March Madness: UConn not a top seed, but played like one
UConn was not a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Even so, the Huskies sure played like one.
In a March Madness unique because of early exits from the favorites, it was No. 4 seed UConn that emerged victorious with a 76-59 win over No. 5 seed San Diego State in the title game in Houston. It was the program's fifth national title.
UConn controlled the majority of the game, though San Diego State pulled within six points late in the second half. The Huskies responded with a late surge to seal the win. Tristen Newton scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Adama Sanogo also finished with a double-double, contributing 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Huskies and coach Dan Hurley bulldozed through the tournament bracket with relative ease, winning all six games by at least 10 points.
San Diego State couldn't complete a title run, but provided one of the best moments of the tournament Saturday when Lamont Butler hit a mid-range jumper at the buzzer to beat Florida Atlantic 72-71, sending the Aztecs to their first national championship game.
Here were some other highlights from the now-completed season and NCAA Tournament:
The top four seeds were Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Purdue. Expectations for a chaotic tournament were met quickly: The Boilermakers were ousted by Fairleigh Dickinson in a first-round stunner and the defending champion Jayhawks lost to Arkansas the next day. Alabama and Houston didn’t survive the second weekend.
Purdue’s Zach Edey was a near-unanimous choice as The Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year. The 7-foot-4 Canadian was sixth nationally in scoring at 22.3 points per game and second in rebounding at 12.8.
Shaka Smart is the men’s coach of the year after leading Marquette to regular-season and Big East Tournament titles. The Golden Eagles were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and lost in the second round to Michigan State.
You want to know how AP selects the award winners? We got you covered.
Princeton used a late run to earn its first NCAA Tournament win in 25 years by ousting No. 2 seed Arizona and then beat Missouri to lock in its first Sweet 16 spot in 56 years. For Princeton and other teams, getting this far after pandemic-disrupted seasons was a milestone.
Furman celebrated its first tourney appearance since 1980 with a win over No. 4 seed Virginia on a deep 3-pointer by JP Pegues with 2.4 seconds left. Then came 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson’s win over Purdue as the 22 1/2-point underdog. The Knights joined UMBC in the record books as the only 16 seeds to knock out a No. 1.
The SEC and Big Ten led the way by placing eight teams each in the 68-team field. The records for major and mid-major conferences through four rounds:
Atlantic Coast Conference (5 teams made tourney): 7-5.
American Athletic (2): 2-2.
Big 12 (7): 9-7.
Big East (5): 12-4.
Big Ten (8): 6-8.
Mountain West (4): 5-4.
Pac-12 (4): 3-3.
Southeastern Conference (8): 9-8.
West Coast (2): 4-2.
Gun violence has cost lives and disrupted college sports all season, touching some of the top programs in college basketball, including Alabama. Coaches have been thrust into uncertain and unwelcome roles in trying to navigate the topic — as well as the fallout from the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
On a lighter note, if you feel you know March Madness pretty well, try this 25-question trivia quiz.
Hopefully, fans of longtime play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz soaked up every moment: It was his final NCAA Tournament.
Can’t get enough March Madness? Well, there is talk about expanding the tournament despite a host of challenges.
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25