Sidelines: Wrapping up March Madness


Adama Sanogo waits to embrace head coach Dan Hurley following their national championship victory. (Photo courtesy of KSL Sports)

As the final confetti is swept off the court following the University of Connecticut’s dominant run through the entire 2023 NCAA bracket, it is time to revisit the tournament and consider realistically how far the Leopards could have gone.

Every single one of the top-12 seeds in the tournament was eliminated before the semifinals even began, with none of the No. 1 seeds and only three of the top 12 making it to the elite eight. This was the first time since 2011 that there were no first or second seeds in the final four, and the first time ever that a fourth seed and a fifth seed had ever played each other in the National Championship.

Connecticut looked absolutely unstoppable during the entire postseason run as it won its six tournament games by an average of 20 points per game, the fourth-highest average margin of victory in NCAA history. The main criticism on Head Coach Dan Hurley up to that point was that he has not been able to win close games. He didn’t even have the opportunity to disprove that narrative this year thanks to Connecticut’s impressive performances. The Huskies were led by dominant junior center Adama Sanogo, who filled the position of UConn’s tournament hero that was previously held by Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier.

San Diego State put up a great fight but ultimately could not get it done in its attempt to become the first No. 5 seed to ever win a championship. The Aztecs, after reaching their first final four ever, will look to build upon their performance this year in recruiting, especially as rumors swirl about a potential jump to the Pac-12.

One of the biggest stories of the tournament was Florida Atlantic University, a No. 9 seed who became a Division I team only 30 years ago, making it all way to the final four, running through programs with double and triple the size of its budget. They joined the ranks of Princeton and Fairleigh Dickinson of lower seeds making it way farther in the tournament than anyone expected.

Lastly, the other main story has been the parity in this year’s tournament. Throughout the regular season, it felt like there was no clear number one team or a couple of leading teams. That was made perfectly clear during the tournament as it felt like all of the top teams were susceptible to defeat. All four No. 1 seeds were bounced before the sweet 16 with one, Purdue, falling in the first round to a No. 16 seed.

We are likely to never see another tournament like this one. The NCAA and CBS may be disappointed with the television ratings as almost every single traditional blue blood were either not up to their usual form or not in the bracket at all. While the Leopards just missed being included, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that with the sheer number of upsets, they would have strolled to the final four.