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The 2022 NCAA tournament ended in thrilling fashion on Monday night, with Kansas overcoming a 15-point halftime deficit en route to a 72-69 victory over North Carolina.
From an opening weekend filled with upsets to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s unlikely Cinderella run to the Elite Eight, it was a March Madness to remember.
Now it’s time to slap a bow on this year’s festivities with one final round of winners and losers, spanning the entirety of this year’s tournament, from the First Four games on March 15 and 16 through the national championship game.
It’s been a wild ride. Thanks for reading along with us!
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When the dust settled on a wild opening day of the 2022 NCAA tournament that saw No. 15 Saint Peter’s upset No. 2 Kentucky, along with upset wins by No. 12 seeds New Mexico State (over UConn) and Richmond (over Iowa), there were only 192 perfect brackets remaining across NCAA.com, ESPN, CBS and Yahoo bracket pools.
By the time No. 11 seed Iowa State upset No. 6 LSU on Friday night, that number was officially whittled to zero.
It was the second year in a row no bracket survived the opening round, and as the gap continues to close between blue bloods and mid-major upstarts, it becomes less and less likely we’ll ever see someone hit the perfect bracket.
We’ll all be filled with that same hope when the first game tips off on Thursday morning next year, though, and that’s the beauty of March Madness.
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The Duke vs. North Carolina matchup in the Final Four will likely be the game everyone remembers from the 2022 NCAA tournament, but the best game of this year’s tournament happened during the First Four in Dayton, Ohio.
In the final play-in game on Wednesday night, Rutgers and Notre Dame faced off for the chance at an opening-round matchup with No. 6 seed Alabama.
It took two overtimes to decide a winner, with Notre Dame’s Paul Atkinson Jr. putting in the game-winning putback with two seconds left to give the Fighting Irish an 89-87 victory.
Rutgers had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, there were 10 points scored in the final minute of the first overtime, and Ron Harper Jr. hit a huge game-tying three-pointer with 23 seconds to go in the second overtime before Notre Dame came away with the victory.
The Fighting Irish went on to upset Alabama in the opening round before falling to Texas Tech in the second round, proving they belonged in the field from the start.
Watch the play-in games, folks!
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Jabari Smith has all the tools to be a star at the NBA level, with an athletic 6’10” frame, an offensive game that stretches to the perimeter where he shot 42.0 percent from three-point range, and the length to be an impact player on the defensive end.
However, his standout freshman season ended with a thud when he was held to 10 points on 3-of-16 shooting in the Tigers’ second-round loss to No. 10 seed Miami. The pesky Hurricanes defense kept him uncomfortable from the opening tip.
“I had some looks that just didn’t fall, but credit to them, just making them tough,” Smith told reporters. “Keeping bodies on me, being physical with me, sending two people. They defended well as a team.”
The consensus remains that Smith will be a top-three pick in the 2022 NBA draft, alongside Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, but he might have locked up the No. 1 spot with a strong March Madness run.
Instead, his college career likely ends with a sour taste in his mouth as the Tigers failed to survive the opening weekend.
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Every year, there are at least a couple of mid-major stars who take full advantage of the bright lights and put on a show during March Madness.
This year, he was Wright State guard Tanner Holden and New Mexico State forward Teddy Allen.
An All-Horizon League selection, Holden averaged 20.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game during his junior season for a Wright State team that snuck into the NCAA tournament as the No. 4 seed in the Horizon League tournament.
He outplayed Bryant’s Peter Kiss, the nation’s leading scorer, in one of the First Four games when he poured in 37 points on 11-of-15 shooting. He followed that up with 12 points against No. 1 seed Arizona in the opening round, and after entering the transfer portal, he has landed at Ohio State where he will likely step into a starting role with the Buckeyes.
No stranger to the transfer portal himself, Allen began his college career at West Virginia before spending time at Western Nebraska Community College, Nebraska and finally New Mexico State.
The 6’6″ junior won WAC Player of the Year behind 19.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game for a 27-7 Aggies team.
He scored 37 points in an upset win over No. 5 seed UConn in the opening round to make his mark on the 2022 tournament, and he added 12 points, four rebounds and one steal in the team’s second-round loss to Arkansas. He has already declared for the 2022 NBA draft.
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The Big Ten crashed and burned in the 2021 NCAA tournament, with No. 2 seed Ohio State and No. 4 seed Purdue both losing in the opening round, while No. 1 seed Illinois and No. 2 seed Iowa failed to survive their second- round opponent.
It was more of the same this year.
Despite leading all conferences with nine NCAA tournament bids, only No. 3 seed Purdue and No. 11 seed Michigan managed to reach the Sweet 16, and they were both promptly sent packing before the field was whittled to the Elite Eight.
However, the bigger black eye this year might belong to the SEC.
While No. 4 seed Arkansas did reach the Elite Eight, No. 2 seed Kentucky, No. 6 seed LSU and No. 6 seed Alabama were all upset in the first round. That was followed by No. 2 Auburn and No. 3 Tennessee both losing in the second round, blowing up plenty of brackets along the way.
All year, teams struggled to win away from home in the SEC, and sure enough that narrative held true during March Madness.
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We’ve never seen a Cinderella run quite like that of the Saint Peter’s Peacocks.
From the onset of their opening game against No. 2 seed Kentucky, they seemed completely unfazed by facing off against one of the sport’s blue bloods, and their relentless defensive intensity that earned them the No. 25 spot in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency this year proved to be their golden ticket.
After shocking the Wildcats in overtime, they beat No. 7 seed Murray State by 10 points to advance to the Sweet 16 and then became the first No. 15 seed to ever reach the Elite Eight when they squeaked out a 67-64 win against No 3-seed Purdue.
The Cinderella run came to an end with a 20-point loss to North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but their run won’t soon be forgotten.
Three-point shooter Doug Edert and his glorious mustache got an NIL deal from Buffalo Wild Wings, head coach Shaheen Holloway landed the head coaching job at his alma mater Seton Hall, and now everyone knows that Saint Peter’s University is in New Jersey.
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No one wants to see a blowout in the Final Four.
When the NCAA tournament field is trimmed down to four teams, college basketball fans want a back-and-forth battle for a spot in the national title game.
The Villanova Wildcats were simply overmatched by No. 1 seed Kansas.
In a game that had a four-point spread, the Jayhawks led wire to wire, scoring the first 10 points and building a 26-11 lead midway through the first half.
Ochai Agbaji (21 points, 6/7 3PT) finally looked like a first-team All-American and David McCormack (25 points, 10/12 FG) was a man among boys in the paint as Kansas cruised to an 81-65 victory and punched his ticket to the championship game.
Tip of the cap to Villanova fifth-year senior guard Collin Gillespie, who scored a team-high 17 points in his final college game. The Big East Player of the Year had to watch from the sidelines with an injury last March after the 2020 tournament was canceled, so it was nice to see him enjoy one last NCAA tournament run.
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Duke vs. North Carolina in the Final Four for the first time in the history of the rivalry.
There was simply no way the game was going to live up to the hype.
And then it did.
The game saw 18 lead changes, neither team led by more than seven points at any time, and it wasn’t until Caleb Love hit a dagger three to put North Carolina up 78-74 with 28 seconds to play that it finally started to become clear who was going to win the game.
Even then, it took Love knocking down three of four free throws to seal the win, as the sophomore guard finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting, tallying 22 of his points during the second half.
It may not have been the storybook ending that Duke fans had in mind for legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski as he rides off into retirement, but it was the pinnacle of college basketball’s biggest rivalry, and it will be the game that people remember from this tournament years from now.
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The first half of Monday’s national championship game was all North Carolina.
The Tar Heels ripped off a 26-7 run to close out the first half and take a 40-25 lead into the break, tallying 18 second-chance points and dominating on the board with a 27-18 advantage.
Meanwhile, Kansas shot a miserable 6-of-21 in the paint as it settled for bad looks early in the shot clock time and again while trying to force the tempo.
The 15-point lead that North Carolina built was tied for the fourth-largest halftime lead in championship game history, but it took a little over five minutes for the Jayhawks to trim that deficit to six points coming out of the break, and a corner three-pointer from Remy Martin with 10:23 to play put the Jayhawks up 53-50 as the momentum had completely shifted.
Suddenly it was North Carolina settling for bad looks and missing inside, while Kansas patiently set up its offense and found easy baskets time and again.
The same Tar Heels that coughed up a 25-point lead against Baylor—which would have tied the NCAA tournament record for the largest blown lead had they lost—but survived to win in overtime couldn’t weather the storm a second time, and now they own the largest blown lead in title game history.
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All tournament long as we rolled out the “Winners and Losers” articles, the go-to comment for snarky readers was always something along the lines of the winners are the teams that won and the losers are the teams that lost.
So here you go, folks.
The Kansas Jayhawks are the biggest winners in the 2022 NCAA tournament because they won the 2022 NCAA tournament, and they did it with a record-setting comeback and a total team effort.
Sixth man Remy Martin was the star in the early going with a 20-point game against Creighton in the second round and a 23-point showing against Providence in the Sweet 16. He knocked down four three-pointers on Monday night and finished with 14 points in 21 minutes.
Center David McCormack had a season-high 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting against Villanova in the Final Four, and he came up big again with 15 points and 10 rebounds while overcoming some early foul trouble.
Christian Braun struggled in the first half but came out aggressive to start the second half to help spark the comeback. He ultimately finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. Jalen Wilson added 15 points and Dajuan Harris Jr. played his usual stellar defense.
In the end, he was Big 12 Player of the Year and first-team All-American Ochai Agbaji who took home NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player honors, with his 21-point showing against Villanova on 6-of-7 from beyond the arc as his signature performance.
Congratulations to the 2021-22 Kansas Jayhawks on navigating a wild tournament field to walk away as national champions!