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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

March Madness: A tournament to remember

Zach_Edey_2_cropped
Purdue’s Zach Edey is pictured.

After an unusual regular season, 2023 brought a myriad of storylines to the NCAA Tournament. With no true favorite, it felt like any team could be on the podium come April 3. And that held true for all of March.

In just the round of 64, we saw a Furman University game winner to upset No. 4 University of Virginia; the first Ivy League March Madness win since 2016 by the Princeton University Tigers; and the Naismith Player of the Year, Zach Edey, fall to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson University. These trends continued into the second round, where Princeton continued its Cinderella story with a win against University of Missouri, Tom Izzo’s Michigan State University beat No. 2 Marquette University to get to yet another Sweet Sixteen and top seed University of Kansas collapsed to an uber-talented University of Arkansas team. But the madness didn’t stop there. Once we got to our last eight teams, no No. 1 seeds remained, Kansas State University’s Markquis Nowell dished out 19 assists and No. 9 Florida Atlantic University was just inches away from the Final Four. Down to four teams, No. 5 San Diego State University faced off against No. 9 Florida Atlantic, and No. 4 University of Connecticut was set to play No. 5 University of Miami. After Florida Atlantic built a 14-point lead in the second half, SDSU was able to claw back and earn itself a chance to play for the national championship. On the other side of the bracket, UConn won handily, ending an exciting run by Jim Larrañaga and his UMiami team.

While the tournament up to this point was incredibly compelling, the championship game didn’t  follow suit, as most expected. SDSU was able to gain a quick lead in the first three or four minutes of the game, but otherwise, it was all UConn. Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan proved to be too much inside for SDSU, forcing 14 straight missed shots and allowing UConn to accumulate a 16-point lead toward the end of the first half. This, along with great guard play from Jordan Hawkins and Tristen Newton, gave Dan Hurley’s team a huge advantage over SDSU, never giving SDSU the lead back after closing the deficit five minutes into the game. By the end, UConn safely won 76–59. Deservingly, Sanogo was awarded Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Winning every game by double digits, the 2022–23 Huskies place fourth in the highest overall point differential since the tournament expansion in 1985. It’s safe to say that they are one of the most dominant teams of the last two decades. It seemed like the only obstacle this team faced was failing to win the Big East Tournament, probably due to their rough six-game stretch midseason. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing for UConn all thanks to Hurley, who put together an insanely talented and deep team that was destined to win in March. And if it wasn’t clear before, UConn has cemented itself as a college basketball blue-blood.

The new Big East looks like it could be running basketball for the next decade, with exciting hires like Ed Cooley to Georgetown University and Rick Pitino to St. John’s University. Recruiting in the conference will only get better with all the strong coaching. UConn, Marquette and Creighton University will most likely sit in the top 10 of next year’s preseason poll. Are we back to the dominant Big East of the 80s?

Unfortunately, we now have to wait seven months to see any of this. Luckily, the offseason has never been this exciting before. With the transfer portal containing hundreds of players and name, image and likeness deals being available, this is basically NBA free agency. Although many still fight the idea of paying players, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a competitive tournament and a lot of that is because the players can decide where they want to play every single year; this is the new college basketball and I’m here for it.