By Robert Nunez, Content Coordinator
The year is 2018. The University of Nevada, Reno basketball team, has put Northern Nevada on the map by earning a ticket to compete nationally in the March Madness tournament. Out of 16 teams in the South Regional Conference, Nevada is ranked 7th. (68 units in total – split into four regions). Here we go!
The first game against the 10th ranked Texas Longhorns saw Nevada down by 14 points at the half. After a consistent rally throughout the second half, game-tying free throws by Nevada in the last 3 seconds of the game, and back-and-forth action in overtime, Nevada grinds out a victory to move on to the second round. At the end of the game, I feel like I just ran a marathon, thinking, “That’s the most nerve-wracking game of basketball I have ever watched. Surely, the next game will be a little more mellow”. – I could not have been more wrong!
The opponent to beat next was 2nd ranked Cincinnati, which, if the math is math-ing correctly, Cincinnati has a team that is about five times better than the one the Texas Longhorns had. The math immediately did its thing, as Nevada began the game 0-10. Cincinnati scored 10 points before Nevada even scored any at all. For the next 20 minutes of gameplay, my hopes of a “Sweet-Sixteen” Nevada team diminished more and more with every basket that Cincinnati scored. It happened with 11 minutes left and a score of 65-43 (favoring Cinci). Quite possibly the most significant and most exhilarating 10 minutes of any sport I have ever watched. The final score was 75-73 (favoring Nevada), which means The Wolf Pack scored 32 points in the last ten minutes of the game while only allowing Cincinnati to score 8. The 22-point comeback by Nevada was the second-largest comeback in NCAA March Madness history! I will never forget the feeling of seeing my school and people who I often saw on campus shake up the sports world on a national level.
In the Sweet Sixteen, Nevada matched up against Loyola Chicago. The Wolf Pack had just come off two cardiac games against two outstanding teams and were now up against a team that was ranked 11th. If the math always matched, this game should have been won by Nevada, and they should have gone on to the “Elite Eight” for the first time in school history. However, during the March Madness tournament, the math only math’s when the math wants. Nevada lost the game to Loyola Chicago, and their tournament run was over, while Loyola went on to the Semi-Finals and had one of the greatest dark-horse tournament runs ever! (An 11th ranked team rarely makes it that far).
I was bitter, but I was also reminded why sports fans adore this yearly tournament. Ranks are ultimately just a suggestion in March, and you never know the tournament’s outcome. No matter which ranks the team you support gets tagged with; you can count on some crazy s**t during these mad two weeks in March.