During spring break, a national tournament began. A national phenomenon. The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament, or as it is commonly referred to as, March Madness. The tournament started with the 68 best men’s college basketball programs of the year duking it out for five straight days. In this exciting package came great matchups and unexpected, yet thrilling, upsets. Whatever you are seeded, you need to be mindful of your opponent; because despite ranking, sometimes the better seed loses. Let me recap to you what has gone down so far in this prodigious event, from the First Four to the Final Four.
In the First Four, four regions of the bracket (Midwest, West, East, and South) normally have one spot open to primarily the 11th, 12th and 16th seeds. Eight teams have one shot to get into the first round of the tournament, making this tournament so special: no Best-of-3 or Best-of-7. Win or Go Home. In the Midwest Region, to determine who will face 1-seed Kansas Jayhawks, 16-seed Texas Southern defeated 16-seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 76-67, to move on in the tournament.
The next bout was between 12-seeds Indiana and Wyoming to fill in the spot to face 5-seed Saint Mary’s in the East Region. Indiana won by eight, 66-58. The following day on March 16, it was 16-seeds Bryant and Wright State to vie for a spot in the South Region to face 1-seed Arizona Wildcats. Wright State won 93-82 to face the highly favored team to win-it-all. Finally, to cap off the two days of this Herculean single-elimination bracket, 11-seeds Rutgers and Notre Dame closed it out with an instant classic 89-87 double overtime win for the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish to face 6-seed Alabama in the West Region.
So, onto the first round. The two-day event with 64 teams trying to inch closer to the Final Four and the Championship Game in New Orleans. Now, obviously, it would be foolish of me to go through all 32 games, so let me break down a few of the key games.
The runner-up of last year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball championship game, the West Region’s 1-seed Gonzaga (out of the state of Washington) almost lost to 16-seed Georgia State but revitalized itself and won by 21 points, 93-72. The defending champions, East Region’s 1-seed Baylor, made quick work with 16-seed Norfolk State, 85-49. 7-seed Murray State, with a top-3 best record in the tournament, and the team of fellow former East Lake Eagle star Dionte Bostick, took down 10-seed San Francisco in the West Region in a phenomenal game, 92-87. (Bostick played eight minutes and recorded only two rebounds). 10-seed Loyola Chicago and devoted 102-year-old superfan Sister Jean got an early exit thanks to 7-seed Ohio State’s EJ Liddell (who declared for the NBA Draft this year) 16-point game, 54-41, allowing Ohio State to move on in the South Region. My dad’s alma mater, 2-seed Villanova, crushed 15-seed Delaware by 20, 80-60. 11-seed Notre Dame provided the upset over 6-seed Alabama, 78-64 (maybe Alabama should stick to football, 😊). And the coup-de-grace and the surprise of the tournament, 15-seed Saint Peter’s took out 2-seed Kentucky (the team I picked to win it all), 85-79 in overtime. But this won’t be the last time we’ve heard of New Jersey’s Saint Peter’s.
The second round followed soon. To open the round up, the defending champions 1-seed Baylor fell to 8-seed North Carolina in overtime, 93-86. South Region’s 11-seed Michigan pulled the upset over 3-seed Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16, 76-68. 1-seed Gonzaga just narrowly came with the win over 9-seed Memphis, 82-78. The 2-seeds Duke (of the West Region) and Villanova (of the South Region) took out their opponents, 7-seeds Michigan State and Ohio State, respectively. In a showdown in the Midwest Region, 11-seed Iowa State burned everyone’s bracket when they knocked off 3-seed Wisconsin, 54-49. 1-seed Arizona and 9-seed TCU put on a show for the people of Viejas Arena in San Diego with an 85-80 overtime dub for Arizona. Arizona guard, and potential NBA first-round pick, Bennedict Mathurin’s 30-point game sealed the deal for Arizona to go on to the Sweet 16 as they faced my pick to go to the championship game, 5-seed Houston Cougars.
And remember when I mentioned Saint Peter’s earlier? Well, the 15-seed Peacocks took out 7-seed Murray State, 70-60, to send Saint Peter’s to the Sweet 16. Saint Peter’s upset over Kentucky was it’s first win in the tournament, in their first appearance, nonetheless! Now, Saint Peter’s is continuing. Sadly, the hopes of Murray State’s historic 30-win season came to a close with Bostick’s no-point game.
Last Thursday through yesterday was the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8. On Thursday we got to see 4-seed Arkansas pull off the upset over 1-seed Gonzaga, 74-68. This killed Gonzaga’s chances of coming closer to the championship game in the second-straight year and from winning their first championship in school history. Following that game, 11-seed Michigan fell to 2-seed Villanova, 63-55, to send Villanova back to the Elite 8. Villanova won two championships in the last decade, one in 2016 and one in 2018. Then, 2-seed Duke came back to silence 3-seed Texas Tech and its fans, 78-73. Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski (“Coach K”) will be coaching his last tournament ever as he retires from an astounding 42-year coaching span with Duke, leading them to five NCAA Tournament championships, 12 Final Fours, 15 ACC Tournament championships, and 1,127 wins. Lastly, we got 5-seed Houston who knocked off 1-seed Arizona by 12, 72-60.
15-seed Saint Peter’s opened up Friday’s slate of games with an upset over 3-seed Purdue led by future NBA talent Jaden Ivey, 67-64. Next, 1-seed Kansas knocked off 4-seed Providence, 66-61. After that came a matchup between two of the most accomplished basketball programs in men’s hoops history: 8-seed North Carolina and 4-seed UCLA, who was the “Cinderella” of last year’s tournament, where they went from the First Four to the Final Four. North Carolina took out UCLA, 73-66. Lastly, 11-seed Iowa State fell to 10-seed Miami in the lowest-seeded matchup in the tournament, 70-56.
And from Saturday’s and last night’s matchups were the Elite 8 to determine who will go to New Orleans to fight to win the coveted 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
On Saturday, South Regional finals matchup between 5-seed Houston and 2-seed Villanova ended with Nova winning, 50-44. Nova will be entering its seventh (sixth if you count their 1971 vacated tournament run after they forfeited the national championship to Penn. Don’t know why, but here is a link to the Wikipedia page that talks about it:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_NCAA_University_Division_Basketball_Tournament#:~:text=Howard%20Porter%20of%20Villanova%20was,agent%20prior%20to%20the%20competition) Final Four in school history. Then was 4-seed Arkansas and 2-seed Duke. Duke won 78-69, sending Duke and Coach K to their now 13 Final Four game (Coach K breaking John Wooden’s record of 12). And last night, 10-seed Miami fell to 1-seed Kansas, 76-50, after leading 35-29 in the first half. Kansas is the last 1-seed in this tournament. Finally, the giant-seed slayer 15-seed Saint Peter’s found its kryptonite in 8-seed North Carolina as the Tar Heels won 69-49.
This Saturday, we have four teams vying for a spot in the National Championship game. It will be between four historic basketball schools: first, 2-seed Villanova and 1-seed Kansas; and second, 8-seed North Carolina and 2-seed Duke reigniting their rivalry in Coach K’s last tournament run. In the entire history of the tournament, this is the first time the Blue Devils and Tar Heels meet in the Final Four. This matchup is not only between four of the best school programs in the country, but also (not really much importance) that each team’s primary color is blue. The blues are coming to where it originated, New Orleans.
So, who do you think will win the National Championship? Did your team make it? Who will you be rooting for? Out of 10 million-or so brackets, 0.1% picked these four teams to reach the Final Four and all of the brackets were ruined after the second round. That’s what makes this tournament the greatest spectacle in sports history. So many future NBA prospects came from this tournament. Remember, never bet on the highest seeds at times. This tournament has become historic since its debut in the late-30’s because of the memorable upsets and the future NBA stars that were forged from this. This tournament defines miracles, and it will forever be great.