Each year, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is always full of surprises, and this year was no different. The madness was at its highest as we saw zero one seeds entering the elite eight. Zero, Zilch, Nada, for the first time in the history of the tournament. Oh, but that was not all, so without further ado, let’s count down the top 10 moments from March Madness.
10. No 12 Seeds Get Past the First Round
This is an underrated moment during the tournament that only occurs every so often. The 12 vs. 5 game is the most popular upset pick to make as fans pick their brackets. Usually at least one 12-seed makes it to the second round, but this year, the five seeds took over. They were so good that two of the five seeds made the Final Four. Each of those teams also covered the spread in the wins and were as dominant as ever.
9. Furman Hits Game Winning Three to Upset Virginia
This was a fun one. As someone who picked Furman to upset Virginia, this shot was especially electric. Kihei Clark had a chance to secure the win for Virginia with a pair of free throws. Rather than icing the game, he split on the free throws, which followed with two Furman free throws. Then in a late effort to rebound the ball, Clark passed it right to the Paladins, which led to a JP Pegues three pointer with 2.4 seconds left in the game to upset Virginia.
8. Top Two Favorites, Alabama and Houston, Go Down in the Same Night
We entered the Sweet 16 with only two one seeds remaining, and left the Sweet 16 with none. Both Alabama and Houston were playing on the same Friday night and both saw their demise. A few people expected Purdue and Kansas to go down early, however, Alabama and Houston were seen as the perfect favorites to win it all. However, things fell apart as the duo of five seeds that we mentioned earlier that made the Final Four, in Miami and San Diego State, held commanding leads against their opponents.
7. Princeton’s Run to the Sweet 16
The Ivy Madness was strong in this tournament as Princeton not only topped two-seed Arizona as the 15-seed, but they also destroyed seven-seed Missouri in round two. This was a nice and light Cinderella story as they were the only double-digit seeded team to reach the Sweet 16.
6. Markquis Nowell’s No Look Pass to Nae’Qwan Tomlin
There was a lot of speculation about this play, but it had to have been one of the greatest moments in March Madness that I had ever seen. Some people thought that the on court argument between Markquis Nowell and head coach Jerome Tang was scripted that led to an alley oop connection with Keyontae Johnson. This wasn’t actually the truth, as quick eye contact between Nowell and Johnson paired with a distracted Michigan State team led to the great Kansas State play etched into our minds.
5. UConn Wins National Championship
I wish I could put this one higher because this was the most dominant title run that I have ever seen. First they beat Iona by 24, which, I thought, would be their toughest matchup in the tournament. They continued by beating St. Mary’s by 15, Arkansas by 23, and Gonzaga by 28. Lastly, they topped off their tournament run, beating Miami by 13 in the Final Four and San Diego State in the championship by 17. UConn had such a complete team in terms of coaching, the three ball, as well as rebounding. Adama Sanogo is a generational specimen that helped carry this run to glory.
4. Lamont Butler Hits Game Winning Basket to Reach the National Championship
Lamont Butler quickly became San Diego State’s sweetheart. After trusting their strong defense to get one last stop rather than fouling late, it gave the chance for the Aztecs to make a run in transition. With all the faith and confidence in the world, it only took Butler a few steps to get a clean shot up to secure the victory. This ended such a strong run by a very good FAU team, with everyone returning.
3. Only One Top Eight Team Makes The Elite Eight
Texas was the only team out of the top two seeds to end up representing as a top eight team entering the tournament to reach the top eight by the end of the tournament. Yet, they didn’t make it past that round. This tournament was wild with all of the top seeds going down so early, but it made the madness extra mad. I hope this is the beginning of the end of the top schools having their way and opens the tournament up for anyone to win.
2. FDU Becomes the Second 16-Seed to Ever Upset a One-Seed
History has been made yet again as 16-seed FDU took down one-seed Purdue in dominant fashion. The Boilermakers could not get anything going on offense, and FDU was able to pull away early. Knights head coach Tobin Anderson spoke out to his team following their first four win, saying, “The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them.” They found Purdue’s weakness, and it came in an unlikely way. FDU was able to use their short stature against 7’4 Zach Edey to their advantage. They were swarming aggressively the entire game and played at too fast a pace for Purdue to keep up. Once the Boilermakers went cold for a few minutes, the Knights took control of the game and pulled a commanding lead over Purdue. It was arguably the biggest upset in its tournament history, as they had to play in a first four game to even make the tournament.
1. Small Schools on the Big Map
When small market schools win, everybody wins. And we had so much of that to round out march madness. You have the inspiring Cinderella run by FAU to reach the Final Four, as well as a San Diego State team playing in a conference that usually disappoints come tournament time. Miami became the only team in a Power Five conference to make the Final Four, and they play in an underwhelming ACC Conference. Most people had the winner either coming out of the SEC or Big-12, with the exception of Houston, but the Big East is becoming more and more powerful as the years draw on. Villanova was horrible this season, and yet, they still were a very dominant conference. With the PAC-12 continuing to be a below-average tournament conference, the Big East continues to rise. Either way, we might need to get used to seeing these smaller schools dominate the big games.