David Durcan ’23
This is the time where we root for colleges we could not find on a map, cheer on players we’ve never heard of and will never hear from again, and claim how much we know about college basketball, though our brackets say otherwise. This is the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, better known as March Madness. Beginning in mid-March, and running through the first week of April, 68 teams are selected to compete in this single-elimination tournament to crown the national champion.
Every year, the tournament is thrilling, unpredictable, and it never disappoints. The storyline of this year’s championship has been the fall of the number-one seed. For the first time in March Madness history, all four number-one seeded teams failed to reach the quarterfinals, better known as the “Elite Eight.”
The first top seed to be eliminated went out in dramatic fashion in the first round. The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights became just the second 16th seed (the highest seed in the tournament) ever to knock off a number-one seed, when they defeated the Purdue Boilermakers, 63-58. In the second round, the blue-blooded defending national champions, Kansas Jayhawks, were the next top seed to be sent home early, losing to the Arkansas Razorbacks, 72-71.
The two remaining number-one seeds, Alabama and Houston, were unexpectedly upset in the “Sweet Sixteen” (the third round), leaving the tournament with no number-one seeds advancing to the “Elite Eight” in the tournament’s history. Alabama, the odds-on favorite to cut down the nets in Houston, were shocked by the San Diego State Aztecs, 71-64.
Less than an hour later, Houston became the final number-one seed to fall. Much of the damage was done by Miami Hurricanes’ hot-shooting guard Nigel Pack, who hit seven three-point shots on his way to a 26-point performance against one of the best defenses in college basketball.
As the past weekend ended, four teams were left standing: Florida Atlantic, UConn, San Diego State University and Miami. In a thrilling game at Madison Square Garden, Florida Atlantic punched its ticket to the Final Four when it ended Kansas State and its electrifying point guard Marquez Nowell’s exciting run in the tourney with a thrilling victory. UConn steamrolled, as it has the entire tournament, over the Gonzaga Bulldogs. And in the weekend’s final game, the University of Miami, after being left for dead with 12 minutes to go, staged a gritty come-from-behind-victory over the Texas Longhorns.
With all four teams Houston-bound, something to note is that three of the four teams will be making their first ever Final Four appearance, whereas the UConn Huskies will be eyeing its fifth national championship.
The first match on Saturday between the Owls of Florida Atlantic and Aztecs of San Diego State promises to be an intense end-to-end game, given how evenly matched they appear to be. To put in perspective how unlikely this matchup is, only 0.04% of brackets submitted to ESPN had these two teams facing each other. I think FAU ekes out a win given its depth and resilience. FAU does not seem fazed by the spotlight, as they have repeatedly made second-half comebacks throughout the tournament.
In the nightcap, we should expect another classic Final Four game. Without question, UConn has been the best team in the tournament so far, with an average margin of victory of 20 points. However, Miami is no easy out and they have proved that by knocking off the top two teams in their region to get to Houston. I think UConn gets the win, but if Miami can keep it close, it will be interesting to see how the Huskies handle adversity, something they have not really experienced these past two weeks.
National Championship Prediction: UConn over FAU
But what do I know, my bracket was busted after the first round.
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