March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament run by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), ran from March 18 to April 5 of 2021. The tournament draws many viewers, and typically involves 64 college teams that get together in six different locations. This year, all six venues for the men’s tournament were in Indianapolis, Indiana, whilst all five venues for the women’s tournament were in the San Antonio, Texas area.
March Madness is unique as it requires teams to play each other in a bracket-style system, with the winner in each bracket playing the other winning teams, until the final where the best two teams play each other. This year, March Madness ended with the Stanford women’s team and Baylor men’s team coming out on top in their respective tournaments.
Baylor’s win was a surprise to all after Gonzaga’s rise through the ranks. Gonzaga won every single one of its season games and every game in the lead up to its final loss. Thus, it came as a shock when Gonzaga lost to Baylor, 86-70. Baylor had a very solid record for all of March Madness, winning the majority of the time. However, Gonzaga’s record was the one that drew everyone’s attention. This win was especially satisfying for Baylor, as two years ago, Gonzaga eliminated Baylor in the second round. “Our guys, when the best is needed, the best is provided. The better the opponent, the better they play,” said Scott Drew, a Baylor coach, after the game.
The Stanford women’s team won 31 games and lost 2 over the season and in March Madness. Haley Jones, a player for Stanford, is accredited as a major reason for Stanford’s win. Jones received the Most Outstanding Player Award, and is only the third woman to receive it in the history of March Madness. “Coming down the stretch, I saw in [my teammates] eyes they needed me to come up big, and I did, thankfully,” said Jones after the final game. “We’ve been through a lot, we were pretty relentless this year but we were on the road for two months and we just grew closer and we’re just resilient,” she said. “It feels surreal to be here now.”
Fans all over the world were thrilled to be able to have March Madness despite COVID-19, and it ran as smoothly as one could hope, as long as one was not a player for Gonzaga.