A complete recap of the 2019 NCAA Championship


Alexa Melnitsky

Over the span of about three weeks, the NCAA had one of its most popular events: the NCAA Championship, informally known as March Madness, in which 64 division I college basketball teams fight to earn the title of NCAA Champion, bracket, single elimination, tournament style. The Fanscotian covered the bracket picks right before the first round, and illustrated the predicted upsets. Here’s what actually happened during March Madness 2019.
The Upsets
The 12/5 upset is always expected, and the 2019 NCAA Championship did not fall short on this expectation. Out of the four 12/5 games, THREE of them followed through with the upset; no. 12 Liberty over no. 5 Mississippi State, no. 12 Murray State over no. 5 Marquette, and no. 12 Oregon over no. 5 Wisconsin. Other notable upsets in the first round were no. 10 Florida over no. 7 Nevada, no. 10 Minnesota over no. 7 Louisville, no. 13 UC Irvine over no. 4 Kansas State, no. 10 Iowa over no. 7 Cincinnati, and no. 11 Ohio State over no. 6 Iowa State. As expected, the top three seeds all made it to at least the second round. Other than no. 5 Auburn over no. 4 Kansas, the second round did not offer any unexpected results. Though the upset of no. 3 Texas Tech over no. 2 Michigan and no. 3 Purdue over no. 2 Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen was not necessarily as surprising as some other upsets, the upset of no. 5 Auburn over no. 1 North Carolina not only was unexpected, but messed up MANY brackets, as, according to the NCAA, 15.8% of all brackets predicted North Carolina as the champion, the second most picked champion. Once the Elite Eight teams were finalized, no team was safe, as three of the four Elite Eight games resulted in upsets. No. 3 Texas Tech defeated no. 1 Gonzaga, no. 5 Auburn defeated no. 2 Kentucky, and to much surprise, no. 2 Michigan State defeated the mighty no. 1 Duke, a team that had the majority bracket picks with 39.7% of all brackets. No. 1 Virginia, however, was able to defeat no. 3 Purdue. That left Michigan State, Texas Tech, Virginia, and Auburn in the Final Four; in which Texas Tech crushed Michigan State, and Virginia narrowly won over Auburn.
Key Players
Even if you only followed the teams and not so much the players, it was hard to not hear about some key NCAA players throughout the games, with many of them declaring themselves eligible for the NBA draft after the tournament. One of those players is PJ Washington, sophomore and forward at Kentucky. This season, Washington averaged 15.2 points per game, and recently announced that he will not be returning to the Kentucky next year, as he has signed with an agent and declared himself for the NBA draft. He is predicted to be a top 20 draft pick. Fellow sophomore guard Ja Morant at Murray State has also declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. He averaged 24.5 PTS, and 10 assists per game. Though Murray State fell through in the second round against no. 4 Florida State, this has not dampened Morant, who is likely to be a top 3 draft pick. Another key player in this year’s NCAA Championship was RJ Barrett, freshman at Duke. He averaged 22.6 PTS and declared himself eligible for the NBA draft after one season. He helped Duke as a forward up until the Elite Eight. Another key player that helped lead their team was guard Kyle Guy, a junior at Virginia. His PTS was 15.4, but that proved to work in his favor, as he helped lead Virginia to their first Final Four, first championship round, and ultimately, their first NCAA championship win. Guy will be returning to Virginia next year as a senior, as of now, but he was ranked as the number 8 draft pick out of the final four teams. The number one draft pick, however, and the one name that anyone who even glanced at college basketball this year would know, is Duke freshman and forward Zion Williamson. Williamson was named ACC player of the year and ACC rookie of the year this year in his first season with Duke, and set the single-game school scoring record for freshmen in January 2019. Williamson led Duke to the Elite Eight in March Madness and has declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. He is predicted to be the number 1 draft pick. The New York Knicks, the Arizona Suns, and the Chicago Bulls are predicted to have the number one pick as well.
The Championship Teams
The almost month long NCAA tournament commenced in a surprising matchup – Virginia Cavaliers vs Texas Tech Red Raiders. Last tournament, Virginia was once again the no. 1 seed, but suffered a shocking loss against no. 16 seed UMBC in the first round. Texas Tech was also ranked no. 3 last year, but lost in the final four to no. 1 and eventual winner Villanova. This year, 5.9% of all brackets picked Virginia as a champion, making them the fourth most picked team (after Duke, North Carolina, and Gonzaga), while 0.7% of all brackets correctly picked Texas Tech as the champion. Only 0.3% of all brackets correctly predicted the championship teams. Out of the 0.3% of people who correctly picked the championship teams, 60.7% picked Virginia to win, while 39.3% of people nominated Texas Tech as champions. Virginia went 35-3 this year, with a 16-2 ACC record. Texas Tech went 31-7 overall. Virginia breezed through first two rounds of the tournament, defeating no. 16 Gardner Webb and no. 9 Oklahoma by more than 10 points each (71-56) and (63-51). In the Sweet Sixteen, they won against Oregon as well, but it was a close match with only a four point margin (53-49). They successfully defeated Purdue (80-75), but very narrowly defeated Auburn by only one point in the Final Four (63-62). This brought them to the championship match in Minneapolis. This was generally expected, as previously stated, they were the fourth most picked team as champion. Texas Tech, however, had an arguably more triumphant journey to the championship match.They also breezed through the first two rounds, defeating no. 14 Northern Kentucky (72-57) and no. 6 Buffalo (78-58). However, their first major upset came in the Sweet Sixteen, when they crushed Michigan by a staggering 19 points (63-44). This upset streak continued in the Elite Eight and Final Four, as they defeated Gonzaga (75-69), a team that 11.7% of all bracket picks predicted to win the whole championship, and Michigan State (61-51).  
The Championship Match
April 8th, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Virginia Cavaliers and Texas Tech Red Raiders faced off in a championship match that drew 19.63 million television viewers, 19% more than last year’s face off of Michigan vs Villanova. Virginia was led by guard Kyle Guy, while Texas Tech was led by guard Jarrett Culver. Virginia was able to bounce back from their surprising loss last tournament by holding off Texas Tech for an overtime 85-77 win. The score was generally tied throughout the match, up until the 3 pointer scored by Virginia guard De’Andre Hunter tied the game 68-68, subsequently sending the game into overtime. With 2:10 remaining in overtime, Hunter again sent Virginia in the lead with 75-73. Guy and Mamadi Diakite both scored two free throws each, and after a fast-paced overtime, and Virginia as the 2019 NCAA champions, their first ever championship. Texas Tech still made history as the 10th no. 3 seed ever to reach the championship round since 1979, while Virginia was the 24th no. 1 seed to win an NCAA championship, and the 37th no. 1 seed to reach the championship round. Virginia and Texas Tech faced an unpredictable road to the championship, and definitely made both of their schools proud.