College Basketball Catch-Up: A Map of the Madness

My reactions to the entirety of the NCAA tournament, prior to the championship.

Lamont Butler and his teammates celebrate his buzzer-beater against FAU. They are wearing white uniforms.

“College Basketball Catch-Up” is a column by Terence Holton discussing the latest men’s college basketball headlines.

In a season which featured top-10 upsets seemingly every single week, I cannot think of a better way to end this season than with the NCAA tournament we have had. From No. 15 seed Princeton becoming the fourth ever No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16 to Fairleigh Dickinson knocking off No. 1 seed Purdue after making the tournament on a technicality, this season was truly madness. With that being said, here are my top headlines from the NCAA tournament.

No. 1 seeds disappoint. Heavily.

Coming into this year’s tournament, I thought that anyone could win of course, but I imagined teams like Alabama, Houston and Kansas would be heavily chosen favorites. Yet, for the first time in tournament history, not a single No. 1 seed made it to the Elite Eight, with two of them bowing out even before the Sweet 16.

Alabama lost at the hands of No. 5 San Diego State, who of course is in the championship for the first time in program history. The story of why this Crimson Tide team couldn’t perform? Brandon Miller. Alabama’s best player and the SEC Player of the Year, freshman forward Miller, shot a wickedly horrible 8-for-41 from the field through the three games the Tide played. While Miller is a projected top-five pick in this year’s NBA Draft, this sure did hinder his stock a bit after a fantastic season.

Houston was never that team. Now, this could come with some controversy, but I truly don’t believe Houston was ever going to win the tournament. The Cougars played in a mediocre AAC conference and played average out of conference opponents, the most notable being Virginia, Saint Mary’s and Oregon. The cracks showed early in this team when the Cougars barely beat No. 16 seed Northern Kentucky, and coupled with a Marcus Sasser injury in the AAC tournament, I was never a huge fan of Houston.

The defending national champs never stood a chance. Kansas was an extremely talented team and once had the potential to go back to back. However, with a mysterious health concern of legendary head coach Bill Self keeping him from both the Big 12 and NCAA tournament as well as drawing an extremely talented Arkansas team in the second round, it would have been very difficult to get the second consecutive championship for the Jayhawks.

Oh, Purdue. Exactly five years and one day prior, Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed and was the laughing stock of the nation. Purdue has since then foiled the country’s comedic relief of Virginia with a loss to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson. Purdue is another team I just wasn’t high on. They were truly a one-man army with junior forward Zach Edey carrying them on his 7-foot-4-inch figure to a No. 1 seed. But when push came to shove, the rest of the Boilermakers drug Edey right down to the dark pits of West Lafayette. The only thing Purdue can do is be like Virginia and win a national championship next year — it is quite literally the only thing that will redeem them.

This wacky, wild Final Four

Last year, we had pure Blue Blood. This year, it is all new blood. As I have said, I cannot think of a better end to this crazy season than to have a Final Four with three teams who have never made it before. It is why I love college basketball and March Madness specifically. Anything can happen.

This Final Four gave us an all time classic between Florida Atlantic and San Diego State. After a missed shot by FAU with 10 seconds to play, SDSU junior guard Lamont Butler raced up the floor with the ball, got stuck on the baseline, nearly stepped out of bounds, pulled it out, then … bang! With no time remaining, Butler hit a shot every kid dreams of hitting to send the Aztecs to the championship.

I mean you can’t really make a story better than that game: down 14 in the second half, the Aztecs came back and hit only the fifth ever buzzer beater in Final Four history to send them to their first NCAA title game.

Hats off to Florida Atlantic, though.  To be a No. 9 seed and make the final four — it just doesn’t happen. Especially because it is only its second time ever being in March Madness. Absolutely wild.

The second game was a whole lot less eventful with UConn, as they have this whole tournament, dominating for pretty much the entire game. Miami made an incredible run, but this UConn team is just something else. Realistically they should have been a No. 1 seed, but a rough patch in Big East play hindered that. The Huskies have won every game in the NCAA tournament by an average of 20.2 points per game, and the championship could very well be similar.

For tonight, I’m just hoping for a close game. I’d like to see the Aztecs win, but I went to Las Vegas and watched the Huskies beat Gonzaga to a pulp. I just don’t see how they lose this thing.

“College Basketball Catch-Up” runs every Monday.