimination against their opponents, Abilene Christian and Oklahoma State.

In the Sweet 16, UCLA and Oregon State both took down their opponents to continue their Cinderella runs. No. 1 Gonzaga continued their dominance in the West Region and beat Creighton by 18 points, led by Drew Timme’s 30-point performance. Fellow No. 1 seeds Michigan and Baylor continued to roll past their opponents each with over 10 point wins, and Houston ended Syracuse’s dream run with a 62-48 win. 

The Elite 8 was filled with big performances and big wins. In the top of the bracket, Gonzaga and Baylor easily took down their opponents, USC and Arkansas. Houston took down Oregon State 67-6, and in the East, No. 11 UCLA once again upset a top seed opponent in No. 1 Michigan to punch their ticket to the Final Four. Johnny Juzang led the Bruins, scoring 28 of the team’s 51 points. 

The Final Four consisted of Gonzaga vs. UCLA and Baylor vs. Houston on April 3. Gonzaga vs. UCLA was a back and forth game the whole way, and the score was 81-81 at the end of regulation. Gonzaga won the game off of a half court buzzer beater in overtime from freshman Jalen Suggs, despite a 29 point performance from UCLA’s Juzang and the Bruins out rebounding the Bulldogs as a team.

“I’ve always wanted to run on the table like Kobe and D-Wade. That is something that you practice on your mini hoop as a kid or at the gym, just messing around. To be able to do that is crazy,” Suggs said in an interview after the game.

The game ended 93-90. Baylor vs. Houston was a different story, as Baylor cruised past Houston in a 78-59 game, led by Jared Butler’s 17 points and four assists.

The National championship game took place on April 5 at Church Hall in Georgetown, Washington D.C. Baylor started out strong, scoring nine straight points and holding Gonzaga off on defense before the Bulldogs could get their first point off of a free-throw almost five minutes into the game. Gonzaga was able to start getting their offense going, but the Bulldogs had no answer on defense for Butler and the Bears. In the first half, the Bears took a commanding lead, but the Bulldogs kept fighting and brought the lead to within ten points. Coming out of the break, the Bulldogs continued to fight to bring back the score, but the Bears didn’t let up. The Bears doubled Gonzaga’s rebound total on the night, grabbing 34 boards on the way to the win. Baylor, led by Butler’s 22 points and seven assists, won its first NCAA championship in school history.