ELLIE DEBRUNNER '23
March Madness - Best Moments
March Madness is officially over, meaning that the 2022-2023 basketball season has come to a close with UCONN taking home the National Championship Trophy. The Tournament itself was one for the history books for many reasons such as big upsets, buzzer beaters, ankle breakers, coaching rivalries, records being broken, and team rivalries. All these factors allowed for March Madness to heat up quickly. Yes, some games may have been boring, but there were plenty that were exciting and action packed. And while the games are long over, I’ve been thinking about the amazing performances by the players, who make the teams thrive in competition. Here are some of the stand out performances:
Top 10 games overall:
7 Michigan State vs. 3 Kansas State: This has to be the most exciting game to watch in the whole Tournament. This game was the first and only overtime game this year, which is actually quite rare. Markquis Nowell set multiple records during the tournament, but in this game he broke the record of having the most assists in a game by an individual player.
16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. 1 Purdue: For second time in history a sixteen seed defeated a 1 seed. Fairleigh Dickinson was actually the 68th team in the Tournament making it the first time ever that the worst ranked team overall beat a 1 seed team.
9 FAU vs. 3 Kansas State: The game was close up until the very end with FAU pulling off an upset to continue their miracle run in the championship. Markquis Nowell had a game high of 30 points and added 12 assists to the stats for his team but that was not enough to move on. The win helped FAU reach the school’s first ever Final Four.
9 FAU vs. 8 Memphis: In this close first round game, Memphis led at the half. FAU came back in the second half to outscore Memphis 35-30. Nicholas Boyd hit a floater with 2.5 seconds left and Giancarlo Rosado scored a team high of 15 points to help win. This game gave FAU their first NCAA Tournament win in school history.
13 Furman vs. 4 Virginia: Furman was the first upset of the NCAA Tournament this year. With two seconds remaining, Furman was trailing by two. They forced a turnover and JP Pegues hit a three pointer to give his team a 68-67 win.
6 TCU vs. 11 Arizona St: Arizona State had a 44-37 lead at halftime but in the second half TCU outscored them 35-26. The game was tied at 70 with three seconds left, JaKobe Coles drained a jumper to give them a two point victory. Mike Miles Jr. had a huge impact on the TCU victory by scoring 26 points for them.
2 UCLA vs. 3 Gonzaga: UCLA seemed to be the one to advance after a strong first half of looking like they were in complete control of the game. After halftime Gonzaga came out with more energy and held UCLA without a field goal for almost 10 minutes. Gonzaga had a nine point lead with less than two minutes left and that is when UCLA started to make a comeback. Julian Strawther hit a deep 3 to win the game.
5 San Diego State vs. 6 Creighton: San Diego State was a part of yet another one-point win. The only difference was that this happened in the Elite Eight. The game was tied with 56 seconds remaining when San Diego State’s Darrion Trammell was fouled. He hit a pair of free throws and Creighton turned it over on their final possession allowing for San Diego State to take the win.
5 San Diego State vs. 9 FAU: San Diego State was losing 40-33 at halftime. They came back in the second half and outscored FAU 39-31. San Diego State trailed by one with seconds remaining when Lamont Butler pulled up from the wing and drained a jumper. This sent San Diego State to the final game against UCONN.
8 Arkansas vs. 1 Kansas: Arkansas had some big shoes to fill after the first half and in the end they beat Kansas by one. Arkansas came into the season as one of the most hyped up teams in the country because of their roster: future NBA Draft lottery picks Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr. and Davonte Davis.
Top 5 Buzzer beaters:
5 San Diego St vs 9 Florida Atlantic: Lamont Butler shot within the three point field goal line to give San Diego a one point victory. This victory earned them a trip to the National Championship.
3 Gonzaga vs. 2 UCLA: Julian Strawther shot from the logo with 8.9 seconds left in the game to steal the win away from UCLA. This buzzer beater allowed Gonzaga to move on to the Elite Eight.
4 Virginia vs. 13 Furman: Garrett Hein stole the ball late with 7 seconds left on the shot clock. His quick pass to JP Pegues allowed for a three point jumper to be made with just 2 seconds left in the game.
9 FAU vs. 8 Memphis: Nicholas Boyd made a game winning layup with 2.2 seconds left in the game. This punched FAU’s ticket to the Sweet Sixteen and led to an upset that left most brackets (if they were not already) busted.
3 Kansas vs. 7 Michigan State: With 15 seconds left in overtime Ismael Massoud secured a three point lead against Michigan state. Markquis stole the ball after Tyson Walker (Michigan State) turned it over and made a layup with less than a second left in the game.
Top 20 players in 2023:
Jalen Wilson is one of Kansas’ best forwards. Wilson is not the best three point shooter or the most explosive player but he has a relentless approach to playing both offensively and defensively. There were many times this season where it felt like four players would be standing around watching Wilson cook offensively. He is just a great player all round.
Zach Edey is a center for Purdue, who is able to put his height in use while also being able to shoot. He has sharp footwork to match his incredible control of the ball. He ended the seasons with 46 assists and his ability to read the defense has steadily improved throughout the season.
Trayce Jackson-Davis plays center for Indiana and is one of the few players that has stayed all four years in college. He is a skilled post scorer, great rebounder, and this season his playmaking has been phenomenal. On top of being a great scorer he averages 3 blocks a game to add to his defensive part of his resume.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. is a forward for UCLA and is one of the important players on the team. He has this toughness and ability to make tough shots is what makes him so crucial to any team.
Marcus Sasser is one of Houston’s guards, who is a dynamic pull-up shooter with a deep range on his jumper. He is a great defender at the point of attack on top of his offensive talent.
Drew Timme is a center and is Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer. He is top 15 in the nation in scoring and in field goal percentage. He has led the team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and minutes played this season.
Azuolas Tubelis plays center for Arizona. He lives inside the arch, he is nimble around the rim, and he is unarguable in the pick-and-roll. He is able to draw more fouls than anyone else in the Pac-12, which is a clear sign other teams don’t know how to deal with him defensively.
Jalen Pickett is one of Penn State’s guards and is a big reason that Penn State is in the Tournament. He is one of the best at blending scoring and playmaking together. He is number 2 in the country right now in assists and he has finished top five in the Big Ten in points per game.
Adama Sanogo is a center, who plays for UConn and he is a defensive force. He is a versatile and talented scorer on top of being a great defensive player. He ended the regular season as the Big East’s leading scorer. He impacts the game from the perimeter offensively unlike last year where was lobbying up shots.
Keyonte George is a Guard that plays for Baylor. He is a player that gets buckets and it is obvious when witnessing his 20 point scoring outbursts and ridiculously tough shot-making ability. He ended the regular season with an impressive 21 percent assist rate and has a pretty extensive highlight reel. It is absolutely no surprise he is a projected NBA lottery pick this year.
Oscar Tshiebwe, who plays for Kentucky as a Center, leads the nation in rebounding. His offensive rating is among the best in the nation. He is in the top five in the entire country in offensive rebounding. His points have gone down from last season but he still manages to score in the double digits frequently.
Kris Murray plays for Iowa as a forward. He is a projected first round pick in the NBA Draft. He is a great shooter, rebounder, and he can be a mismatch nightmare. He is too big and too talented for many other teams to find an answer to both offensively and defensively.
Terrence Shannon, who plays for Illinois as one of their guards, found his place on a team after transferring from Texas Tech. Terrance thrives attacking the defense off the bounce and getting to the rim and he is also great at getting to the foul line where he makes 80% of his free throws. He has been the backbone of Illinois’ offense all year.
Keyontae Johnson plays for Kansas State as a forward. After collapsing on court at Florida two years ago he has spent the past two years trying to get healthy and safely resume his career. He found his place at Kansas State this year and he quickly regained his form. He has the power and athleticism to get to the rim and the skill to score midrange and from the three-point line.
Tyler Kolek, who plays for Marquette and is a guard. Tyler is a solid defender and a talented facilitator, who is also a very reliable player considering last season he started all 32 games. Over the summer he worked on shooting 3 pointers and has improved. He also leads the country in assists per game.
Isaiah Wong, who plays as a guard for Miami, has been on NBA radars since last season. He leads Miami in points, assists, and steals.
Colby Jones, who plays for Xavier University and is a guard. Colby contributes to the team on both sides of the court. On the offensive side he can always get to the rim and create open looks both off the dribble or off the catch. On the defensive side he has a quickness to match defenders and beat them to the spot and to disrupt shooters all over the court.
Markquis Nowell, who plays as a guard for Kansas State, is an overlooked player. The reason for this is because of his height but ever since he transferred to Kansas State this year he has grown into one of the best gerd in the Big 12.
Mike Miles Jr, who plays for TCU and is a guard. He has led TCU to the best years in program history while also improving his own game.
Ryan Kalkbrenner is a center for Creighton, who is the reason for Creighton’s success defensively. He also has the second best field goal percentage in the nation. When he is sick or injured, Creighton finds themselves struggling to win games. He is a staple in the team.
4 lessons learned from March Madness 2023:
If you are in a better conference such as the Big East you can still beat teams in a worse conference like the Big 12 even with a lower seed and a worse record. The reason why is because in a conference like the Big East every team is physical, the exposure and diversity in this conference prepares teams for surviving and advancing in the Tournament.
If the team wants to move on they will win because they will come into the game with more rigor, determination, and force than another team.
There is more than one way to win the NCAA Tournament. Shooting layups and threes are the obvious way to win a game but some teams like San Diego State used physically offensive rebounding and mid range jump shots to defeat teams.
College basketball is getting healthier even though the playing field is still not completely level. The transfer portal and NIL money have made college basketball more competitive across the country.
Looking forward to next year’s tournament is very hard. With the transfer portal and players leaving for the NBA draft the teams are pretty unpredictable at the moment. However, people are already predicting who will win next year. It may not come to many as a surprise but as of now the favorite to win March Madness 2024 is Duke. UConn is also a contender for the Championship title but only six teams in history have won championships back to back so it would be a huge shoe to fill.