NCAA Tournament Recap


Photo by Robert Deutsch/Reuters (The Wall Street Journal)

Jalen Brunson holds the national championship trophy after defeating the Michigan Wolverines.

Nick Slavinsky, Sports Writer

Now that the 2018 NCAA tournament has come to an end and the Villanova Wildcats have won their second championship in 3 years, it’s time to take a look back at one of the wildest tournaments in recent history to find out which teams and players brought the madness to March.


The Seniors:

College basketball’s regular season is often identified by talented freshman, future top draft picks, the one-and-done players we all know are only in college because they can’t go to the NBA straight out of high school. Although these 18 year old’s are the stars of college basketball, when March arrives it’s the leadership of seniors that matters most.

University of North Carolina seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson lead the Tar Heels to a 2 seed in this year’s tournament after winning the championship last season. Despite being picked to reach the final four in 34.4% of brackets on the tournament challenge, North Carolina was unable to get out of the second round after losing to Texas A&M.

Kansas’s senior, Devonte Graham, was able to lead the Jayhawks to the final four though. Graham averaged 17.4 points per game along with 5.6 assists per game in Kansas’s five tournament games. Graham’s 23 points against Villanova in the final four, however, wasn’t enough to get Kansas to the championship game.

Grayson Allen’s 4 year career at Duke has been highlighted by incidents of him tripping opposing players on the court. Although he’s been called a dirty player, Allen has been on of college basketball’s best players since he arrived in Durham, North Carolina. Allen averaged 14.2 points per game over his career, giving him a total of 1,996 career points, just 4 points short of the 2,000 mark. Allen scored 16 points in Duke’s win over Wisconsin in the 2015 national championship game, but Blue Devils fans last memory of him will be his missed shot as time expired against Kansas in the elite 8 that would have sent his team to the final four this year.

Even though these seniors are not the stars of college basketball, Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans, Michigan’s Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and West Virginia’s Jevon Carter each had great careers of their own. The Red Raiders were only able to win 13 games and finished last in the Big 12 in Keenan Evan’s freshman season at Texas Tech. In his senior year, Evans and his 17.6 points per game were able to lead Texas Tech to a 27 win season, the school’s first appearance in the elite 8, and came close to ending Kansas’s streak of 13 straight Big 12 championships. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was one of three captains for the Michigan Wolverines this year, and helped lead the team to the most wins in school history. Rahkman averaged 12.9 points per game during the regular season and 14.3 during Michigan’s ncaa tournament run to the national championship game. Jevon Carter has been the heart of a West Virginia team that reached the ncaa tournament all four years of his career, including a 3 seed, 4 seed, and a 5 seed twice. As a senior, Carter averaged 17.3 points per game and 6.6 assists per game, but he’s always been known for his outstanding defense.


The Freshman:

Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Jaylen Brown. These are the names of former top draft picks and college basketball one-and-dones that failed to make it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, or didn’t make the tournament at all. This year was no different for the freshman superstars.

Michigan State star freshman Jaren Jackson Jr., an expected top 10 pick in the NBA draft this summer, was unable to carry his Spartans out of the second round. Jackson Jr. scored just 2 points in Michigan State’s second round loss to Syracuse.

DeAndre Ayton performed well in his only tournament game for Arizona, but his 14 points and 13 rebounds were not enough to get his team past Buffalo in the first round. 90.2% of brackets on ESPN’s tournament challenge had Arizona advancing to the second round, and 18% of brackets had them reaching the final four.

Oklahoma’s Trae Young became the biggest name in college basketball this season after averaging 31.2 points per game and 8 assists per game over the month of January. Young began drawing Steph Curry comparison, but couldn’t live up to the the hype in March. Young did score 28 points and added 7 assists in a first round loss to Rhode Island, but after a late season slump many believed Oklahoma should not have reached the tournament.

In just his second game back from back surgery, Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. managed to score 16 points and grab 10 rebounds in the Tiger’s first round loss to Florida State. 1.1% of ESPN tournament challenge brackets had Missouri reaching the final four, higher than any other 8 seed this year.

Collin Sexton of Alabama and Duke’s Marvin Bagley III are two freshman that did not disappoint this March. Sexton scored 25 and 17 points in his two tournament games before Alabama’s loss in the second round to the eventual champion Villanova Wildcats. Bagley III scored over 20 points in his first three tournament games before Duke lost to Kansas in the elite 8.


The Final Four:

The 2018 NCAA tournament champions had three starters on its roster who all played for the 2016 Villanova national championship team (Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Phil Booth) as well as Donte DiVincenzo who came off the bench and scored 31 points against Michigan. Villanova ranked first in the nation in scoring this year with 86.6 points per game. The Wildcat’s high scoring, as well as excellent defense throughout the tournament helped the team win each of its six ncaa tournament games by double digits. Jay Wright joined Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and UNC’s Roy Williams as the only active coaches with multiple national championships with Villanova’s win this year.

Only 8.1% of ESPN’s tournament challenge brackets picked Michigan to reach the national championship game. The Wolverines were not even the most popular 3 seed picked to get passed the final four (Michigan State, 16.4%). Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Charles Mathews received West Regional All Tournament Team honors, and Mathews was named the region’s most outstanding player. With his second national championship game and third elite 8 appearance in 6 years, Michigan head coach John Beilein has earned his spot as one of the best coaches in college basketball.

Kansas had the toughest path to the final four among the four teams, having to go through Clemson, who beat Auburn by 31 points in the second round, as well as facing Duke in the elite 8. Although Devonte Graham was the heart of the Kansas Jayhawks this year, sophomore guard Malik Newman carried the team to the final four with a 32 point game against Duke and a 28 point game against Seton Hall in the second round. This was Kansas’s 15th final four appearance, the first since 2012.

Lead by seniors Ben Richardson and Donte Ingram, as well as junior Clayton Custer, Loyola-Chicago became just the fourth 11 seed to reach the final four. The Ramblers won on last second shots against Miami, Tennessee, and Nevada in the first three rounds before blowing past Kansas State in the elite 8. Despite losing to Michigan in the final four, college basketball fans will always remember Sister Jean and her Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.


The Cinderella team:

Loyola-Chicago would be the easy pick for this year’s Cinderella team, but we’ve seen 11 seeds do what the Ramblers did before. VCU reached the final four as an 11 seed just seven years ago. What we have never seen though, is a 16 seed take down a 1 seed in the first round. Until this year at least. On March 16, 2018, the ncaa tournament changed forever when UMBC beat the overall number one seed Virginia Cavaliers. 18.5% of brackets had Virginia winning the championship on ESPN’s tournament challenge, over 2% higher than the next closest team (Villanova). We will always remember the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers as the first ever 16 seed to win a game in the NCAA tournament.