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University of Connecticut wins its fifth NCAA championship

UConn Basketball head coach Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

After the final buzzer rang and the blue and white confetti rained down inside NRG Arena, University of Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley was ecstatic. 

“It feels great to come through on promises made by me to all the great people of Connecticut and then with these guys. This was our vision,” Hurley said during the postgame press conference. “This was our dream. This is what we talked about when we recruited these guys, that we could get together and do something big like this.”

UConn’s fifth title, thanks in large part to Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, is reflective of the unpredictability of the 2022-23 college basketball season. It’s true: March Madness has its name for a reason. But this year was different. 

Even the regular season was full of madness. North Carolina, last year’s Division I NCAA Tournament runners-up and the AP No. 1 team to begin the year, did not even make the tournament. 

One thing did remain constant, however: the greatness of University of Kansas Head Coach Bill Self. The Kansas Jayhawks, a year removed from winning the national title, lost their two best players Christian Braun and Ochai Agbaji to the NBA draft. Watching Kansas throughout the year, though, it would have been difficult to tell. 

After a rough three-game losing streak in the middle of Big 12 conference play, Kansas rallied to win the conference in dominant fashion, securing Self’s 17th Big 12 title in his 20 years at the program and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Shortly before the Big 12 tournament, however, Self suffered a medical emergency and was forced to miss the rest of the season, resulting in Kansas dropping their second game in the tournament to the University of Arkansas Razorbacks in disappointing fashion. 

However, Kansas was not the only No. 1 seed to fall early. In fact, every single No. 1 seed suffered a defeat before the Elite Eight for the first time in college basketball history.

Perhaps the most shocking defeat of all was Purdue in the first round by No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, marking the second time in NCAA tournament history a No. 16 seed prevailed over a No. 1. 

After the game, FDU’s head coach Tobin Anderson said, “For us to beat them tonight, in this environment, it was just an incredible win for us. 

“I’m so proud of the guys, what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished so far, and just an incredible night,” Anderson said. 

Meanwhile, Alabama and Houston, the other two No. 1 seeds, both reached the Sweet 16 before falling to San Diego State and Miami, respectively. The losses came as enormous blows for the two programs, who may not have a better chance to win a national title for years.

Both No. 5 seed San Diego State and No. 5 seed Miami made the Final Four, joined by No. 4 seed UConn and, improbably, No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic. In the continuation of a common theme from this tournament, it was the first time in history the Final 4 did not feature a top-3 seed. 

In the Final Four, San Diego State edged Florida Atlantic 72-71 featuring a buzzer-beater by junior Lamont Butler to send SDSU to their first national championship game ever. Meanwhile, UConn defeated Miami in dominating fashion, 72-59, giving coach Dan Hurley to secure his first national title. 

The National Championship game was not close either. At halftime, UConn led by 12 and extended it to 17 by the end of the game to secure the title by a final score of 76-59, led by 19 points from senior Tristen Newton, a transfer from East Carolina. 

The win secured UConn’s fifth title in 20 years and in many analysts’ eyes, secured them a spot with the blue bloods, the elite of the elite in college basketball, featuring programs like Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky. Kemba Walker, focal point of another UConn title in 2014, seemed to think so. 

“No doubt about it. We’re top tier. I can’t really say no more about that. It is what it is,” Walker said in a postgame conference. “You can talk about Duke. You can talk about North Carolina, but you better be talking about UConn now, too.”

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