The Epic Highs and Lows of College Basketball

A summary of the winners and losers from the 2022 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

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Aaaand breathe. In the three weeks since TX Southern kicked off the First Four of the Men’s NCAA College Basketball tournament by beating Texas A&M-CC, we have seen 67 games, boiling a melting pot of 68 of the best college basketball teams in the nation down to just one. From the opening days until the championship game on April 4, fresh-faced students have carried the weight of entire fanbases, ranging from small universities to significant portions of the American public. There were four regions (East, Midwest, South, and West) with 16 teams each (seeded one to sixteen). The first and second rounds were followed by the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight before the winners of each region met in the Final Four in New Orleans. Between double overtimes, crucial player ejections, and clutch shots, March Madness lived up to the hype, once again providing fans with highs and lows. Here are the winners and losers from the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament:


Saint Peter’s

Located in Jersey City, New Jersey, Saint Peter’s University is not known for holding a terrific basketball program. The school of just over 2,600 undergraduates had only been to three NCAA tournaments before this year, failing in each to make it past the first round. But this year, coach Shaheen Holloway and his stars put St. Peter’s on the map in one of the best “Cinderella” runs in the history of the tournament. They began busting brackets with the overtime defeat of 2-seeded Kentucky, going on to beat Murray State (seeded 7) and Purdue (3) as they became the highest-seeded team (at 15) ever to reach the Elite Eight. UNC ended their miraculous run, but the team’s players represented themselves in a remarkable way, gaining the admiration and respect of fans and teams across the country.

Blue Bloods

Despite a tournament filled with upsets and surprises in the first few rounds, the Final Four ended up filled with “Blue Bloods”—programs with an ingrained history of winning. Between UNC (6), Duke (5), Kansas (3), and Villanova (2), the Final Four teams had a total of 16 championships even before Kansas picked up the crown this year, along with a staggering 61 Final Four appearances with this year in account. Despite legendary head coach Roy Williams leaving UNC last year, Kentucky falling unexpectedly in the first round, and Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) retiring, fans of the Blue Bloods need not worry for the future with this year as evidence that their teams will continue to dominate.

UNC and Coach K’s Last Dance

In fitting fashion, likely the best college basketball coach ever coached his last game in the biggest college basketball game of all time. It is hard to believe that Duke and UNC had never played a March Madness game against each other, despite facing off 257 times in other competitions and sporting one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. But in Coach K’s last game, with the chance to play in a national championship on the line, these two superstar programs faced off in an instant classic with 19 lead changes en route to UNC’s 4-point victory. Coach K may not have gone out with a sixth national championship, but in winning the West regional, he passed John Wooden for the most Final Four appearances by a coach in history (13) and gave his school memories of going out in fashionable style. Meanwhile, UNC will be able to revel in the fact that they were responsible for both Coach K’s first and last losses as the coach of the Blue Devils and made it all the way to the championship game as an eight seed.

Second-Half University

Kansas may have been a No. 1 seed and only had to play two other teams seeded better than eighth, Villanova (2) and Providence (4), but they looked out of sorts at multiple times during the first half. Ultimately, whatever coach Bill Self was able to tell his players during halftime made the difference as he picked up his second national championship for the Jayhawks (the first was in 2008). In the Elite Eight, they found themselves six points behind the University of Miami before a monster second half in which they outscored their opponents 47-15. But even more impressively, they became the team to overturn the largest deficit in a championship game, after being down by 16 points to UNC at one point in the first half and being down by 15 at the end of the half. Just like against Miami, they scored 47 points, compared with 29 for UNC, doing just enough to pick up their fourth NCAA championship. Now, only UCLA (11), Kentucky (8), UNC (6), Duke (5), and Indiana (5) have more.


Number One Seeds

It may seem ironic to put the No. 1 seeded teams in the losers section given that Kansas won the national championship, but a look at the other three one-seeded teams in Gonzaga, Arizona, and Baylor reveals severe underperformance. Historically, 69 percent of one-seeded teams make it past the Sweet Sixteen, but this year both Gonzaga and Arizona lost at this stage, with reigning champion Baylor losing even earlier in the round of 32. Baylor’s stakes were lower, given that Scott Drew delivered the chip last year, but a second-round exit as a one-seed is nevertheless disappointing. Meanwhile, Arizona slumped to a double-digit defeat to fifth-seed Houston after a shaky victory against TCU. Finally, Mark Few’s Gonzaga, the No. 1 seeded team in the tournament as a whole and a one-seed in four of the last five tournaments, still is yet to win a national title. With star players like Chet Holmgren, Benedict Mathurin, Jeremy Sochan, Drew Timme, and Kendall Brown all likely to be drafted, this year was surely a missed opportunity for the Bears, Wildcats, and Bulldogs.

John Calipari

While some of the other Blue Bloods made deep runs, Kentucky slumped to a first-round defeat against 15-seed Saint Peter’s. It has now been seven years since Coach Calipari last took them to the Final Four, and they have not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2019. There was no lack of talent on the team this year: Oscar Tshiebwe was the Naismith Player of the Year, averaging 17.4 points and 15.2 rebounds; Tyty Washington has lottery pick potential; Shaedon Sharpe, the projected number one pick for the 2023 NBA Draft, did not play a single minute for the team after enrolling mid-year per Calipari’s guidance. Since the loss to Saint Peter’s, Kentucky fans have even been calling for Calipari to be fired, demonstrating this as a low point in his career.

Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12

The Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12 each had multiple teams that were considered title contenders, namely Purdue and Wisconsin from the Big Ten, Auburn, Tennessee, and Kentucky from the SEC, and Arizona and UCLA from the Pac-12. However, out of the staggering 18 teams to feature in the tournament from these conferences, only Arkansas made it past the Sweet Sixteen, only to fall short in the Elite Eight. It was the ACC that was expected to be weaker this year, but conversely, three of their six teams made it to the Elite Eight (Duke, UNC, and Miami), while the last Power Five conference, the Big 12, posted a 13-5 record with Kansas’ championship victory.

Fans’ Brackets

The wait for a perfect bracket continues… and is likely never to end. This year after just 28 games, Iowa State’s win against LSU eliminated the last perfect bracket, though it was Saint Peter’s unpredictable win over Kentucky that hurt brackets the most (96.96 percent picked Kentucky). The odds of a perfect bracket are infinitesimally small, so the lack of one this year is not a surprise, even after the 10 perfect brackets after the first round in 2019. Moreover, a majority of the public ended up losing points as big teams underperformed. Gonzaga and Arizona were the most-picked teams to win it all, but both lost in the Sweet Sixteen; Iowa was picked more than any other low-seeded team to make the Sweet Sixteen but lost in the first round; Tennessee was picked in more brackets than any other non-top-two seed to win the championship but lost in the second round.

As a whole, the tournament itself was a massive success for the fans who look forward to this month of mayhem every year. Not only were there 10.7 million total viewers, up over 13 percent from last year, but for the first time since 2019, there were full stadiums at the NCAA tournament because of the COVID pandemic. College basketball may be in a transition as legendary coaches like Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski say farewell to the sport, but at its heart, March Madness is like no other tournament because prestige and percentages do not always triumph, so the excitement is bound to continue.