COLUMN: Wisconsin buzzer beater in St. Louis proves parity in NCAA Tournament

Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig: “I can’t really explain the feeling. It was my first real game winner like that. It was a lot of excitement.”
Texas A&M guard Anthony Collins (11) heads to his side of the court after getting the ball back off of a turnover on Feb. 27.

ST. LOUIS — The sensation is unlike anything else, but it kind of exceeds expectations each and every year.

Game-winning shots have become normal procedure in the NCAA Tournament: Team A has the ball with a chance to steal the game from Team B with seconds remaining on the clock. With the fans on their feet, Team A launches a shot that grazes the net and madness ensues.

On Sunday night at the Scottrade Center, Team A was Wisconsin and the shooter was Bronson Koenig. Inbounding with seconds left, Koenig did the unthinkable in hitting a fadeaway prayer at the buzzer to propel the Wisconsin Badgers over the Xavier Musketeers.

Concurrently — because it’s the NCAA Tournament and these types of things tend to happen in the NCAA Tournament — Texas A&M was en route to pulling off one of the wildest comebacks in college basketball’s history against Northern Iowa on Sunday. According to David Worlock, the NCAA director of coordination and statistics, Texas A&M's rally from 12 points down with less than one minute to play is the largest last-minute deficit overcome to win in college hoops history.

With 35 seconds remaining in the game and Texas A&M trailing 69-57, the Aggies scored a layup, stole an inbound and scored another layup, stole a pass and dunked the ball, forced a turnover and hit a 3-pointer, scored an and-1 basket and stole another pass to score another layup to force overtime.

Ultimately, the bigger name prevailed, and the sad thing is that Northern Iowa itself had been on the other side of things just days ago when it pulled off the unthinkable Friday night and hit a last-minute shot from half court against Texas.

And although it’s crazy to think something could even top what Texas A&M did, some would probably vouch for Notre Dame and its contest Sunday that also ended in dramatic fashion. Trailing Stephen F. Austin for a majority of the game, the Fighting Irish scored a tip-in with 1.5 seconds left to move on to the Sweet 16.

Oh, the parity.

It’s pretty wild, to be quite frank. Put brackets aside for a second — partly because mine is bad, so I’d prefer not to talk about it — but how special is this sporting event?

The process of the brackets being released to everyone picking their oh-so-clever upsets to the games that come and the upsets that take place creates the madness that is March. Don’t argue, it is madness.

But after the opening weekend, as we do most years, we’re left asking, “Is this March madder?”

Well, this year was the first since 2012 that all No. 1 seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, so in that sense, no. But in every other sense, there’s no denying the breathtaking drama that has ensued in this 2016 tournament.

Take Koenig’s shot for example. Even with the Wisconsin and Xavier matchup, a game that featured countless fouls and was a matchup of offenses who pride themselves more on precision than pretty, the excitement at the end overcame everything else.

“I just let it fly and knew it was going in,” Koenig said postgame. “I can’t really explain the feeling. It was my first real game winner like that. It was a lot of excitement.”

Nobody else can explain the feeling, either.

Sitting there in section 104, row U and seat 12, my mouth was open and my eyes were big as the shot fell through. Behind me, a Xavier fan who had lost her voice yelling “defense” every single time the Badgers brought the ball down the floor just shook her head. In front of me, a Wisconsin fan packed in the Musketeers’ section jumped up and down.

Triumph for one side and tribulation for the other — the name of the game.

As fans started to pack out, actor Bill Murray, whose son Luke coaches for Xavier, was the last one up the stairs. The feeling of agony for him after a college basketball game was unlike anything else.

Only in the NCAA Tournament, folks.

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