Isaiah Saint Hilaire
It is the season of March Madness and with that comes a lot of enjoyment for fans around the state for teams such as Duke and UNC Chapel Hill. In the case of smaller schools, not as much. Fortunately for the UNCG Spartans, they endured a lot of fluctuation for the duration of the 2017-2018 basketball season. In the end, the men’s basketball team came out on top. Francis Alonso continued his season of streaking three’s, Jordy Keiper continued his illustrious career as a collegiate athlete and James Dickey established himself as a premier big man in the paint on both the offensive and defensive end. The Spartans accomplished something they had not accomplished in over a decade; they won the Southern Conference and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament. It was amazing to see how this group persevered this season and ended up facing last year’s runners up Gonzaga last Thursday. Though they lost in a highly competitive game 68-64, other teams got a chance to shine during the first round of the tournament, and going around the UNCG campus, many fans sounded excited for their team, while others did not for the UNCG Spartans men’s basketball team.
Jordan Wright, a senior at UNCG, mentioned that his favorite team is N.C. State.
“I just want my team to win it all and if UNCG and N.C. State were to go head-to-head, I would still want N.C. State to win because I am from the Raleigh-Durham area.”
Jordan also acknowledged how the Wolfpack was defeated by the Spartans during the season in an early game that illustrated how legitimate UNCG was in fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Jordan understood that it could have been possible that the Spartans could have a chance at the Wolfpack again if they could have gotten past the Zags.
Brandon Johnson, another senior at UNCG, also felt he needed to say a few things about the Spartans and his team as to how they would do in the tournament.
“I am from Chapel Hill, and I enjoy watching the Tar heels play, but if UNCG were to face them, I’d be torn because at that point, UNCG would have been making history,” he said. “I am happy though, that both of my teams are in and can fight for a spot in the tournament and can fight for a championship because if one loses, the other still has a chance to win it all.”
Brandon felt that because he enjoys both teams, if one were to lose, he would still have the other one to fall back on, kind of like a back-up plan if something does not go your way.
“It disappointed me when UNCG lost because they were fighting hard and grabbing rebounds but in the end, Alonso couldn’t be the clutch player that he had been throughout the season. If he had been able to shoot the three-pointers needed, they would have won the game for sure.”
While Brandon was also disappointed about the Spartans lost, he still has his Tar Heels and expects them to do a repeat of what happened last season, win a championship.
While some fans are disappointed with their teams losing such as Virginia fans, others are excited that their team has advanced to the second round, such as the University of Maryland in Baltimore County. That upset made history because it had been the first time a No. 1 seed and lost to a No. 16 seed in NCAA tournament history. The upset joins the many historic moments from the past for Division I basketball and the NCAA Tournament.
As the tournament closed out its first week with literally, everyone’s bracket being wrong in some way, it is a reminder that the tournament itself is one of the most unpredictable times of the year. And that is what makes it so captivating and special. The question is, will there be more history and how special will the moment be for coaches and players and fans this March?