NCAA Tournament Follow-Up
May 8, 2023
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament ended Monday, Apr. 3, after a month of madness that saw many upsets, including Princeton over Arizona, Fairleigh Dickinson University over Purdue, Arkansas over Kansas, Miami over Houston and San Diego State over Alabama. This resulted in the final four having no number one seed for the first time since 2011. The University of Connecticut was crowned national champions for the fifth time. This tournament taught us that there is a lot of parity in college basketball, and this article is a follow-up on my predictions and analysis from before the tournament. I am going to grade teams on their performance.
Alabama (31-6) (C-)
Alabama beat 16-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and eighth-seeded Maryland to get to the Sweet Sixteen, only to lose to San Diego State. Alabama had plenty of flaws throughout the season. Their 3-point shooting and scoring from controversial freshman star Brandon Miller was average. Miller had a poor final game, shooting 3-of-19 from the field, including 1-of-10 from 3-point range, with nine points and six turnovers. The rest of the team didn’t do much better, only shooting 3-of-27 from deep. While Alabama managed to get to the Sweet Sixteen, the team still performed below expectations.
Arizona (28-7) (F-)
After winning the Pac-12 tournament, the Wildcats looked like a team primed for a deep tournament run. However, their inability to close out the game showed in their first-round game against 15th-seeded Princeton. Despite being up by 10 points with eight minutes to go, they ended up losing the game in a disappointing way.
Princeton (23-9) (A-)
No surprise that an Ivy League school gets to be a class above some of the rest. The 15th-seeded win over the 2nd-seeded Arizona was only the second time that Princeton had accomplished such a feat since doing it as a 13th-seed in 1996, upsetting the 4th-seeded University of California-Los Angeles. The Tigers didn’t find it easy, though, as they were down by 10 with eight minutes to play, didn’t make a single free throw until there were 21 seconds left, and shot just 4-of-25 from 3-point range against the second-seeded Arizona.
This game was an example of the saying: “It ain’t over till it’s over,” as Princeton was able to slowly but surely come back and take the lead.
Princeton was led by English senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan, who scored 15 points and had seven rebounds and four assists against Arizona.
Princeton made history by becoming the fourth 15th-seed ever to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Despite losing to Creighton in the Sweet Sixteen, the Tigers still had a memorable showing in this tournament.
San Diego State University (32-7) (A+)
San Diego State University exceeded expectations as a fifth seed, beating 12th seed Charleston, 13th seed Furman, top-seeded Alabama, sixth seed Creighton, and ninth seed Florida Athletic University, thanks to a last-second buzzer-beater by junior guard Lamont Butler. However, they lost to fourth-seeded UConn in the national championship game. Seniors Matt Bradley and Nathan Mensah, along with junior Lamont Butler, led the team with an average of 12, 6 and 3.2 points per game, respectively. This Aztec team was the first in school and Mountain West history to reach the Elite Eight, Final Four or championship game, making this a significant milestone in San Diego sports history.
Houston (33-4) (D-)
The Cougars made it to the Sweet 16 by defeating 16th seed Northern Kentucky and ninth seed Auburn but were unable to beat a tough and talented fifth-seeded Miami. Senior Marcus Sasser, despite a groin injury, played in the tournament and scored 22 points against Auburn and 14 points against Miami. However, it was not enough to reach their season-long goal of playing in the Final Four.
Texas (29-9) (C-)
Texas made it to the Elite Eight by defeating 15th seed Colgate, 10th seed Penn State and third seed Xavier but lost to fifth-seeded Miami. Texas had to play without their star forward, senior Dylan Disu, who suffered a foot injury during the Sweet 16 game against Xavier. Texas had nine turnovers in the second half, and Miami capitalized on them. Texas now has to make a decision about its head coach as Rodney Terry has served as the interim head coach since December, replacing Chris Beard, who was arrested for felony domestic violence.
Miami (29-8) (A+)
The Hurricanes surprised many during this tournament by beating 13th seed Drake, fourth seed Indiana, top-seeded Houston, and second-seeded Texas, making it all the way to the Final Four. They lost to the eventual national champions, UConn. Sophomore Nijel Pack, junior Isaiah Wong and senior Jordan Miller averaged a combined total of 44.7 points and were instrumental in Miami’s unexpected Final Four run. This is Coach Jim Larrañaga’s second time taking a team to the Final Four since he did so with George Mason in 2006.
Purdue (29-6) (F-)
The Boilermakers, seeded first, had an abrupt end to their season and made history by losing in the first round to 16th seeded Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU). This was the second time a 16 seed has ever beaten a top seed since UMBC did so in 2018, beating Virginia. Junior Zach Edey, Purdue’s 7-foot-4 All-American center, recently crowned John Wooden Player of the Year and a potential National Basketball Association draft pick, scored 21 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and blocked three shots. However, the Knights dominated the Boilermakers in the paint with 24 points. The FDU defense kept Purdue from getting into rhythm, resulting in 16 turnovers, which the Knights turned into 15 points.
After the game, there was plenty to be angry about for the Boilermakers, quite literally. Photos that went viral from Purdue’s locker room showed a whiteboard broken down. This was indeed a tournament to forget for Purdue.
Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) (21-16) (C+)
No one thought FDU would beat No. 1 seeded Purdue except for Coach Tobin Anderson, who said after their win in the First Four play-in game against Texas Southern: “The more I see Purdue, the more I think we can beat them.” And he was right. In knocking off the Boilermakers, the Knights became just the second men’s 16-seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Senior Sean Moore led the way with 19 points in that game.
Despite losing in the second round to Florida Atlantic University, FDU proved everybody wrong in this tournament.
Kansas State (26-10) (B+)
Nobody thought that Kansas State would go on this type of run except for the Wildcats team itself. They beat 14-seeded Montana State, 6-seeded Kentucky, and 7-seeded Michigan State on their way to the Elite Eight, where they lost to Florida Athletic University. Sophomore Markquis Nowell led the way for the Wildcats in the tournament, having a scoring average of 20 points per game on the way to Kansas State going to the Elite Eight for the second time in five years. They would lose to 9th-seeded Florida Athletic University. Despite this, Kansas State had a very memorable NCAA Tournament.
Florida Atlantic University (35-4) (A+)
Florida Atlantic University proved to be a surprise coming out of the East Region, beating 8-seeded Memphis, 15-seed Fairleigh Dickinson University, 4-seeded Tennessee, and 3-seeded Kansas State on their way to their first-ever Final Four appearance and were on the brink of making it to the national championship before losing on that aforementioned last-second buzzer-beater to San Diego State. Sophomore Johnell Davis led the way for the Owls, averaging 14 points per game in the tournament. It should be noted that they were picked fifth in their conference (C-USA) preseason coaches’ poll but proved all the doubters wrong through this tournament to make Florida Atlantic relevant.
Kansas (28-8) (F+)
The previous national champions were a team that was expected to get back to the Final Four and possibly repeat as national champions. They beat 16-seeded Howard University in the first round but got an early exit, losing to 8-seeded Arkansas in the second round.
Junior Jalen Wilson led the way for Kansas, scoring 20 points for the Jayhawks in that Arkansas game. Kansas was in control for stretches and were up as many as 12, but, like Arizona did against Princeton, down the stretch, they were not able to put the Razorbacks down as Arkansas kept creeping up on them and ultimately won the game. There are some things that need to be fixed if Kansas is going to be back in a position that they were not so long ago.
Arkansas (22-14) (C+)
The Razorbacks made some noise during the tournament, beating 9-seed Illinois in the first round and overcoming a 12-point second-half deficit against the aforementioned 1-seed and defending national champions, Kansas, on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. Arkansas played a No. 1 seed for the third straight year, losing to 1-seeded Baylor in 2021 and beating Gonzaga in 2022. Junior Davonte Davis led the Razorbacks in scoring in this game, with 25 points. Despite questionable offensive play early and getting in foul trouble late in the game, Arkansas won, becoming the first team, according to OptaSTATS, to beat a No. 1 seed with three players fouling out.
In the end, Arkansas did enough to knock off the defending national champions.
University of Connecticut (31-8) (A+)
The UConn Huskies are once again the top team in college basketball, winning their fifth tournament. This team was the most complete in the tournament, with all their wins being convincing, with an average margin of victory of 22 points. Junior Adama Sanogo led the way with an average of 17.2 points, while sophomore Jordan Hawkins had an average of 16.2 points and senior Tristen Newton had an average of 10 points per game, all during the tournament, to lead the Huskies to the national championship.