March Madness is back; names have been taken

After winning the Big 12 tournament, the Longhorns have survived two rounds; do they have what it takes to win it all?


Ralph Arvesen

Texas Cheer and Pom at the women’s basketball game between the Texas Longhorns and Baylor Bears at the Frank Erwin Center on February 6, 2022. Image accessed on the Ralph Arvesen Flickr account. Reposted here with permission under a creative commons license.

Charlie Partheymuller, Knight editor in chief

March is every college basketball fan’s favorite time of the year because there are so many games, and – even better – every game is competitive and emotional with the national title on the line. The title of “March Madness” started all the way back in the 1930s and has stuck due to the flawless fit of the feeling that any team can win any game. With college basketball evolving and the volume of styles of play now being input, the madness has only grown. 

Since 1985 the average number of upsets is 12.4 per tournament. There’ve already been 10 this year, and we’re only through two rounds.

Since 1985 the average number of upsets is 12.4 per tournament. In 2021, there were 18 upsets; in 2022, 16 upsets, and there’ve already been 10 this year, and we’re only through two rounds. The madness has begun with some very heavy hitters. On the first day of the tournament Princeton represented for the Ivy League and created just the 10th 15-seed over 2-seed when the Tigers upset the Arizona Wildcats. 

But then, the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights went a step further, becoming everyone’s sweetheart when they became the second 16-seed to take down an almighty 1-seed in the Purdue Boilermakers. 

While we didn’t see any of the conventional 12-seed over 5-seed upsets (5-seeds are only 21-19 against 12-seeds since 2012 before this tournament), four of the top eight seeded teams are already gone after the first weekend, showing us what we already knew from this regular season: there is as much parity as ever in college basketball. There had been trouble finding the top dawg this year because realistically there were too many teams capable of putting together a title charge. Let’s take a look at the teams remaining and hoping to punch their ticket to the natty. 


Thanks to tenacious defense and a mix of experienced and young talent, UCLA head coach Mick Cronin has his Bruins in the national title conversation. Image accessed on the Steve Cheng, Bruin Report Online Flickr account. Reposted here under a creative commons license. (Steve Cheng)

Around this time of the year college basketball fans will start throwing this word “Kenpom” around, referring to a statistics guy named Ken Pomeroy who has published on his website since 2002. Every national champion since 2002 has finished top 40 in Kenpom offense (points scored per 100 possessions) and top 22 in Kenpom defensive rankings (points allowed per 100 possessions), meaning you need to be a balanced team to come out on top with no glaring weaknesses (sorry, Tennessee, Gonzaga and Xavier). 

(1) Alabama Crimson Tide – This team was 20th in the preseason AP poll but finished the season as the SEC champions and first in the final AP poll. Alabama hasn’t been tested much this tournament yet, but the Crimson Tide have two NBA-bound players, shoot a bunch of threes, rebound better than almost any team in the country and play aggressive defense, forcing teams into uncomfortable midrange shots. All of that plus Alabama plays at a high pace, which is why they were the top seed, but their play can be volatile as they turn the ball over a lot and the three ball doesn’t always fall for them. 

(1) Houston Cougars – The Cougars battled with the Tide for the top seed all year long, but their strength of schedule and a loss in the AAC championship game cost them in regards to the No. 1 overall seed. But their second-half performance in the second round against Auburn proved why we should take the Cougars seriously. The Cougars came back from a 10-point deficit to win by 17 and allowed only four made field goals, showing they have the ability to come back from behind and frustrate their opponent with a suffocating defense that forces many turnovers. 

Texas has gone 21-7 under interim coach Rodney Terry and made its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2008.

(2) Texas Longhorns – The Longhorns have fought through adversity this year after their head coach Chris Beard was fired midseason after facing criminal charges. But the team has gone 21-7 under interim coach Rodney Terry and made its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2008 thanks to experience with six seniors in the rotation. The team has defended the three ball very well this tournament against two top 10 teams in that statistical category and shut down an All-American in Penn State’s Jalen Pickett. Offensively, the Horns haven’t had to rely on one player as Marcus Carr was the team’s leading scorer through the regular season, but Sir’Jabari Rice and Dylan Disu have stepped up in their opening round tournament games. 

(2) UCLA Bruins – Tenacious defense and experience is what defines this Bruins team. Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell now lead this team as seniors after being a part of the UCLA team that made the Final Four two years ago. To pair with these star seniors, the Bruins have two freshman five-star recruits that have contributed massively this year. The Bruins have lost the PAC-12 defensive player of the year to injury for the rest of the season but have survived the first two rounds of the tournament with no real scares yet. They face a real challenge in Gonzaga’s No. 1-ranked offense in the Sweet 16. 

(4) UConn Huskies – Only the Cougars remained unbeaten longer than the Huskies to start the year, but a six-game losing streak midseason caused some scare and is the main reason they are now a 4-seed in the tournament. The Huskies, however have NBA talent in Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. and a player that has caught fire in the tournament in Adama Sanogo, who is averaging 26 points and more than 10 boards a game. The Huskies are battle-tested from the Big East and have the depth of players to make the run. 

(6) Creighton Bluejays – The lowest seeded team of the bunch that fits the stats of a national champion is the Bluejays of Creighton. The main reason for their low seeding was they had the 12th toughest schedule in the country but still finished ahead of UConn in the Big East and lost to Xavier in the conference tournament semifinal. But the Bluejays finished the season with five players with double-digit scoring averages, showing they could share the rock, and that has continued into the tournament with Ryan Kalkbrenner scoring 31 against NC State and Ryan Nembhard scoring 30 in a win over 3-seeded Baylor that propelled Creighton to the Sweet 16. 


With Tom Izzo at the helm, the Michigan State Spartans are a threat to win it all every time they make the tournament, even as a seven seed. Image accessed on the MGoBlog Flickr account. Reposted here under a creative commons license.
(Marc-Grégor Campredon)

After diving through those contenders it’s a real shame we can’t have a full Final Four of them because hypothetically the Elite Eight would have matchups between all of these teams plus the exciting mess of the East region. Speaking of that mess in the East, I predict the 7-seeded Michigan State Spartans to reign supreme and make the Final Four thanks to elite coaching from Tom Izzo and experienced guard play from Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard. The Crimson Tide should handle the Bluejays and Spartans and make the final with top NBA prospect Brandon Miller finally finding some consistency in this tournament. 

I think the national champion will be decided in the Elite Eight matchup in the Midwest region between Texas and Xavier.

On the opposite side of the tournament, I have the Huskies taking care of business against Arkansas and either UCLA or Gonzaga, with the scoring to get past the Bruins and the defense to stifle Drew Timme and the Zags. Finally I think the national champion will be decided in the Elite Eight matchup in the Midwest region between Texas and Xavier. I have the Longhorns prevailing over the Musketeers, before finishing ahead of the Cougars, Huskies and Crimson Tide to raise their first banner in men’s college basketball. The Longhorns have the scoring to keep up with Xavier and the defense to trouble them, Houston will be the toughest matchup for them because the Longhorns have the guard play to get past the Huskies and Crimson Tide if they do beat the Cougars. So I’m riding with my Longhorns and am confident in them for the first time and way too many years.