NCAA Wrap UP: Kansas Outlasts North Carolina, Saint Peters Cinderella’s 2nd Seat, Krzyzewski Retires

Jayhawks make the largest comeback in a title game to cap off a historic 2022 March Madness

Jawhawk team members react to achieving the largest comeback in NCAA title history, a sixteen point deficit, to deservedly earning the national championship. (Photo courtesy Reuters Photo)

After canceling in 2020 and having limited capacity in 2021, the 2022 Men’s College Basketball Tournament was finally able to return to a sense of normalcy. This year’s tournament lived up to its name of “March Madness,” with upsets, comebacks, and a Cinderella story that captured the nation’s hearts.

Although the tournament was topped with the title game, one Cinderella team encapsulated the public in a way that has never been seen before. The #15 seeded Saint Peter’s Peacocks, a small private school in Jersey City, New Jersey, shocked the nation with an historic run into the Elite 8. The Peacocks upset #2 seeded Kentucky, who were favored to win by 18 points, #7 Murray State, and #3 Purdue, making the Peacocks the first 15 seed and the highest seed to ever make it past the Sweet 16. Saint Peter’s run is also significant for economic reasons. According to Sportico, in 2019-20, Saint Peter’s spent $1.6 Million on their basketball team, while the University of Kentucky spent a whopping $18.3 million on their program. According to former alumni of Saint Peters, they claim that they couldn’t listen to music in the weight room because it bordered the Philosophy building, games were canceled due to leaks in their arena, and some days they couldn’t shower because they ran out of hot water. (The list goes on and on.) This David vs Goliath mentality resonated with many college basketball fans and only increased their support more. Although they lost to #8 Seeded North Carolina in the Elite 8, this magical run has led to some unprecedented events for the school. Peacocks guard Doug Edert signed two name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals with Buffalo Wild Wings and Barstool Sports, Head Coach Shaheen Halloway was able to use Saint Peter’s run to sign with his alma mater at Seton Hall, and the university itself is set to receive thousands of new applications and millions of dollars of revenue from the tournament alone. Saint Peter’s athletic director Rachelle Paul stated, “It could change our whole program. It could help with recruiting, it could help with scholarships, it could help with facility upgrades. There’s a million things that we could use that money for.” Saint Peter’s not only enamored the nation, but singlehandedly breathed life into Saint Peter’s University.

The Cinderella story also overlooked a retirement tour of one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. Long time Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was set to retire after this season, and it just so happened that he would coach his last game against their biggest rivals, the University of North Carolina. Coach K had coached against UNC 99 times in his career, with a record of 45-44, but the Tobacco Road rivalry had never been played in the tournament. This would be the 100th meeting between the two teams with the winner going to the title game to face #1 seed Kansas. This game lived up to the hype and more, with there being 18 different lead changes and 12 separate times where the game was tied. Ultimately, UNC guard Caleb Love’s 28 points and Armando Bacot’s 11 points and 21 rebounds was just enough to outlast Duke in an 81-77 victory.

The wild March Madness ended with a bang, between two of the most historic college basketball programs of all time: the #1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks and the #8 seeded North Carolina Tar Heels. The first half was all Tar Heels, with UNC jumping out to an early 40-25 lead. It wasn’t until the second half that sparked the largest comeback in NCAA title game history for the Jayhawks, opening the first 8 minutes of the second half on a 25-5 run. The Jayhawks stormed all the way back, outscoring UNC 47-29. They won their 4th NCAA Tournament Championship with a score of 72-69.

With the NCAA Tournament almost fully returning to normalcy, March Madness was met with even more unpredictability than usual with a plethora of upsets, top headlines, and feel good stories. This season was certainly like no other.