Note: this article was published as a part of the Echo's 2020 April Fool's Day content.
The world stood still last night as the Eastern Michigan Eagles won the NCAA Tournament, which is the first national championship for the school. Fans and analysts everywhere had the 16-seeded Eagles being defeated in the first round, but EMU shocked the world and turned into Cinderella at the ball.
After a huge Final Four win over Gonzaga last week, EMU was riding high heading into the national championship game. EMU players Ty Groce and Jalen King had led the team throughout March with their tenacity and leadership, including two game-winning buzzer-beaters.
Kansas had been a monster all of March and this Jayhawks team was said to be one of the most talented ever as they never had a close game in their run to the national title game. Kansas was favored by 55 points on Monday night due to analysts thinking EMU’s luck had run out. But they were wrong.
The game started as a national championship always does. Jitters and turnovers from both sides, resulting in a sloppy first five minutes. Eastern’s defense was like an iron blanket, which amazingly kept the Jayhawks scoreless throughout the first 10 minutes. Eastern took advantage of this great defense and managed to grab a big lead over the top seeded Jayhawks.
With eight minutes to go in the first half, the Eagles were up 25-0 before the Jayhawks managed to draw a shooting foul, which sent Jalen Wilson to the free throw line. Unsurprisingly, he missed the first one. He managed to sink the second one on a lucky bank, which made the score 25-1. On Eastern’s next possession, Groce broke Wilson’s ankles and drove to the hoop for a monster slam.
The remaining minutes of the half saw Eastern’s defense continue to be unstoppable. Kansas couldn’t get a good look anywhere on the court, due to Eastern’s new 1-1-1-1-1 zone defense scheme which had never been seen on a court before. With two seconds left in the half, EMU center Boubacar Toure went down the lane on Devon Dotson and posterized him so badly that Dotson took off his jersey and left the stadium.
At halftime the score was 42-1. Eastern Michigan fans were buzzing, and the whole world marveled at the miracle happening on the hardwood. I was able to grab an interview with Kansas’ coach, and all he said was “I feel like a helpless baby out there.” I asked him if there were any adjustments he could make against the 1-1-1-1-1 zone, and shook his head and walked away.
There were no adjustments coming out of halftime. The zone was unbreakable, which resulted in 42 steals and 65 blocks for the Eagles. Kansas tried to emulate it to start the second half, but it confused them too much and the Eagles kept on scoring. Besides a ton of highlights that you should go watch on SportsCenter, nothing notable happened in most of the second half.
With 10 seconds left and a championship incoming, King held the ball. The score was 67-1, and Eastern just had to run out the clock to be immortalized as champions. Shockingly, with three seconds left King dribbled to the right wing and shot a mid-range jumper.
As the buzzer sounded, the shot went in, making the score 69-1. All King said was “Nice.” Confetti rained and a sea of green rushed the court. Kansas players and fans bawled their eyes out like little babies which made the win much sweeter. It was a night that all will remember. The Eastern Michigan Eagles are national champions!