This past weekend was any basketball fan’s dream, as both the men’s and women’s national championship games were played to see who would be crowned the winners of March Madness in 2022.
The women’s championship game featured two of the biggest powerhouses this season, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.
The game was held at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., a place that is very passionate about their basketball and created a great atmosphere for these student-athletes.
UConn, under head coach Geno Auriemma, has created one of the greatest dynasties in sports history, going 11-0 in national championship games and for the last three decades as head coach of the Huskies has been nothing short of dominant.
On the other side of the spectrum, Dawn Staley, the fiery Gamecocks coach has cemented herself as a fantastic coach in women’s basketball and coaches a very physical style of play.
South Carolina locked down the number one ranked spot in the country the whole year, and have already beaten the Huskies once this year. As a result of this, they were extremely confident heading into the Championship game.
This confidence was quickly translated onto the court, where the Gamecocks started extremely hot and aggressive on defense, controlling the game from the start. When the first quarter was over, the Huskies were already facing a fourteen-point deficit.
South Carolina established an early presence with star forward Aliyah Boston in the post, where she was able to use her size and length to her advantage. The Huskies simply could not battle down low with the Gamecocks, meaning UConn turned all their defensive attention to the inside.
This allowed guard Destanni Henderson to explode for one of the greatest games of her young career, leading the Gamecocks when they needed crucial buckets and finishing with twenty-six points, the most out of all scorers.
The combination of size, speed and physicality of the Gamecocks was ultimately too much for the Huskies to handle. UConn never took the lead in this game and the closest they reached South Carolina after their poor first quarter start was seven points.
A dominant and comfortable win for the better team and the one who was consistently at the top the whole year, South Carolina defeated UConn 64-49. This is the Gamecocks second title in the five years, while the Huskies have not won one since the 2016 season.
Is there a new ruler over women’s college basketball? Will the reign of Geno Auriemma and his winning ways finally be over? While I might not have the answer, I am excited to see what is in store next year for women’s college hoops!
The men’s national championship game, hosted at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La. hosted two of the premiere programs in college basketball today.
In one corner there is the top-seeded University of Kansas Jayhawks, led by experienced and three-time national championship-winning head coach Bill Self.
In the other corner, there is an unexpected eight seed in the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Led by first-year head coach Hubert Davis, he is a former assistant to hall of fame coach Roy Williams, who retired prior to this season. Williams won himself three national titles during his time in baby blue.
While Kansas was undoubtedly the favorites in this matchup, anyone who had been watching the prior games leading up to this contest knew how dangerous a team UNC can be when they are clicking on all cylinders.
The game did not start in favor of the Tar Heels though, as they quickly fell behind to the Jayhawks and only scored five points in the opening five minutes of the game. I knew the game was going to be close, so I was not too worried. However, I will not lie and say I was not a little nervous for the Tar Heels.
They certainly calmed my nerves and their own down, immediately bringing the game back to a level score and even taking a two-to-three-point lead throughout the middle of the first half.
It was a back-and-forth contest, with neither team looking to budge or give up their lead. Kansas, who established themselves early inside, started to get into foul trouble, which led UNC forwards Armando Bacot and Brady Manek to dominate the paint and exploit that weakness of the Jayhawks.
Along with immense defensive pressure, the Tar Heels began suffocating the Jayhawks on defense, which led to easy buckets in transition for them. Next thing viewers know, the Tar Heels were on a 10-0 run, in complete control at half with a fifteen-point lead going into the second half.
Everything was going right for North Carolina, while nothing was falling or given to Kansas. A perfect situation for one team, while the other was staring death in the face. If the Jayhawks came back, it would be the greatest comeback this tournament has ever seen, and one of the biggest leads given up.
In almost a scripted way, the Jayhawks began crawling their way back, playing solid defense in the early moments of the second half, keeping UNC within striking distance and waiting for the right moment to attack.
Just like the Tar Heels, the Jayhawks went on a massive 25-10 run in the span of seven minutes, thanks to transfer guard Remy Martin, who scored eleven points in the second half. This brought the game to an even 50-50 score, and this is where the real fun began.
Exactly like the beginning of the first half, each team was trading buckets, not nudging in the slightest to give up the lead, coming to the wire where every shot mattered. Both teams were playing with extreme passion and heart, and it was hard to pick who you wanted to win.
With 1:40 left on the clock, Kansas trailing by just one point, David McCormack hit two back-to-back clutch buckets, bringing the lead to three for the Jayhawks, who were eager to get their hands on a fourth title as a program.
The Tar Heels, with no other option but to hit a three-pointer to force overtime, were closely guarded by Kansas defenders, not given an inch of space to shoot. After two missed attempts at three, the Tar Heels turned the ball over to the Jayhawks.
This gave the ball to Kansas with four seconds left and a three-point lead. All they had to do was inbound the ball, not turn it over and they would be crowned champions. Seems simple right? But you must have forgotten that this is March Madness, and miracles can happen.
After inbounding the ball, guard Juwan Harris Jr. stepped out of bounds, giving the ball back to UNC with three seconds left and another chance to send the game to overtime with a three.
With the hopes of still winning a championship, the Tar Heels had ultimately one last shot to save their season. Their target for this shot, Caleb Love, had been a clutch performer and one that looks like he is built for these moments.
Unfortunately, this moment was too big for the Tar Heels. After great defensive pressure by the Jayhawks, Love was forced to shoot an awkward three that barely hit the side of the rim.
Kansas was crowned national champions, winning by a score of 72-69. An instant college classic, viewers who tuned in saw one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball history.
The Jayhawks never gave up and always believed in themselves, a lesson these players will carry with themselves off the court as well.
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