A Look Back at the Highlights of March Madness


NCAA Photo

Flying high, the 15-seeded Oral Roberts Golden Eagles celebrate an upset victory over the 2-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes.

Chris Carr, Contributing Writer

Last week, many college basketball fans celebrated the beginning of the NCAA college basketball tournament, or as many fans refer to it, “March Madness.” Luckily for fans, this past week’s display of games did not disappoint, and many saw why the tournament has been nicknamed “March Madness”. Hingham High sophomore Tommy Barnet noted that “this has been one of the best tournaments we have seen in years.” So, without further ado, here is a look at some of the highlights of the first round and what is to come in the rest of the tournament next week. 

The first and largest upset of the tournament arrived in the first round with the 15-seeded Oral Roberts Golden Eagles shocking the 2-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes. Before this week’s games, 15 seeds were 8-132 against 2 seeds, so many fans did not give this game much thought. Over 95 percent of the brackets and nearly 14 million people picked Ohio State to defeat Oral Roberts. However, Oral Roberts is home to the leading scorer in Division I basketball, Max Abmas, a sophomore point guard. Undersized at only six-feet and one inch tall, Abmas did not let his height stop him from playing at a high level against a top 10 team in the country. Max and his teammate Kevin Obanor combined for 59 of the team’s 75 points and each of them laced 5 three pointers in a winning effort. The Golden Eagles were able to lock up Ohio State on the defensive side as well, holding them to just 5-23 shooting from beyond the arc and 9-18 from the free throw line.

This victory marked the program’s first tournament win since 1974, and it was followed up by a huge on-court celebration for the Golden Eagles that would have been complimented by loads of fans in any other year. However, head coach Paul Mills believed that the team was not done yet and said, “ORU has won two NCAA tournament games in its history,” and  “I would love to tie that record.”

Another shocking upset was provided by the 14-seeded Abilene Christian Wildcats against the 3-seeded Texas Longhorns. Two Texas teams were featured in this matchup: at the time of the game, one was a basketball powerhouse with the 11th most appearances all-time in the NCAA tournament, while the other had only appeared in the tournament once before and lost their only other NCAA tournament game. Many would favor the first team, especially considering that the Longhorns were seeded 11 spots higher than their opponent, the Abilene Christian Wildcats. However, in March Madness, anything is possible and in a highly-defensive game, the Wildcats gained their 1st tournament win with a 53-52 victor over the Longhorns.

This game featured a stunning overtime finish where ACU forward Joe Pleasant nailed two clutch free throws with 1.2 seconds left on the clock which ended up being game winners for the Wildcats. Not to mention, Pleasant’s free throw percentage was under 60% entering this game, an extremely low mark even for the college level. Despite shooting 20-67 from the field and 3-18 from three, the Wildcats somehow pulled out a shocking victory that made history for the program.

Lastly, another huge upset occurred in the second round of games where the 1-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini were defeated by the 8-seeded Loyola Chicago Ramblers. Although Loyola Chicago made a fantastic run to the final four in 2018, the Ramblers have not had much tournament success outside of it, with only six all time tournament appearances. As one of the top seeds in the tournament and the first of them to lose, the Illini were shocked as they never possessed a lead for the entire night. The Ramblers dominated largely thanks to the senior big man Cameron Krutwig who added 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists to his name. Their great defensive play against one of the top players in the nation, in the Illini’s Ayo Dosunmu netted them a huge victory and led them to a spot in the elite eight. 101-year-old Sister Jean, who has become the icon for Loyola Chicago basketball, was in attendance for the game and was thrilled by her team’s success. Thankfully, the fans will get to watch the ramblers compete again in the Elite Eight against the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday at 2:40 PM in Indianapolis. 

Following a great display of games, many more are still to come as March Madness returns with the Sweet Sixteen beginning on Saturday, March 27th and concluding with the championship game on Monday, April 5th. Hingham High sophomore Johnny Dwyer said, “This is always my favorite time of the year, and the games next week should be a lot of fun to watch.” The final week of the tournament features an exciting field of top-tier college basketball programs like the Michigan Wolverines and Gonzaga Bulldogs, however, lots of underdogs remain such as the previously mentioned Oral Roberts Golden Eagles and Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. With so many talented teams and players, expect a memorable conclusion to an already historic year in the NCAA tournament!