A Return to Madness

Storylines from this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Nathan Anderson, Staff Writer

After an unprecedented absence due to the pandemonium that was 2020, the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament returned to fill the void it left in our lives a year ago. Brackets were busted. Buzzers were beaten. Tears have been shed at the end of storied careers. In the wake of the tournament, this article takes a look at what made this year’s tournament memorable.

Nobody’s Safe

No tournament has been without upsets, but it seems like this year’s tournament was trying to compensate for last year’s. From the very early rounds, where fifteen-seed Oral Roberts went on a run to the sweet sixteen, to the championship, where Baylor took formerly undefeated and heavy betting favorite Gonzaga to the woodshed in an 86-70 “game”. Fans of the upset were elated to see four different double-digit seeds in this year’s sweet sixteen, falling one team short of the record set by the field of 1999.

This brought nothing but pain for anyone who attempted to fill out a bracket. “My bracket was kind of terrible,” Carter Kallen ’23 said. “I was sitting towards the bottom… it was pretty bad.”

Chemistry teacher Matt Jaschen had a similar experience. “While I had Baylor in my final four [my] Illinois bracket completely blew up,” Jaschen said.

Party Like It’s 1963

Eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago has enjoyed moderate success recently, but have yet to replicate the national success of their tournament-winning 1963 team. The team enjoyed a run to the sweet sixteen this year under head coach Porter Moser, who has since left for greener pastures and greener paychecks at Oklahoma. While his leadership was certainly invaluable, 101 year old nun and team chaplain Sister Jean was certainly the heart of the team. On the court, however, center Cameron Krutwig lead his team with a double-double to demolish top-seeded Illinois 71-58, and single-handedly trashed this writer’s bracket.

Loyola’s run ended sooner than some would have wished, losing 65-58 to an Oregon State team that certainly overachieved as well. “I thought it was super awesome to see them beat Illinois,” Local Loyola super-fan Stephen Beaman ’22 said. “They played how they normally played. I thought it was a great season and a great run for Krutwig and [Lucas] Williamson.”

Unsurprisingly, Beaman is also a fan of Sister Jean. “I think [she] just gives the team a sense of hope and everything for every game,” Beaman said. “I think she’s like their figure, their idol, and she just helps them play better.”

Corona Crashed the Party

Iowa fans everywhere will tell you all about how Oregon’s fresh legs led to Iowa’s demise, and definitely not Iowa’s porous defense. These performance-enhancing fresh legs were courtesy of the coronavirus, as the VCU- Oregon game in the round of 64 was stopped before it started. Oregon automatically advanced to the round of 32 as the higher ranked seed, and proceeded to send second-seeded Iowa home early. Thankfully, the coronavirus stopped there, and the rest of the tournament was played safely.

Gonzaga Sends UCLA Home Blue

Eleventh-seeded UCLA’s magical run from the first four to the final four ended painfully for UCLA fans, as Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs sank a three-point buzzer-beating prayer in overtime to send the Bruins back to LA. UCLA exceeded expectations and made it all the way to the final four, taking then-undefeated Gonzaga to overtime before taking the plane back home. UCLA beat sixth seeded BYU, second seeded Alabama, and top-seeded Michigan before falling to the national runner-up Bulldogs. Gonzaga’s Drew Timme (and his amazing facial hair) would have stolen headlines with 25 points, had the freshman Jalen Suggs not sunk an all-time great shot to end the game.

Garza’s Goodbye

The second-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes vastly underperformed expectations, falling short to the previously mentioned Oregon Ducks. It was not for a lack of offensive firepower, as the Hawks tallied 80 points. The problem lied with the defense, as Oregon splashed and slashed to the tune of 95 points by the final buzzer. College basketball’s best player, Iowa’s Luka Garza, left the court teary-eyed after the Naismith award winner put up 36 points and nine rebounds in a strong solo performance. “I think both as a team and as a fanbase, he was somebody that was associated with what Iowa fans like,” History teacher and Iowa super-fan Tyler Miklo said. “His hard work, his development, his humble nature, embodied the fans of Iowa and what the Iowa basketball program’s all about.”

The 2021 NCAA Basketball tournament will not soon be forgotten, courtesy of these iconic moments.