March Madness Recap

May 1, 2022

The 82nd annual March Madness has come to a close, and it is not an overstatement to say that it was one of the best tournaments of all time. From the magical St. Peter’s run to Kansas breaking the record for the largest comeback in championship history, this year’s tournament did not disappoint. Now that all 65 games are over, we can look back on all of the craziness.

Starting off in the play-in games, Notre Dame took down Rutgers in a whirlwind of a double overtime game. Every time Notre Dame started to look like they were going to close the game, Rutgers would hit a crazy shot to keep the Scarlet Knights in it. The game ended on a Notre Dame offensive rebound and put back to seal it. 

The Irish continued their hot streak into the tournament where they ousted Alabama. Unfortunately, the Irish finally fell to a very good Texas Tech team in the Round of 32, but not without a fight. 

Looking at other first round upsets, 12 seeded New Mexico State beat 5 seeded Uconn, 11 seeded Michigan beat 6 seeded Colorado State, and 12 seeded Richmond pulled off the shocker against 5 seeded Iowa. However, these upsets, while surprising, pale in comparison to the 15 seeded St. Peter’s Peacocks’ takedown of 2 seeded Kentucky.

A 15 seed beating a 2 seed is crazy enough, but what makes St. Peter’s special is that they went on to beat 7 seed Murray State and 3 seed Purdue. This legendary run consisted of nail-biting finishes where the Peacocks showed unbelievable toughness and determination. After their 3 point victory over Purdue, they became the first 15 seed to make the Elite 8, solidifying them in history as one of the greatest Cinderella stories ever. 

Who ended their historic run? The North Carolina Tar Heels became the villains after trampling the Peacocks in their Elite 8 matchup. Although the loss was to be expected considering how elite of a program North Carolina is, this Tar Heels team was not their normal one. North Carolina has become accustomed to having one of the best teams in the country, but this year UNC flew under the radar with only one significant win in the regular season, taking down Duke in their final game. This mediocre season earned North Carolina an 8 seed in the tournament and the chance to play Marquette.

UNC took this opportunity and never looked back. They easily dominated Marquette, winning by 32 to move on to play the 1 seeded Baylor Bears in the second round. North Carolina picked up where they left off, dominating the majority of the game. About halfway through the second half, Baylor started a comeback. The Bears climbed all the way back into the game and forced overtime. A couple of tough calls and big shots for Tar Heels ultimately edged them past Baylor and into the Sweet 16.

UNC’s Sweet 16 matchup was not an easy one as they faced off against the miracle team from the 2021 tournament, the UCLA Bruins. This game was an absolute thriller, and if UNC’s Caleb Love had not hit some insane, clutch shots, the Tar Heels would have likely lost.

Having moved past St. Peter’s and UCLA, North Carolina was set up to play in one of the biggest Final Four matchups of all time: Duke vs. North Carolina. Despite being two of the best programs in college basketball history, they had never met in the tournament.

To make the matchup of rivals even sweeter, legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski planned on retiring after the season ended. Even fans that despised Coach wanted to see him pick up a win against his biggest rival in one of the biggest games of his career. UNC had other plans. 

The game was once again back and forth until UNC caught fire in the final minutes. Ultimately, it was Caleb Love who, again, hit the 3 that sealed the game and sent Coach K into retirement. 

Becoming only the fourth 8 seed to make the championship, the Tar Heels were riding an insane hot streak and would not be intimidated by 1 seed Kansas. Interestingly, this game would be a rematch of the 1957 championship where UNC defeated Kansas 54-53. 

Out of the gate, Kansas had the momentum. Agbaji knocked down a three as the Jayhawks jumped out to a seven point lead. Being the resilient team they are, the Tar Heels continued to play tough and made it a close game for the majority of the first half. Towards the end of the first half, Kansas fell apart and UNC got hot. The Tar Heels went on a massive run, taking a 16 point lead at one point and finishing the half up 40-25. Kansas looked finished.

Coming out of halftime, it was clear that Kansas still had fight in them. Their stellar defense, led by Dajuan Harris Jr., mixed with adjustments on the offensive end put Kansas into a position to fight back into the game. 

North Carolina was not going to make it easy. The two teams battled the whole second half, but it was Kansas inching its way forward. With 3 minutes left, the game was tied and Kansas had the ball. North Carolina’s stifling defense forced Kansas into the final seconds of the shot clock. Sixth man Remy Martin took an insane, off-balanced, fade-away three and knocked down the most timely shot of the game. 

Once again, North Carolina showed they would not give up, but an unfortunate ankle injury to UNC star, Armando Bacot, gave Kansas the ability to get the ball inside and go up by three. After UNC missed a three, Kansas got the rebound and the game looked out of reach. Due to an unfortunate error by Kansas while inbounding the ball, UNC got one more shot at overtime. Unfortunately for UNC, that shot was airballed by Caleb Love, the man that kept UNC’s tournament alive on multiple occasions. Kansas had won.

Kansas had completed the largest comeback in NCAA championship history, but their path was not all that difficult. The Jayhawks did not play a single one seed, and the two seed they played, Villanova, had injury problems. Ultimately, people will remember the legendary comeback rather than the easy path Kansas took to the Championship.

Another interesting storyline from this year’s tournament was 10 seed Miami’s run. The Hurricanes had a very weird, small-ball roster which consisted of heavy guard play led by Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong. The team had a good offense, but it was not elite. Coupled with a poor defense, it came as somewhat of a surprise when the Hurricanes made it to the Elite Eight.

The Hurricanes were also a weird team to watch. Usually winning teams that play small shoot lights out from 3, especially in the NCAA tournament; however, Miami was not a good 3-point shooting team, shooting a pitiful 20 percent from 3 in their dominant 18 point win over 2 seed Auburn and 7 percent in their win over USC. These percentages are atrocious no matter what scheme the team runs. 

Miami got most of their points in the paint and off of pull-up jump shots. Kam McGusty thrived off of pull-up jump shots, seemingly hitting every one that he took. Isaiah Wong showed off his incredible finishing around the basket, scoring 21 points against Auburn, the best shot blocking team in the country. Even though at times it was confusing how Miami was winning, they managed to pull off wins over USC, Auburn, and Iowa State. They ultimately fell to the eventual national champions, the Kansas Jayhawks, but alongside St. Peter’s, the Hurricanes were this year’s Cinderella team. 

College basketball super-fans do not have much to complain about with this year’s tournament. We saw historic upsets, double-overtime games, and matchups between top college basketball programs. Although it would have been fun to see a non-powerhouse school in the Final Four, the 2022 tournament gave fans more than what they could have hoped for.

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