In the realm of college basketball, the 2023 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament captivated fans with its exhilarating single-elimination format. This tournament showcased 68 talented teams vying for the coveted title of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I men’s basketball national champion for the 2022-23 season. With the 84th edition commencing on March 14, 2023, and culminating in a thrilling championship game on April 3 at Houston’s NRG Stadium, where the UConn Huskies triumphed over the San Diego State Aztecs, 76-59.
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Unforeseen Underdogs and Remarkable Returns:
The tournament welcomed notable surprises, such as the NCAA tournament debut of ASUN champion Kennesaw State, and the return of Southern Conference champion Furman after a 43-year absence since 1980. Additionally, Texas Southern secured its place in the tournament by winning the SWAC tournament, joining the ranks of Coppin State Eagles in 2008 and Liberty Flames in 2013 as teams with the most losses (20) to ever make the tournament.
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A Historic Upset and Unexpected Final Four:
The 2023 tournament etched its name in history when Fairleigh Dickinson, a 16-seed, shocked Purdue, a 1-seed, with a remarkable 63-58 victory in the first round, marking only the second time ever that a 16-seed defeated a 1-seed. Intriguingly, the regional final featured an unlikely matchup between a mid-major team, Florida Atlantic, and Kansas State, mirroring a previous instance when a top seed was upset in the first round. Adding to the tournament’s uniqueness, the Final Four showcased an absence of highly touted high school prospects.
For the first time since the NCAA began seeding the tournament in 1979, none of the Final Four participants had former McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster. Among the rotation players (those receiving regular playing time), UConn’s Jordan Hawkins, ranked #51 in the 2021 class according to 247Sports’ composite recruiting rankings, held the highest position. Merely eight rotation players in the Final Four were ranked in the top 100, with a surprising 12 players being unranked during their high school careers. Both Florida Atlantic and San Diego State fielded teams without a single top-100 player. Florida Atlantic’s nine-man rotation featured six unranked players, with only one player in the top 200.