Following a dramatic ending to the 2016 tournament with Villanova taking down North Carolina on a buzzer-beating three-pointer, expectations for this year’s NCAA March Madness were high. To say the 2017 tournament was exciting would be an understatement.
Villanova was poised to be another strong contender following their remarkable championship win last season, and for those who filled out brackets beforehand, many had the Wildcats doing the same this year. Unsurprisingly, another favorite to win it all was North Carolina, along with Duke following close behind, as well as Gonzaga, Kansas, and UCLA. Respectively, all of these teams did extremely well as expected. However, that is not to say that 2017 was void of upsets.
The first round of the tournament was full of little surprises. Almost every top-seeded team won with ease in the first weekend, and those anticipated to fall did just that. However, the next round was an entirely different story. After Villanova defeated Mount St. Mary’s in their first tournament win, they moved on to no. 8 seed Wisconsin. Seeing as the Wildcats were a no. 1 seed, very few could have correctly picked the outcome of this game. Wisconsin would hold off Villanova’s explosive offense on their way to a 65-62 victory, effectively dismantling most of the country’s March Madness brackets.
The upsets did not end there. No. 2 seed Duke, another favorite to claim the NCAA title, would be stopped in their tracks by an impressively formidable South Carolina team, whose reign would not end there. The Gamecocks moved onto the next round to face Baylor; the Bears were seeded at no. 3, and were considered favorites in the matchup. South Carolina won by 20 points, moving on again to face an intimidating Florida team, who they also defeated until finally falling to no. 1 Gonzaga. Their extraordinary win streak was something that was certainly unexpected by many.
Another underdog to defy the odds was Xavier, who won their first three games of the tournament against Maryland, Florida State, and Arizona who were all considered serious contenders. However, like many, they too were stopped by Gonzaga’s strong offense and defense. With all of their wins, the Bulldogs would unsurprisingly make it to the championship game, where they met North Carolina; two no. 1 seeds who were contenders from the start.
The title game was very evenly matched throughout, with both teams shooting around a 34% field goal average. What seemed to plague Gonzaga however, was turnovers. The Bulldogs would turn the ball over 14 times total in the game, and the Tar Heels would take advantage. Joel Berry II would lead his North Carolina team in points with 22, making all four of the team’s only three-pointers. His efforts and that of his teammates would secure the 71-65 victory, redeeming themselves from the heartbreaking loss against Villanova just a year ago.
The 2017 NCAA Basketball tournament was nothing short of a drama-filled, sensational showcase of talent. Though many fans’ brackets were deemed incorrect very early on, there’s no denying that the excitement that came with every upset, win or loss, this year’s March Madness surely delivered.