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Mike Lopresti | | April 4, 2023

1 thing to know from every one of the 67 March Madness men's games

One Shining Moment | 2023 NCAA tournament

We bring you the Memoirs of Madness, a look at the unconventional, unpredictable, sometimes unexplainable 2023 NCAA tournament from beginning to end — 67 results and 67 reasons for them.

The final tally included one overtime game, six decided by one point, six more by two or three — and the fifth title by a sitting Big East member in the past 12 tournaments.  Stunning upsets grabbed attention as the biggest names fell like bowling pins, but in the end, only 19 of the 67 games were won by lower seeds. And there was nothing much surprising at all about the champion.

Here are 67 steps to how Connecticut ended up on the podium Monday night:


Pitt advanced in the First Four with a one-point win
  • No. 16 Texas A&M CC 75, No. 16 SE Missouri State 71
    • Jalen Jackson, percentage-wise the worst free throw shooter on the floor for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, sinks 14 of 18 from the line. He makes five more free throws than the entire Southeast Missouri State team.
  • No. 11 Pitt 60, No. 11 Mississippi St. 59
    • There are 21 lead changes, and a 26-minute stretch when the teams are never more than a possession apart. Jamarius Burton’s shot with 10 seconds left wins it for Pitt. As has become common, the First Four supplies one of the tournament’s better games.
  • No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson 84, No. 16 Texas Southern 61
    • It’s not every day a team finishes with three more field goals and loses by 23 points. But Texas Southern goes 1-for-17 in 3-pointers and is outscored 27-8 at the free throw line. An exhilarating night for Fairleigh Dickinson. There’d be another.
  • No. 11 Arizona State 98, No. 11 Nevada 73
    • Arizona State has one of the best first haves of the tournament: Just under 68 percent shooting, just over 57 percent from the 3-point arc, 13 assists, one turnover. And a 53-26 lead. Bobby Hurley is the coach. If anyone is interested, his little brother Dan is in the tournament, too.


FDU shocked Purdue in the first round
  • No. 8 Maryland 67, West Virginia 65
    • The Terrapins, perhaps a little slow to wake up for the noon game, manage two field goals in the first 10 minutes and are down 19-6. They perk up just in time.
  • No. 1 Alabama 96, No. 16 Texas A&M CC 75
    • No problem for the Tide, who make 10 3-pointers by halftime and play their starters a total of only 83 minutes.
  • No. 9 Auburn 83, No. 8 Iowa 75
    • The 11th consecutive first round win for the Tigers comes with six players scoring in double figures.
  • No. 1 Kansas 96, No. 16. Howard 68
    • Still no Bill Self, as he continues his recovery from stent surgery. But the Jayhawks roll to their 16th consecutive first round win.
  • No. 8 Arkansas 73, No. 9 Illinois 63
    • The Illini are doomed by 17 turnovers, and maybe history. They’re 1-8 all-time against the SEC in the NCAA tournament.
  • No. 2 Texas 81, No. 15 Colgate 61
    • A big test for the Texas defense, facing the nation’s top 3-point shooting team. Give the Longhorns an A, as the Raiders go 3-for-15.
  • No. 5 San Diego State 63, No. 12 College of Charleston 57 
    • The entire Mountain West Conference sighs with relief. The league had dropped 11 consecutive NCAA tournament games, so the conference doesn’t have to hear about that anymore. Turns out, the winning Aztecs had even grander plans.
  • No. 5 Duke 74, No. 12 Oral Roberts 51
    • Jon Scheyer wins his first NCAA tournament game as Duke coach. By the way, Mike Krzyzewski didn’t. The last coach not named Krzyzewski to win in the tournament for the Blue Devils? Bill Foster 43 years ago. Beat Kentucky in the Rupp Arena regional.
  •  No. 7 Missouri 76, No. 10 Utah State 65 
    • Missouri has been in 29 NCAA tournaments, the third most among current SEC members, but this the Tigers’ first win in 13 years.
  • No. 13 Furman 68, No. 4 Virginia 67
    • Up 12 with 11 minutes to go, Virginia loses on a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left to continue an astonishing trend. In the past five tournaments, the Cavaliers have been ambushed by two No. 13 seeds and a No. 16, and were once not invited. The other time? Oh yeah, they won the national championship.
  • No. 1 Houston 63, No. 16 Northern Kentucky 52
    • On the brink of serious peril, Houston gets by, defending Northern Kentucky into 23 percent shooting the second half.
  • No. 2 UCLA 86, No. 15 UNC Asheville 53
    • Here’s one way to wilt any upset plans. Score the first 14 points of the game, shoot nearly 60 percent and lead 46-25 at halftime.
  • No. 10 Penn State 76, No. 7 Texas A&M 59
    • Andrew Funk puts up 10 shots from 3-point land, hits eight of them. Penn State hot hands its way to its first NCAA tournament win in 22 years.
  • No. 4 Tennessee 58, No. 13 Louisiana 55
    •  Tennessee asks for trouble with 18 turnovers and missing nine of 21 free throws, and has an 18-point lead in the second half cut to three.
  • No. 3 Baylor 74, No. 14 UC Santa Barbara 56
    • The final score is a tad misleading. There are 15 lead changes before the Bears can get their arms around the game.
  • No. 7 Michigan State 72, No. 10 USC 62 
    • The Spartans speak with defense, holding the star backcourt of Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson to 7-for-22 shooting and 17 points. It’s a long, draining trip to Columbus Ohio for the Trojans, but they’ll soon be doing that all the time as a member of the Big Ten.
  •  No. 3 Xavier 72, No. 14 Kennesaw State 67
    •  Ahead by 13 points in the second half and with a mighty upset in their sights, the Kennesaw State Owls plop to Earth.  They miss 12 of 15 shots the last 9 ½ minutes and their chance to win late is snuffed by Jack Nunge’s block.
  • No. 5 Saint Mary's 63, No. 12 VCU 51
    • Atlantic 10 conference player of the year Ace Baldwin plays only 28 minutes because of Achilles and groin issues. Since he’s the one Ram in double figures, his absence is fatal to VCU.
  • No. 4 UConn 87, No. 13 Iona 63 
    • Way too much Adama Sanogo dooms Rick Pitino in his last Iona game: 28 points on 13-for-17 shooting, 13 rebounds. Nobody knows it at the time, but the Huskies’ victory tour is underway.
  • No. 5 Miami (Fla.) 63, No. 12 Drake 56
    • How to win a game shooting only 30.4 percent: Make 18 more free throws.
  • No. 4 Indiana 71, No. 13 Kent State 60 
    • With Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson, the Hoosiers clean up in paint scoring, 46-26.
  • No. 15 Princeton 59, No. 2 Arizona 55 
    • How do you stun a giant while going 4-for-25 in 3-pointers and having only five free throws? Timing can be everything. Princeton’s decisive 9-0 run comes in the last 4:43.
  • No. 2 Marquette 78, No. 15 Vermont 61
    •  Marquette attacks in a balanced wave, with six players scoring between 14 and eight points.
  • No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson 63, No. 1 Purdue 58
    • History happens to the sounds of silence from the national player of the year. With Purdue under severe threat of becoming only the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, Zach Edey doesn’t get a shot off the last 9:20. The past three years, the Boilermakers have been eliminated by a No. 16, No. 15 and No. 13 seed; a series of train wrecks so bad, the Department of Transportation should investigate.
  • No. 9 Florida Atlantic 66, No. 8 Memphis 65.
    •  With five seconds left, Florida Atlantic’s Nick Boyd is 2-for-9 shooting and the Owls are down a point. Then he slices into the lane to win the game. It’s their first-ever NCAA tournament victory and they seemed to get the hang of it.
  • No. 6 Creighton 72, No. 11 NC State 63
    • Never mind Creighton’s 3-for-20 chill from the 3-point line. Ryan Kalkbrenner’s 31 points make everything all right.
  • No. 3 Gonzaga 82, No. 14 Grand Canyon 70
    • Between Drew Timme and Julian Strawther, 49 points and 17-for-28 shooting.
  • No. 6 TCU 72, No. 11 Arizona State 70 
    • In the heat of a close game, TCU has only five turnovers. The 17-4 gap in points off turnovers gets the Horned Frogs through.
  • No. 11 Pitt 59, No. 6 Iowa State 41
    • Iowa State shoots 23.5 percent, misses 19 of 21 from behind the arc and struggles at the free throw line. Any questions why Pitt wins? Combined with Fairleigh Dickinson’s upset of Purdue, two of the four survivors from the First Four have kept going.
  • No. 6 Kentucky 61, No. 11 Providence 53
    • Maybe this will explain the Wildcats’ decisive 18-2 gap in second-chance points: The entire Providence team has eight offensive rebounds. Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe grabs 11 by himself.
  • No. 3 Kansas State 77, No. 14 Montana State 65
    •  Markquis Nowell drives the Wildcats with 14 assists. Remember that name.


Miami (Fla.) knocked off Indiana
  • No. 1 Alabama 73, No. 8 Maryland 51
    • The Terrapins sink a 3-pointer 2½ minutes into the game. They will never make another.
  • No. 5 San Diego State 75, No. 13 Furman 52
    • The Paladins shoot only 32 percent, get waxed 40-16 in points in the paint and score 13 points fewer than they did in any other game this season. The tournament is starting to get a strong whiff of what San Diego State can do on defense.
  • No. 6 Creighton 85, No. 3 Baylor 76
    • It’s a Bluejay-Bear duel as Creighton’s Ryna Nembhard goes for 30 points, and so does Baylor’s LJ Cryer. Nembhard gets more help.
  • No. 15 Princeton 78, No. 7 Missouri 63 
    • This isn’t an underdog finessing its way to the regional round for the first time in 56 years. This is Princeton manhandling the Tigers on the boards for a 19-2 advantage in second-chance points, and Blake Peters coming off the bench to bury Missouri with five 3-pointers in the second half.
  • No. 9 Florida Atlantic 78, No. 16 FDU 70 
    •  In one of the most entertaining second halves of the tournament, Florida Atlantic’s Johnell Davis pours in 23 points and the Owls outrace the Knights 46-45.
  • No. 4 Tennessee 65, No. 5 Duke 52
    • Duke gets muscled into 11 first-half turnovers and never quite recovers. The 52 points match a historic NCAA tournament low for the Blue Devils.
  • No. 3 Kansas State 75, No. 6 Kentucky 69
    • Great game from Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Not enough. Not with Markquis Nowell getting 27 points and nine assists. That gives him 44 points and 23 assists in the tournament and the only other player in the past 33 years to hit 40 and 20 the first week was Ja Morant. The loss means Kentucky has won only one game in the past three NCAA tournaments, and that dog won’t hunt in Lexington.
  • No. 8 Arkansas 72, No. 1 Kansas 71
    • Pay no attention to that man without a shirt. That’s just Arkansas coach Eric Musselman celebrating after the Razorbacks rally to rock the Jayhawks. Kansas leads by eight points at the half, so history is made. The Jayhawks had been 47-0 all-time in NCAA tournament games with halftime leads at least that large. For the 15thconsecutive NCAA tournament, the previous champion will not repeat. Bill Self, dealing with a heart issue, never coaches a second in the tournament.
  • No. 7 Michigan State 69, No. 2 Marquette 60
    • Witness the carnage of the Michigan State defense: Marquette’s Big East player of the year Tyler Kolek misses six of eight shots and commits six turnovers.
  • No. 1 Houston 81, No. 9 Auburn 64 
    • Auburn leads by 10 at halftime. Upset alert? Nah. Houston turns on the defense and the Tigers miss 20 of 24 shots in the second half. But the Cougars seem a bit wobbly after the first week.
  • No. 5 Miami (Fla.) 85, No. 4 Indiana 69
    • The Hoosiers get steamrolled 48-31 in rebounding and 29-11 in second-chance points. The margin is welcome comfort for the Hurricanes, who had played nine consecutive games decided by single digits.
  • No. 3 Xavier 84, No. 11 Pitt 73
    • Xavier basically uses only six players and all six score in double figures.
  • No. 2 Texas 71, No. 10 Penn State 66
    • Dylan Disu, averaging barely five shots a game, puts it up 20 times for the Longhorns. His 28 points send Texas to its first Sweet 16 in 15 years.
  • No. 4 UConn 70, No. 5 Saint Mary's 55
    • Another game, another UConn double-digit win, this one with 54 percent shooting. A trend is being spotted. It had been nine years since the Huskies made it to the second week, and that time they won the national championship. Just in case anyone is looking for omens.
  • No. 3 Gonzaga 84, No. 6 TCU 81
    • The years come and go and the faces change, but the Zags keep showing up in the Sweet 16. This makes eight in a row, but it’s not easy. Drew Timme has a big game with 28 points, and Gonzaga needs every bit of it.
  • No. 2 UCLA 68, No. 7 Northwestern 63 
    • Northwestern never shoots well enough – 37.3 percent – to pull this off. Jaime Jaquez Jr. passes a pretty familiar name to climb into 12th on the all-time UCLA scoring list. Bill Walton.


Kansas State beat Michigan State in OT
  • No. 3 Kansas State 98, No. 7 Michigan State 93 (OT) 
    •  The first – and last -- overtime game of the tournament is won with an individual effort for the ages, Markquis Nowell plays 43 minutes – a lot of it on only one good ankle – and contributes 20 points, an NCAA tournament record 19 assists, five steals and only two turnovers. The game goes through 14 ties and 16 lead changes. “It was like a Rocky fight,” says Nowell, who is suddenly one of the faces of the month.
  • No. 4 UConn 88, No. 8 Arkansas 65 
    • You know, these Huskies look pretty good, don’t they? A blowout in every way, especially in shooting percentages; 57.4 to 31.7. That makes three tournament wins by an average of nearly 21 points. The Connecticut bandwagon is starting to look like a jumbo jet at boarding time.
  • No. 9 Florida Atlantic 62, No. 4 Tennessee 55
    • Any lingering questions about whether the Owls are for real vanish in the second half. Just when the Vols are trying to flex their physical ways and show the opponent who’s boss – like they did to Duke -- Florida Atlantic is off on an 18-2 sprint. It’s the deepest tournament run ever by a school named after an ocean.
  • No. 3 Gonzaga 79, No. 2 UCLA 76
    • After blowing a 10-point lead in the last 2:40, Gonzaga is saved by Julian Strawther’s 3-point bomb from another zip code – which looks suspiciously like Kris Jenkins’ championship shot for Villanova in 2016. No wonder. Coach Mark Few says the Zags call that set the Jay Wright play.
  • No. 2 Texas 83, No. 3 Xavier 71
    • Texas’ Dylan Disu carried the Longhorns in the first two rounds with 45 points. He scores none against Xavier. Injured foot. The Longhorns still have the depth to move on, outscoring the Musketeers 35-5 in bench points.
  • No. 5 San Diego State 71, No. 1 Alabama 64 
    • Alabama spent more than four months establishing its credentials as the top seed in the tournament, but in eight minutes of the second half, the journey careens into a ditch, as the Tide go from nine points up to nine points down. The rollicking Alabama offense that broke 90 points 11 times this season hits a wall, otherwise known as the San Diego State defense. Alabama misses 24 of 27 shots behind the 3-point line and All-American Brandon Miller goes 3-for-19 with six turnovers.
  • No. 5 Miami (Fla.) 89, No. 1 Houston 75
    • The paint is barely dry on the Alabama loss when Houston gets shoved out the tournament door as well. It’s Bloody Friday for the top-liners in the bracket. For the first time in the 44 years of seeding, no No. 1 lasted until the Elite Eight, and if anyone is  looking for a signature moment of what’s going on in this tournament, this is the night. Houston was top ranked much of the season because of its defense, holding 11 opponents under 50 points. Miami scores 47 just in the second half.
  • No. 6 Creighton 86, No. 15 Princeton 75
    • The last time the Bluejays were one of the last eight teams standing, there were only eight teams in the tournament. That was 1941. The 43-point inside-outside combo of Ryan Kalkbrenner and Baylor Scheierman are too potent for Princeton. The Tigers shoot well – 9-for-21 in 3-pointers – and commit only five turnovers but still lose.


SDSU advanced past Creighton the Final Four
  • No. 4 UConn 82, No. 3 Gonzaga 54
    • Gonzaga comes in as the highest-scoring, best-shooting team in the land. But the Zags are in the wrong place and most definitely going against the wrong team. They struggle to shoot 33 percent, go 2-for-20 from behind the 3-point line and score only 22 points the second half. All hail the Huskies’ defense, which is part of the reason no one has come within 15 points of them yet. They are not in the survival mode other teams must use. Smash and advance.
  • No. 9 Florida Atlantic 79, No. 3 Kansas State 76
    • Ten days earlier, Florida Atlantic had never won an NCAA tournament game in its history. The Owls have become like the advertised acceleration of a sports car, going from zero to the Final Four in about 12 seconds. Most shocking is what Florida Atlantic does to its Big 12 foe on the boards, outrebounding Kansas State 44-22 and outscoring the Wildcats 15-2 in second-chance points.
  • No. 5 San Diego State 57, No. 6 Creighton 56 
    • Was it a foul? In Omaha, they’ll never be sure. Replays show contact, but it’s still tough for Creighton to watch San Diego State’s Darrion Trammell hit the winning free throw with 1.2 seconds left. But a whistle doesn’t win it. The Aztecs are in their first Final Four because of their insistence on playing defense, holding the Bluejays to 27.6 percent shooting the second half and 0-for-10 in 3-pointers.
  • No. 5 Miami (Fla.) 88, No. 2 Texas 81
    • Jordan Miller takes seven shots for Miami. Makes them all. He has 13 free throws. Makes them all. His perfection helps the Hurricanes become the third program of the weekend to advance to its first Final Four. It’s Rookie Month! Christian Laettner famously had a perfect game like that for Duke against Kentucky in 1992. Days after Miami’s win, Miller’s phone rings. It’s Christian Laettner. Meanwhile, the Big 12, which looked like the worst league on the block all winter, is gone.


UConn celebrates winning the national championship
  • No. 5 San Diego State 72, No. 9 Florida Atlantic 71
    • With two seconds left and his team down a point, Lamont Butler pulls up to do something no one has ever seen, his jumper as time expires sending the Aztecs to their first national championship game.  Looking for the last true buzzer-beater in the Final Four that turned a loser into a winner, you find . . . nobody. Never happened before. Also, San Diego State becomes only the third team in history to win consecutive NCAA tournament games by one point. Loyola Chicago did it in 2018, but the Aztecs don’t even have a famous nun on their side.
  • No. 4 UConn 72, No. 5 Miami (Fla.) 59
    • Miami had scored 85 points against Indiana, 89 against Houston and 88 against Texas and won by an average of 12. Then it was time to face Connecticut. The Hurricanes never lead, fall behind by 20 points and in general add to the growing feeling that the Milwaukee Bucks might be needed to stop the Huskies. The win gives  Connecticut a 7-0 Final Four record in the state of Texas. As if the Huskies – having won five 2023 tournament games by a total of 103 points – are wanting for any good signs.
  • No. 4 UConn 76, No. 5 San Diego State 59
    • One shining, show-who’s-king-of-this-sport moment. This makes five UConn titles in the past 24 tournaments – more in that period than the entire Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 conferences combined. And it is done with an iron fist. Connecticut’s first four national championship games were won by a combined 30 points. That this one is settled by 17 by itself fits the motif of the month for the Huskies. It isn’t just the average winning margin of 20 points that’s impressive. In six NCAA tournament games, they have trailed in the second half for a total of 38 seconds. "Now we've got our own," Hurley said of joining the UConn champions of the past.

​​​​​So 2023 ended in irony. It had been, in so many ways, the most unpredictable of tournaments. But by Monday night, the champion was the team nearly everyone was expecting to win.

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