A month to remember: Recapping the 2022 March Madness tournament
The storylines you need to know from college basketball’s biggest event
Whether you are a college basketball player, coach or fan, there is nothing more exciting than the NCAA Division I men’s March Madness tournament.
Every March for three weeks, the competing athletes play their hearts out for the chance to hoist a national championship trophy and have their names written in the history books of college basketball.
Year after year, this spectacle on the hardwood brings the joy of victory, the heartbreak of loss and the tearing up of paper brackets. The 2022 tournament was no different. There were plenty of bracket-busting upsets, heart-warming Cinderella stories and, of course, blue blood dominance.
Kansas Jayhawks crowned champions for the fourth time
On April 4, the University of Kansas Jayhawks (34-6) defeated the University of North Carolina Tar Heels (29-10) 72-69 to claim their fourth title in school history and second title under head coach Bill Self.
The Jayhawks’ win was no small feat. From the start of the game, Kansas had the momentum. A quick three-pointer from second-team All-American Ochai Agbaji on the first possession of the game, and their ability to capitalize on a couple of UNC missed baskets put the Jayhawks in the driver’s seat early.
But Self’s squad lost momentum after quickly getting into foul trouble, and UNC’s defense stepped up on some key possessions. The Tar Heels took advantage of this and stampeded back to take the lead, burying Kansas in a 16-point deficit midway through the half. After trading baskets for the rest of the period, the Jayhawks were trailing by 15 points at halftime.
The hero that emerged off the bench for Kansas in the second half put on a show that no one expected. On the back of graduate transfer Remy Martin’s 14-point performance to remember that included four three-pointers, the Jayhawks fought their way back and came out victorious in a game that came down to the last shot.
North Carolina spoils Coach K’s farewell tour
When the greatest college basketball coach of all time announced at the beginning of this season that this would be his last year coaching, he took a big risk.
Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski came into his final season with a top-five recruiting class and the fourth-ranked high school player in the country, Paolo Banchero.
Little did Coach K know that Duke’s rival school, North Carolina, would stand in his path to one, final national championship. After beating California State Fullerton, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Arkansas in the first four rounds of the tournament, the Blue Devils found themselves matched up with the Tar Heels in the Final Four for the first time in history.
The result was not the one that Krzyzewski wanted. In a back and forth game that came down to finals seconds, Caleb Love and North Carolina defeated Duke, putting an end to Coach K’s career.
After the game, Krzyzewski refused to let the spotlight fall on him. “It's not about me, especially right now,” he said following the loss. “I'm not thinking about my career right now.”
Saint Peter’s makes historic Cinderella run
The success of the Saint Peter’s University Peacocks was the biggest surprise to come out of this tournament. Most years, one team goes on an unlikely run that captures the hearts of fans nationwide. This was the case for No. 10 Davidson in 2008, No. 11 VCU in 2011, and No. 11 Loyola Chicago in 2018. This year that team was Saint Peter’s.
The Cinderella story began when Saint Peter’s head coach Shaheen Holloway’s No. 15 seeded Peacocks took down the No. 2 seeded Kentucky Wildcats in the round of 64. Behind star players Doug Edert, Daryl Banks III and Matthew Lee, Saint Peter’s would go on to upset Murray State and Purdue, before losing to North Carolina in the Elite Eight round.
Saint Peter’s University became the first No. 15 seed to make it to the Elite Eight in college basketball history, despite having a program budget one-fifth of the salary of Kentucky coach John Calipari.
In the time since their run ended, Coach Holloway has accepted a job to be the next head coach of the Seton Hall basketball team, his alma mater, and Edert, Banks and Lee have all entered their names into the transfer portal. This leaves America’s favorite team without their head coach and likely without their three star players next season.
Despite high hopes, Gonzaga comes up short yet again
In the last three March Madness tournaments, the Gonzaga University Bulldogs have been a No. 1 seed in their bracket region, and in the last two years, they have been the No. 1 ranked team in the country going into the tournament.
Somehow, with the great opportunities that the Gonzaga teams of the past three years have had, the school has zero national championships to show for it.
The Bulldogs came into this year’s tournament as the odds-on favorite to win it all. The No. 1 overall team in the country, led by junior forward and leading scorer Drew Timme, was matched up with Georgia State in the Round of 64, and after a close first half, found their rhythm, and put the Panthers away.
Gonzaga rode the high of their first tournament win into a second victory over a talented University of Memphis team, led by NBA prospect Jalen Duren, but their season came to an end in the Sweet 16 when the Bulldogs ran into the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Gonzaga’s 2019 loss to Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, 2021 loss to Baylor in the national championship, and 2022 loss to Arkansas in the Sweet 16 are part of a series of disappointing seasons that beg the question of whether or not Gonzaga has what it takes to reach the promised land.
In 2020, Bulldogs head coach Mark Few successfully recruited Jalen Suggs, the sixth-ranked high school player in the country, and in 2021, he brought in Chet Holmgren, the number one high school player in the country, but again, has nothing to show for it.
The future is not bright for Gonzaga either. Holmgren will likely declare for the draft this off-season following Timme, who has already announced his intentions to go pro. This leaves Gonzaga without their leading scorer and without their star, and an incoming recruiting class that is only set to bring in one 3-star recruit.