The 2022 March Madness tournament has been… well, madness.
March Madness is the official tournament to decide the NCAA men’s basketball national champion. Fittingly named, the single-elimination tournament style consistently produces some of the most iconic moments in sports history. I know I’m not alone in the world of sports fanatics when I say there is nothing better in sports than March Madness.
The final day of the NCAA men’s basketball regular season, Feb. 27, gave a taste of how crazy this postseason would look.
Of the official top 25 rankings, the teams ranked 1-6 all lost on the same day. Gonzaga, Arizona, Auburn, Purdue, Kansas and Kentucky all found themselves on the losing end throughout the day. Three of the top four: Gonzaga, Arizona and Purdue, even lost to unranked teams. The fact that all six teams played on the same day is already an outlier by itself, but for all six to lose is as unprecedented as it gets. This set the stage perfectly for what has ended up being a shocking March Madness tournament.
Round of 64
The madness started with the very first game of the tournament, not counting play-in games, when No. 11 seeded Michigan defeated No. 6 Colorado State. Michigan was criminally underrated going into the tournament and probably should have been ranked higher, but regardless, an upset is an upset.
It continued on from there with two No. 12 seeds, New Mexico State and Richmond, defeating No. 5 seeds, UConn and Iowa. These few upsets, along with a couple of No. 9 seeds beating No. 8 seeds, would have been enough to bust most brackets. St. Peter’s Peacocks then put the final nail in the coffin with its upset victory over Kentucky.
This was only the 10th time in March Madness history a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2 seed in the first round of the tournament. Even though there has only been a No. 16 over No. 1 upset before, this St. Peter’s victory might be the greatest upset in March Madness history.
Kentucky is a basketball powerhouse. With a league-best 27 former Wildcat players now in the NBA, Kentucky has established itself as a pipeline for NBA talent. The school has responded by giving the athletics department a budget of $138.3 million to spend on their sports teams in 2020.
You then take a look at St. Peter’s; this 30-acre campus in the heart of Jersey City only had $7.2 million in funds for its athletic programs. Kentucky had nearly 20 times the financial support of St. Peter’s. This day one upset is as David vs. Goliath as an outcome can be.
The scrappy, underdog mindset radiates off of the St. Peters team. Their tenacious defense and unrelenting hustle has propelled them to a run for the ages.
Keep in mind, this was just day one of the tournament. With two more No. 11 seeds beating No. 2 seeds in the second day of the tournament, all 17 million brackets filled out were officially busted.
Round of 32
As the upsets continued in the round of 32, it became clear that the first round wasn’t an outlier. No. 8 North Carolina defeated No. 1 seeded, and defending champion, Baylor. No. 11 seeds Michigan and Iowa State, continued its run by defeating No. 3 Tennessee and Wisconsin. Miami upset Auburn to move on, and fan-favorite St. Peter’s continued to shock the world by upsetting Murray State and moving on to the Sweet 16.
With three of the four No. 1 seeds remaining, the final four may not look too different from what most expected. The traditional college basketball powerhouses like Duke, Gonzaga, Arizona and Kansas will likely be who we see at the end. However, the road to this point has been one full of shocking upsets.
Sadly, I don’t see our St. Peter’s Cinderella story going any further than the Sweet 16. Their matchup against the star-studded Purdue Boilermakers, my personal pick to win the championship, will likely be too much for the Peacocks to handle. Being only the third 15 seed to ever make it to the Sweet 16, they have already immortalized themselves in basketball history.
With the tournament set to resume March 24, and the Sweet 16 portion of the women’s tournament starting March 25; it’s a great time to be a college basketball fan.