March Madness is always one of the sports highlights of the year. Millions of people tune in to watch Cinderella break their bracket, and then root for them the rest of the way. This year was no different. In both the men’s and women’s tournaments, there were plenty of highlights.
St. Peters Cinderella run
Perhaps there was no bigger story during this year’s tournament than the dream run of the St. Peters Peacocks. The small school from New Jersey had upset wins against Kentucky, Purdue and Murray State before eventually falling to North Carolina.
Head coach Shaheen Halloway became a star on television with his cool and collected post-game interviews, never doubting a win. Following their run, he was named head coach at his alma mater, Seton Hall, so it is likely the basketball world will see him again soon.
Duke vs UNC
One of the biggest rivalries in all of college sports finally met in the big dance. In Coach K’s last tournament, the only team standing between him and another championship appearance was their fierce rival, North Carolina.
Seeking revenge for ruining Coach K’s last home game, Duke was looking to continue the storybook ending for their legendary coach. The Tar Heels had no part in that though, beating Duke again and punching their ticket to the finals.
South Carolina’s women dominate
Basketball is a game where a lot of points are scored on both sides, leading to high-scoring shootouts. That is, unless you are playing against the Gamecocks women’s basketball team. In their first-round matchup against Howard University, they allowed just 4 points in the entire first half, cruising to a 79-21 win.
The dominance didn’t stop in the first round. The Gamecocks carried it all the way to the title, beating the famous UConn women’s team 64-49 while holding the Huskies to under 15 points in three out of the four quarters.
Kansas wins men’s title
In a clash of the basketball blue bloods, Kansas got the win over the UNC Tar Heels 72-69. The game looked to be put away early, but not in the way you might expect. It was actually North Carolina who held a massive advantage early on in the game. The Tar Heels and new Head Coach Hubert Davis had a 15-point lead at halftime before the Kansas Jayhawks came storming back in the second half.
The second half was a complete flip of the first. Kansas only managed to score 25 points in the entire first half; they nearly doubled that in the second, falling only one point short of the feat. The 15-point comeback marked the biggest second-half comeback in the history of the championship.
As always, there were other upsets. Tournament favorite Gonzaga lost in the Sweet 16. Auburn, coming off a really strong season, didn’t make it past the round of 32, where Baylor fell, as well. A quarter of the teams in the Sweet 16 were double-digit seeds.
All in all, this year’s tournaments were some of the stronger ones in recent memory. The basketball on both sides delivered, and once again, there were no perfect brackets. Maybe next year.