March Madness Recap: UConn’s Dominance Takes Center Stage

April 12, 2024

March Madness Recap: UConn’s Dominance Takes Center Stage

March Madness ended on Monday, in an almost predictable fashion. The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team beat Purdue in a somewhat anticlimactic final. The Huskies thoroughly dominated every team that they faced in this year’s tournament, one year after effectively doing the same thing (in last year’s tournament). In doing so, they became the first school to win back-to-back men’s titles since the University of Florida Gators did so in 2007-2008. 

The Huskies weren’t exactly a run-of-the-mill champion either, even though they eviscerated every team they faced in the tournament. Every win came by a double-digit margin this year, same as last year. The closest final score came during last year’s Final Four victory over the University of Miami. Many thought the Huskies would take a step backward after losing three starters (Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson Jr. and Adama Sonogo). Instead, Tristen Newton improved, Cam Spencer (transfer) and Stephon Castle (freshman) more than filled the shoes of the departed, and Donovan Clingan proved to be one of the best college players in the country. The Huskies ended the year as the total package – the best team, with the best coach, and the most depth. 

Not to be outdone, the NCAA women’s tournament was also spectacular, and in many ways, the ladies outpaced the gentlemen. The NCAA women’s championship game absolutely crushed the men’s in TV ratings… by millions. South Carolina’s dominant win over Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes drew 18.7 million viewers, more than any basketball game (men’s, women’s, college or professional) since the University of Virginia beat Texas Tech in the men’s final back in 2019. For comparison, the men’s final drew an average of 14.8 million viewers. 

South Carolina capped off an undefeated season in dominant fashion. In many ways, they were like the men’s champion UConn Huskies – just the most well-rounded team, loaded with depth and coached by an incredible talent in Dawn Staley. By my estimation though, the women’s tournament featured more brand-name stars. LSU’s Angel Reese, UConn’s Paige Bueckers, South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso, and USC’s JuJu Watkins are all relative household names to college basketball fans, and three of them faced off in the Final Four. Juju Watkins and the USC Trojans were knocked out in the Elite Eight, but the UConn Huskies then faced off against Caitlin Clark (the biggest star in women’s college hoops). They’re not just “women’s stars” though – they’re college basketball stars, period. 

From a betting perspective… This was a tough tournament for many sportsbooks. Bettors crushed it, with many riding the Huskies wave of success. The public backed UConn all tournament (as did I), and the final against Purdue was no different. UConn winning yet another game by double-digit points was a disaster for many books, as there was a huge amount of action on the Huskies throughout each round of the tournament. What was the spread of most books? UConn -6.5. The Huskies have won 12 straight Madness tournament games by double that amount. 

Ironically, the news that most people seem to be talking about post-March Madness has very little to do with the tournament itself. UConn and South Carolina were #1 seeds that dominated throughout the season and in the tournament, so it’s not like their wins were entirely unexpected. Former Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari leaving Lexington to take a job at Arkansas… was very unexpected. If you’re interested in the NCAA Men’s Tournament Futures for 2025, the Arkansas Razorbacks are now available at +3000 (from +7000 pre-Calipari hire).