Around March Madness MBB: UConn wins National Championship to finish incredible NCAA Tournament 


The madness is over. UConn has won its fifth national championship, all since 1999. As we close an amazing college basketball season, let’s take one final look at the best parts of one of the best NCAA Tournaments in recent memory. 

Best Team 

UConn Huskies (31-8, national champions) 

The Huskies are now tied with Duke and Indiana for the fourth-most in history. They are now 5-0 in national championship games. They join Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas as the only programs to win a national title with three different head coaches. UConn has reached the top with Jim Calhoun three times, Kevin Ollie in 2014 and now Dan Hurley in 2023. Despite only being in six Final Fours and having a rough era in the American Athletic Conference, Connecticut is a blue blood. Led by Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins, the Huskies completed one of the most dominant NCAA Tournament runs ever. They won each of their six games by ten points or more, joining Michigan State in 2000, Duke in 2001, North Carolina in 2009 and Villanova in 2018. They went undefeated outside the Big East, showing just how difficult the Big East was this year. 

Best Game 

No. 3 Kansas State advances to Elite Eight over No. 7 Michigan State in overtime, 98-93 

This game was truly crazy. There were a lot of great candidates to choose from, but this one took the cake as the only overtime game of the tournament. K-State guard Markquis Nowell broke the NCAA Tournament record for most assists in a game with 19, while also scoring 20 points. Despite an incredible guard duel between Nowell and A.J. Hoggard, who finished with 25 points, the Wildcats moved on to face Florida Atlantic in the East Regional Final. 

Best Finish 

No. 5 San Diego State comes from behind to stun No. 9 Florida Atlantic at the buzzer, 72-71 

As I was in Houston watching this game, it seemed the Owls were going to win and advance to Monday’s title game. However, after being down by as many as 14 points, the Aztecs started to find a rhythm. Jaedon LeDee cut the deficit to one with 36 seconds to go. Johnell Davis, the leading scorer for FAU, missed a layup on the other end, giving the Aztecs a chance to win the game. Despite Matt Bradley being the go-to guy for most of the game, head coach Brian Dutcher didn’t use his final timeout to set a play up for him. Instead, Lamont Butler, who was so close to stepping out of bounds, circled back from the baseline, stepped back and hit a buzzer-beating jumper that continued San Diego State’s magical run. Even though Gonzaga and UCLA had a back-and-forth finish, the stakes were higher in Houston on Saturday night. 

Final Four all-tournament team 

Lamont Butler, G, San Diego State (11 PPG, 1 SPG, 47 FG%, 50 3PT%) 

Butler hit the game-winning shot in the national semifinal game against Florida Atlantic, but he had been huge in both games, putting up 13 points in the loss to UConn. The Moreno Valley native has been with the program for three full years, with a major role in the last two. While people thought Bradley would be the leader for the Aztecs in Houston, Butler stepped up and made his name known in this incredible NCAA Tournament. 

Jordan Hawkins, G, UConn (14.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1 BPG, 47 FG%, 45 3PT%, 80 FT%) 

Hawkins will hear his name called in the first round of June’s NBA Draft, just like head coach Dan Hurley predicted back in October. He hit huge shots throughout the entire tournament and looked to be the primary player to defend for both Miami and San Diego State’s teams. His cousin, Angel Reese, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Women’s NCAA Tournament, as she helped lead LSU to its first title. It was quite the weekend for their family. 

Alijah Martin, G, Florida Atlantic (vs. San Diego State: 26 pts, 7 reb, 7-13 fg) 

Martin was one of the key players throughout the season for the Owls, and despite not being the leading scorer on the team, he was the only reason they were just a foot out of bounds away from playing in the national championship game. The Summit Mississippi native has a lot to be proud of. 

Tristen Newton, G, UConn (13 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 100 FT%) 

While UConn has Sanogo and Hawkins leading the way, this team would be nowhere without Tristen Newton, who transferred during the offseason from East Carolina. He led the Huskies in scoring with 19 points in the victory over San Diego State, improving from a poor shooting performance in the Final Four win over Miami. When some doubted that UConn had a true point guard, Newton proved those doubters wrong, recording eight assists against the Hurricanes. It was quite the return to Texas for Newton, originally from El Paso. 

Most Outstanding Player: Adama Sanogo, F, UConn (19 PPG, 10 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 77.7 FG%) 

There was no doubt when the final buzzer sounded who the Most Outstanding Player was. Sanogo had made his case as one of the greatest bigs in UConn basketball history. He had a double-double in each of the last three games and led the team in scoring with 21 points on Saturday night. He was tremendous on both ends of the court, and will soon see his name in the Huskies of Honor wall at Gampel Pavilion, much like past Most Outstanding Players in Rip Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier. Sanogo could come back for his senior year, but he also could put his name in the NBA Draft. He’s projected as a second-round pick. 

Recap of the NCAA Tournament 

As I said earlier, this tournament is one of the greatest I have seen in recent years, not because of who held the trophy at the end, but every aspect of it. We saw another No. 16 seed defeat a No. 1 seed. We saw another No. 15 seed make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Florida Atlantic went from their first March Madness win to the Final Four. Overall, this has been an incredible journey, and I cannot wait to see what next season has in store. With different teams switching conferences and an unbelievable coaching carousel, next season will come with high expectations. 

Leave a Reply