Recapping the madness of March Madness

Graphics courtesy of UConn Athletics

Graphics courtesy of UConn Athletics

March Madness is officially back, and with it the excitement of the many upsets and clashes that bring joy to fans all around the world. March Madness has always been unpredictable, but this year has completely changed what fans thought was possible. Gone are the days of favorites. No team is ever safe, and viewers watch with wide eyes as the impossible is done. Welcome to March Madness.

With each tournament’s passing comes the respective favorites and the all too common upsets. This year, Purdue Men’s Basketball, the one seed in the tournament and arguably the favorite, fell to the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, a 16 seed. The higher the seed, the more likely the team will win the matchup, and with 16 being the lowest seed possible makes FDU’s accomplishment even more extraordinary. For context, this is only the second time in history that a one seed has fallen to a 16 seed. Many thought that Purdue was invincible, with their star player and projected second-round pick in the 2023 NBA draft Zach Edey having the season of his life, averaging 22 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks a game. Edey easily had one of the most dominant centers in college basketball. However, March Madness reminded us all that you can never have enough breathing room. No matter the matchup, a win is never guaranteed.

In March Madness, there is the story of the underdog and the favorite, but somehow, Princeton was neither. Going into the first round matchup of the Princeton Tigers vs. Arizona, many had Arizona, the two seed, going all the way in the tournament. However, to say that nobody expected Princeton to win would be an understatement. Yet, Princeton pulled off the unbelievable. With nearly 11 minutes to go in the second half, Arizona was up 12, which is incredibly difficult to surmount. However, after a couple of crucial possessions, Princeton found themselves up one with 50 seconds to play, and after multiple failed attempts from Arizona to score, Princeton iced the game, scoring two free throws to make it 58-55. Arizona did not score a basket in the next few seconds, and with more free throw attempts for Princeton during that time, the game ended 59-55, with a tournament favorite crashing out in the first round and millions of brackets destroyed. Princeton would follow this game up by clinically beating the seventh seed Missouri Tigers by hitting three pointer after three pointer, making the Sweet 16, just the fourth 15 seed to ever do so in the tournament’s 83 year history. Unfortunately, Princeton’s Cinderella story ended with a 75-86 loss to the Creighton Blue Jays. Nonetheless, the Tigers should be proud of their accomplishment of making the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1967, when the name March Madness was not even trademarked yet. 

Among all the underdog stories and upsets this year, and after a long and arduous month, the fourth seeded UConn Huskies have emerged as national champions. UConn, being a fourth seed and not being the favorites for many people’s brackets, surprised everyone by winning March Madness for the fifth time in their school’s history. However, the way they did so was even more memorable. It would be an understatement to say that UConn “won” every game. They absolutely trounced their opponents in each round. All of their wins came by double digits or more, which is unheard of dominance in a national tournament. They are only the fifth team since 1985 to do so. 

With UConn’s dominance over this year’s tournament, it can be easy to forget that the final four this year did not have a single one seed, nor a two seed, nor even a third seed. In fact, there was even a nine seed in the final four — FL Atlantic — which nobody expected. More amazing is that, out of the millions of March Madness brackets submitted, only six brackets ended up correctly guessing the final four matchups of FL Atlantic (9) vs. San Diego St (5) and Miami FL (5) vs. UConn (4). The lack of clear tournament favorites made for an incredibly interesting final four matchup, with San Diego St and UConn emerging as the final two teams in the tournament. With their win, San Diego St made their first NCAA tournament final in their school’s history. Even though they fell 59-76 to UConn, they played their hearts out and had a true championship mentality by constantly coming back from 10 point deficits to tie the game. 

This year’s March Madness was incredible. From the upsets to the championship narratives, it will certainly be remembered for years to come.