As it does every year, the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament provided us with much excitement based on game winning shots and hard-fought games. In contrary to other years, this season was quite unusual because of the parity between most college teams.
Normally we see teams who remain strong throughout a whole season and use their momentum into the tournament. This year was quite different because several #1 ranked teams such as Duke, Villanova, Michigan State and Virginia, all lost their top ranking during the regular season. Based on these outcomes, it was a bit difficult to fill out tournament brackets and choose the legitimate #1 seed to win it all.
Another interesting fact to the college basketball season was the hot start by several teams. Teams such as Miami (FL), Arizona State, TCU, and Florida State who started the season 9-0 or better, at which later lost their momentum to close out their seasons.
Given these results, the NCAA tournament quickly began with a historical upset to which we have never seen before. #1 seed Virginia lost to 16th seed, UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County). I know what you are thinking, who? After their upset win, UMBC became the Cinderella team, viewers began rooting for.
I’d like to think Villanova’s title run was quietly set up for success based on what transpired during the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Cinderella Spotlight
At the start of the NCAA tournament, two teams from the South regional became America’s Cinderella teams. After UMBC’s upset win over Virginia, viewers focused their attention on UMBC’s tournament run. Thanks to Kansas State, UMBC’s run did not last very long but the other Cinderella team from the South kept everyone focused.
After beating Miami on a buzzer beating shot, Loyola Chicago remained successful throughout the tournament. Not many would have predicted Loyola’s success but their team chaplain became a national sensation. At first, much attention was brought to Sister Jean’s bracket, which had Loyola advancing to the “Sweet Sixteen”. Once Loyola exceeded her expectations, we all began to wonder if they could actually pull off this remarkable run for the ages.
Nova’s Focus Resulted in a Championship
Team Average Margin of Victory
Villanova 17.6 points
Michigan 11.6 points
Kansas 7 points
Loyola Chicago 5 points
This data shows the average margin of victory of all tournament games by Final Four teams.
Once the tournament began, Villanova became a small blip on the radar to national attention. With everyone focused on Loyola, Villanova was given the opportunity to play with no pressure. This gave them to opportunity to calmly focus on their opponents, which became evident in their play. Villanova led at halftime during every tournament game they played, which is no easy feat to accomplish.
In my opinion, the most critical reason behind Villanova’s championship run is their head coach, Jay Wright. His experience in the NCAA tournament provided a huge boost for his young players. Not to mention, he's recent championship in 2016, gave Wright instant credibility with his players. The game never became too much for this Villanova team. No matter what occurred in the first couple of minutes, they always managed to fight back and maintain their lead.
Without a question, Villanova quietly dominated this year's NCAA basketball tournament. They proved to be the best team from the start and never took their foot off the gas. As spectators, we failed to realize how good they were because of our focus on the "oh so good" story book finish that didn't happen.