There were a total of ZERO perfect brackets entering the sweet sixteen. What were the major storylines, here?

Paul Brady

The Road to the Final Four

Everyone around college basketball talks about the mythical “The Road to the Final Four.” As a passionate and learned fan (I hope) of the game, I cannot put into words how difficult it is for a team to be the last one standing in its quadrant. Nothing is more certain than the fact that Kansas, Duke, Villanova, and North Carolina earned their spots playing in New Orleans this past Saturday. Let’s break down how Kansas, ythe NCAA men’s basketball champion, was effective in besting the strong competition presented to them, as well as the other defining moments of March 2022.


One No. 1 seed remained as of the Elite Eight? And it was Kansas? In fact, Kansas outperformed the other three No. 1 seeds (Gonzaga, Arizona, and Baylor) in their tournament run after the second round, and the Jayhawks didn’t stop there. After taking care of business handily against Villanova, Kansas matched up favorably against Hubert Davis’s UNC Tarheels, surmounting a 15-point deficit at the half to win 72-69. Christian Braun, Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, and Remy Martin supplied the offensive explosiveness Coach Bill Self sought after all year long. Consistency, good coaching, experience, depth, and talent were the other qualities Kansas exhibited in March. That said, it has to be mentioned that Kansas faced the easiest road among the No. 1 seeds: Texas Southern, Creighton, Providence, Miami, Villanova, and North Carolina. While deserving of a championship title, Kansas was guided by the good graces of the committee which created the bracket. 


David beats Goliath, five times

In March Madness, you always have what many call the “giants.” Whether it be dynasties, young and hungry teams, or teams that performed the best in the regular season, the “giants” are the few squads you would pencil into your Sweet Sixteen automatically because of their prowess. However, three of these goliaths didn’t even make it to this round: Baylor, Auburn, and Kentucky. In looking purely at the statistics, ten No. 15 seeds have won games in the NCAA tournament since the seeding era began in 1985. That means that entering this season, there was less than a 4% likelihood of a #15 seed winning a first-round game. Evidently, St. Peter’s overcame these odds and provided the college basketball fandom with a Cinderella story unlike any other. It all started when the Peacocks took down the Kentucky Wildcats. I would argue that this was the biggest upset in college basketball history for a number of reasons. First, Kentucky met all of the qualification standards to constitute a “giant”, a lock into the Sweet Sixteen. There’s a legacy, an expectation of success at Kentucky. Coach Calipari is the 17th winningest coach in history. Oscar Tshiebwe was named Naismith Player of the Year. There was no indication prior to March that this team would falter against a far inferior opponent in St. Peter’s. Secondly, Kentucky’s men’s basketball program receives $16.7 million more in funding than St. Peter’s, a cnearly obscene differential. 

Gonzaga and Arizona, too, lost way earlier than anticipated, so the reason behind this high volume of major upsets must be questioned. My father, who played a little hoops in his hayday, hypothesized that the giants are likely to lose because they don’t play defense. I would further this take by saying the higher seeds this year didn’t work as hard as the lower ones. Simply put, St. Peter’s doesn’t beat Kentucky if not for their extraordinary effort. Additionally, it’s difficult to overcome the mental adversity of being a probable winner like Kentucky. With all the hype and high hopes in the media for these giants, players can feel a lot of pressure, especially if it’s a close game in the second half of a first-round game.


Bracket theory: Probabilities

 Think to yourself, “How many No. X seeds will make it to the second round?” and then make predictions in accordance with that number

In creating my bracket this year, I engaged with probabilities more than I ever had before. While my bracket, (pictured above), was busted after the round of 32, I still think my predictions were logical and things could have unraveled the way I estimated. Nevertheless, owning a bracket with 23% accuracy is nothing to brag about, and it’s even more embarrassing after setting a goal of 75% accuracy. These “probabilities” I mentioned have nothing to do with the odds on any given game, but rather the most likely number of upsets to occur in each seed category. Yes, I was over 75% wrong this year, but I kept my approach as statistical and data-based as possible. For example, I predicted two 12 seeds to win, and, interestingly enough, Richmond and New Mexico St. both won. Yet I picked the two other 12 seeds to win, and herein lies the crux of my busted bracket: becoming emotionally drawn towards certain teams. Take Wisconsin, for example. There was a lot to love about the Badgers, but I chose them to be in my Final Four solely because I followed them during the regular season. My takeaway is to diversify the kinds of teams you watch. The Big 10 is one of the most televised conferences in basketball, several Big 10 teams made the AP top-25 poll, yet none of their teams met expectations on the big stage these past two years. Therefore, in preparing for March Madness, never watch the same team more than twice. You might think better of a team just because you’re familiar with their players. 


Coach K farewell and the disappointing Zags disappoint again

UNC men’s basketball fans have shown no mercy nor respect towards Mike Krzyzewski, calling the recently retired basketball legend “Coach L” after he lost to UNC. Despite the happiness, some exude, others are deeply saddened that they had to say goodbye to Coach K on such a low note. Two weeks ago I passed two Delbarton students in the hall, and one of them turned to his friend saying, “Tomorrow I can wake up, and Coach K’s career could be over. I am not okay with that. My childhood is gone.” The sorrow of this one Duke fan may look pathetic, but it’s an active representation of how Duke fans all over the country will struggle to sleep at night knowing the Coach K era has come and passed.

On another note, the most glaring part of my bracket is that I had Gonzaga taking the cake! The Zags crumbled when they faced Eric Musselman’s Arkansas Razorbacks. How legendary Coach Mark Few let his team, the hands-down best team on paper, lose to Eric Musselman’s squad is befuddling. Prior to Gonzaga’s defeat, I knew all hope for my bracket was down the drain, but I was still infuriated by Musselman’s celebratory reaction after the final buzzer. Our lunatic Eric was seen jumping up and down, hands raised in the air as if he thought he was Jesus himself. The moral of this story is that there is a way to lose and a way to win, and even if you take down the No. 1 overall team in the Sweet Sixteen, you’re not all that.