Perfect Madness: What Made the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Great


This year’s installment of March Madness had it all: a deserving champion, crazy upsets, a historic semifinal matchup, and a record-breaking Cinderella story that became America’s team in just a week. And for the first time in three years, college basketball fans across the country were able to enjoy the games in person, bringing back the wild crowds and emotions that make college sports great. But in case you missed out on the madness, here are some of the highlights.

The Peacocks that Shocked the World

By far the most surprising of upsets in this year’s tournament came in the first round when the St. Peter’s Peacocks took down the Kentucky Wildcats in a 2-vs-15-seed, David vs. Goliath matchup whose outcome not even the savviest of college basketball analysts predicted correctly. For context, the University of Kentucky is a flagship state institution with over 30,000 students that boasts arguably the most successful college basketball program and consistently brings in top-level basketball talent. St. Peter’s University is a small, Catholic, commuter school in Jersey City that spends one-twelfth as much money on its basketball team as Kentucky does, and their program had never won an NCAA tournament game. Not only did St. Peter’s do the unthinkable against Kentucky, winning 85-79 in overtime, but they also went on to defeat 31-2 and 7-seed Murray State as well as 3-seeded Purdue to become the first 15-seed in tournament history to advance to the Elite 8 before losing to North Carolina. In the process, Doug Edert, the virtually unknown St. Peter’s guard, rose to internet fame almost overnight as he gained over 150,000 Instagram followers during the tournament, as his mustachioed face became the symbol of their remarkable run.

The biggest bracket busters

In addition to St. Peter’s, several other low-seeded teams pulled off thrilling upsets, making this year’s tournament one of the most unpredictable in recent years. In the first round, two 12-seeds beat 5-seeds: New Mexico State took down UConn and Richmond beat Iowa, the Big 10 Champions who many considered a sleeper pick to win it all. The next round, 8-seed North Carolina fended off a 25-point comeback from 1-seed Baylor, a tournament favorite and the defending champions. Other low seeds to upset top teams in the second round were Michigan, Miami, and Iowa State, who defeated Tennessee, Auburn, and Wisconsin, respectively. Two more 1-seeds fell the next weekend in the Sweet 16, Gonzaga (the top overall seed) and Arizona, both of whom were top choices to win it all. Upsets are a normal part of March Madness, but it’s rare that so many of such great magnitude occur in a single tournament, and they played an integral part in making this year’s so exciting.

A Duke-UNC Classic

In what was perhaps the biggest storyline of the tournament, Duke and UNC met in the Final 4 in an instant classic of a game that featured 18 lead changes. Eventually Carolina came out on top, winning 81-77 to oust the 2 seeds and book their spot in the national championship game. It was the first time that the two teams had played in the NCAA tournament, an unprecedented moment in one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. To further the hype around the game, it was legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last hurrah with the Blue Devils, and so it was only fitting that his last game would be a thriller against the Tar Heels. Though his squad came up short, it surely was not a bad way to end his 48-year coaching career.

Kansas, the Champs

In a storybook ending to the tournament, the 1-seed Kansas Jayhawks beat UNC in the finals, overcoming a 16-point second half deficit to win their fourth national championship. Kansas had played an exceptional tournament and dominated competition all season, but they found themselves in a nail-baiter against the Heels. With three seconds left, star Carolina guard Caleb Love hoisted up a potential game-tying three pointer with hopes of emulating his last-second heroics against Duke. The ball fell short as time expired and the confetti fell, giving Kansas the win 72-69 to cap off a tournament for the ages. This year’s March Madness reminded us of the beauty of college basketball, and next season can’t come soon enough.