The 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament started off unlike any other in history. Every year, March Madness consists of unpredictable upsets, late game thrillers, and, of course, the nation’s favorite “Cinderella” team prevailing against the odds. The Final Four is locked and ready for the big stage, with two out of the four teams being Noah Basketball users. Here’s a recap of this year’s March Madness highlights as we head into the final rounds of the tournament.
Long-Awaited Upsets Finally Find Their Way in the Sweet 16
Upsets were few and far between for the first half of the tournament. This year began with all four No. 1 seeds advancing to the Sweet 16, as all potential “Cinderella” teams were knocked out by the Elite Eight (No. 12 seeded Oregon made the longest run). The Sweet 16 round was split between blowouts and white-knucklers. Half of the games were won by fourteen or more points, while the other half were decided in the last few minutes. One late-game thriller took place between Purdue and Tennessee when, after an 18-point deficit, Tennessee superstars’ Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield led an enormous comeback to push the game into overtime at 82-82. But, Tennessee’s comeback run wasn’t enough to disrupt the duo of Purdue’s Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline, who combined for 56 points off 11 three-pointers to seal the win.
Down Goes UNC: Auburn Delivers the Tournament's First 1-Seed Loss
Auburn defeated North Carolina handily, delivering the first 1-seed loss of the tournament. The Tigers finished the game shooting a stellar 45.9% from the arc, while knocking down 17 three-pointers. However, the win did not come without the biggest tragedy of the tournament so far. Auburn’s Chuma Okeke’s left leg buckled late in the game, taking him out after scoring 20 points. He returned to the bench in the second half to root on his teammates, but will sit out for the remainder of the tournament with a torn ACL.
Madness Goes Unchecked in the Elite Eight as More No. 1 Seeds Fall
The Elite Eight brought us the madness we’ve come to expect from March, delivering two more overtime games and one of the biggest shocks of the tournament. A nailbiter between Texas Tech and No. 1 Gonzaga set the tone for what was to come for the rest of the Elite Eight round. This consistently close game ended in an upset, thanks to Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver and Matt Mooney scoring a total of 36 points between the two, giving Texas Tech its first Final Four berth in program history.
The South Region also brought an overtime barnburner with a different ending. No. 3 Purdue could not hold on to upset No. 1 Virginia, despite an outstanding 42-point game from Carsen Edwards. The junior guard not only set an NCAA tournament record for most three-pointers made (28), but is also the first player to lose in the Regional Finals and still win the Regional MVP since Steph Curry. Noah Basketball team, Virginia, put on an impressive team performance to overcome an Edwards-led Purdue, particularly from the free-throw line, making 17 of 20 attempts. Junior Kyle Guy led the effort, posting 25 points and a 42.1% shooting percentage, while fellow junior Mamadi Diakite scored the buzzer-beating jumper to force the game into overtime. A few more clutch baskets and crucial free throws sent Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers to their first Final Four appearance in over a decade.
In an SEC showdown, Auburn and Kentucky produced yet another overtime ending. Despite losing one of their best players in Okeke, Auburn continued to battle and impress again. The Tigers only shot 30% from beyond the arc and were forced to make a major adjustment to their usual game, getting the majority of their points around the rim. Although Kentucky’s superstar PJ Washington put up an impressive 28 points, the Wildcats fell short to a 28-point and 17-point day from Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Auburn, finishing the day shooting 43.3% from the 3, has now defeated three of the winningest programs in college basketball history to earn their first Final Four appearance.
The final game of the Elite Eight was nothing short of exciting. No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Michigan State battled back and forth for a solid forty minutes, neither giving in at any point. Duke, the top-ranked team of the tournament, led by the dominating force that is Zion Williamson, fell short of glory to the Spartans, as Michigan State’s Cassius Winston delivered a smooth 20 and 10 double-double.
A Look Under the Hood: 3-Point Statistics Reveal Cracks in Top-Ranked Teams
Even though Duke was the top-ranked team in the tournament, some key shooting statistics reveal a different story. According to Darren Rovell, “a team with the worst three-point shooting percentage in the NCAA Tournament hasn’t won the tournament in at least 20 years.” Duke ranks last among the tournament field in three-point percentage, whereas, out of the remaining final four teams, Virginia ranks the highest, sitting at 5th in the nation in three-point shooting, followed by Michigan State at 26 and Auburn at 32 while Texas Tech is not listed in the top 50. Will the highest ranked three-point shooting teams find themselves victorious or will the madness continue to bring more upsets?
Final Four: Who Will Advance to the Championship?
The 2019 NCAA Tournament might not have started in dramatic fashion, but it is now approaching a potentially historic ending. Virginia is the only No. 1 seed remaining (though they’ve never won a title), as Auburn and Texas Tech get ready to play in their first ever Final Four games. Meanwhile, Michigan State, the only team in the Final Four with a National Championship title in its program history, is seeking their first National Championship since 2000.Who do you predict will be this year’s NCAA Champion? We are excited to announce that two of the Final Four teams are Noah Basketball users! Check our Arc Blog for more updates as we follow this year’s NCAA tournament.