This year's March Madness action has been one of the most historic and unpredictable tournaments in recent years. For the first time since seeding began in 1979, all the No. 1 seeds were eliminated before the Elite Eight, making it NCAA Tournament history. Purdue, Kansas, Alabama and Houston, each held the top spot for their respective regions and all were sent home early. Another historic feat—for the first time since 1970—the 2023 Men's Final Four will see three newcomers.
Florida Atlantic University, San Diego State and the University of Miami will make their debut into this part of tournament play at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. On April 1, 2023, No. 9 Florida Atlantic University (FAU) will face off against No. 5 seed San Diego State University (SDSU), with each school looking to win its first national title.
Florida Atlantic, who had the most wins of any team in the tournament but never won an NCAA tournament game before this year, defeated No. 3 seed Kansas State 79-76 on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Amazingly, the Owls held the Jawhawks scoreless for almost seven minutes, while going on a 15-1 run.
Coach Brian Greelee of SDSU praised his team’s resilience as they staged a comeback for the ages to advance to the 2023 Men's Final Four.
"A lot of times people might try to hit home runs to close that lead, and we don't really get rattled in situations where we're down," Greenlee said. "We've been in too many of them. So just taking it one possession at a time and focusing on getting stops."
The Aztecs’ victory over the Creighton University Bluejays was filled with controversy. In a hotly contested battle from wire to wire, Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard fouled SDSU’s Darrion Trammell with just 1.2 seconds on the clock. Trammell missed the first free throw but knocked down the second for the 57-56 win at the KFC Yum! Center in Lousiville, KY.
“I’ve been dreaming this my whole life, grateful to be here and thankful to everyone who believed in me,” Trammell said in an interview after the game.
In the second Final Four contest, the No. 4 seed University of Connecticut (UConn) will take on the No.5 seed University of Miami. The UConn Huskies advanced to their first Final Four in 9 years after blowing out the Gonzaga University Bulldogs 82-54 on Saturday.
Coach Dan Hurley expressed his excitement about being two wins away from a national title and the team effort it took to beat Gonzaga.
“When you play us for the first time, we're very unique with what we have with Adama [Sanogo] and these two wings [Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr.]. And then you're looking at [Donovan] Clingan coming in at 7-2 and the shooting off the bench," Hurley said. "We're an elite defensive team, we're a top-five offensive team, and we generally beat the other team on the glass.”
Although the school has a long history of football success, the University of Miami proved they also excel at basketball after defeating the Texas Longhorns to the Final Four.
After falling behind by 13 midway through the second half, the Hurricanes dialed in and took the game over. They were led by Jordan Miller, who put up 27 points. Miller also became just the second player in NCAA tournament history to go perfect from the field and the free-throw line since Duke’s Christian Laettner accomplished the feat in 1992.
It's safe to say that almost no one predicted the 2023 Men's Final Four in their brackets when the tournament began. But that’s what makes the tournament so special each year. After all, when it comes to March Madness, there are no guarantees.