It’s sad to say, but another season of College Basketball has come and gone, as the 2023 March Madness action concluded with the University of Connecticut Huskies defeating the San Diego State University Aztecs in the championship game on Tuesday April 4.
Although March Madness is always filled with can’t miss moments and monumental upsets, this tournament felt different and I am beginning to feel that it will go down as one of the, if not the, greatest NCAA College Basketball tournaments of all-time. Below I will lay out my thoughts on why this was the best Match Madness Tournament of the 21st century.
Although the first round, as far as upsets go, was typical in terms of the number of upsets, this year held some of the most historic upsets in March Madness history. There was (13) Furman beating (4) Virginia, (15) Princeton beating (2) Arizona, and (11) Pittsburgh defeating (6) Iowa State, but none of these outweigh (16) Fairleigh Dickinson University’s 63-58 victory over (1) Purdue. This was something that no one outside of FDU’s campus saw coming, as it was the second time in tournament history that a 16-seed defeated a 1-seed and Purdue entered the matchup as 25-point favorites.
However, the upsets weren’t just limited to the first round of play, as this year’s tournament saw its fair share of Cinderella programs make impressive runs as well. Namely, we must mention (9) Florida Atlantic University, who despite being underdogs in almost every single one of their games, they were able to make a historic run to the Final Four with wins over (8) Memphis, (16) FDU, (4) Tennessee, and (3) Kansas State before their run was ended by (6) SDSU in the final seconds of play.
Year of the Underdog
In addition to the historic upsets in the first few rounds of the 2023 NCAA College Basketball Tournament, there were a number of anomalies in the final few rounds of play. This was the first year in tournament history that a 1-seed didn’t advance to the Elite Eight, as (1) Purdue lost to (16) FDU in the first round, (1) Kansas lost to (8) Arkansas in the second round, (1) Alabama lost to (5) SDSU in the Sweet Sixteen, and (1) Houston lost to (5) Miami (FL) in the Sweet Sixteen.
However, the madness doesn’t stop there as this was also the first year in the tournaments 83-year history that the Final Four didn’t contain a 3-seed or better, as the four teams included (4) UConn, (5) Miami (FL), (5) SDSU, and (9) FAU.
These 2 statistics show just how irregular this year’s tournament was and how many competitive teams were fielded. Heading into the tournament there was a lot of speculation around whether anyone would be able to take down the 1-seed juggernauts, and in less than a week they were all taken out by relatively unknown Cinderella squads.
A Worthy Champion was Crowned
Although this year’s tournament was truly the year of the underdog, the team who deserved to lift the trophy were able to do so in the end. The (4) University of Connecticut Huskies received a somewhat low seed for what the team was putting out on the court, as they were ranked 3rd in the nation in BPI heading into the tournament.
Their fall in the rankings can be attributed to their loss in the Big East Conference Championship to Marquette, but with a respectable 25-8 record in the regular season, the Huskies entered the tournament as one of the most complete squads.
UConn were able to assert their dominance in their first round of play, and never really faltered for the remainder of their impressive tournament run. In their five tournament games, they covered the betting spread and won every game, including the championship game, by at least 13 points, as they downed (13) Iona by 24 points, (5) St. Mary’s by 15 points, (8) Arkansas by 21 points, (3) Gonzaga by 28 points, (5) Miami (FL) by 13 points, and (5) SDSU by 17 points. This gave them a +118 point margin across their six contests, for an average win margin of just under 20 points a game.
Their win over SDSU gave the Huskies their 5th March Madness Championship in program history and has given their team the resume to be considered a true Blue Blood school in College Basketball. UConn’s 2023 tournament run is one of the best postseason runs by a team across all sports, and this year’s team will remain in March Madness history for decades to come.
The Huskies proved to the nation that they were the most worthy team of hoisting the trophy in this year’s NCAA College Basketball Tournament.