The Connecticut Huskies won the NCAA men’s basketball championship game on Monday night, defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It was a contest that featured the highest combined seeds in the history of the national title game. The matchup pitting No. 7 UConn against No. 8 Kentucky ended with the Huskies winning a fourth NCAA title, the team’s second championship in four seasons.
Sports is inherently social – we are never fans alone – and Facebook was the place where millions of college basketball fans joined the conversation around this year’s NCAA tournament. From early buzz and bracket building after Selection Sunday, through the Final Four and championship games, more than 15.3 million people on Facebook in the US had 46 million combined posts, comments and “Likes” (March 16 – April 7, 2014).
UConn’s Shabazz Napier scored a game-high 22 points during the final to lead the Huskies. The senior guard, who was on the 2011 national championship team, was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Teammate Ryan Boatright added 14 points. Napier and Boatright were the most-mentioned players on Facebook during Monday night’s game.
Kentucky guard James Young racked up 20 points for the Wildcats, and his slam dunk was among the top social moments on Facebook. The play that gave Kentucky a much-needed spark in the second half was topped only by tipoff, according to Facebook buzz. Connecticut’s strong performance and victory rounded out the Top 5 spikes in conversation:
Top Social Moments on Facebook:
- Dunk by James Young gives Kentucky spark in second half
- UConn leads at halftime, 35-31
- UConn wins the National Championship
- UConn starts off strong up to the first timeout
LeBron James wasn’t the only NBA star chiming in on Facebook. Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard helped console a friend, while Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder congratulated UConn Coach Kevin Ollie. Other public figures, such as professional boxer Floyd Mayweather, also joined the conversation. Tuesday morning, Kentucky coach John Calipari expressed his profound disappointment over his team’s loss.
Road to the Final Four
Buzz was building steadily on Facebook throughout the early rounds of the tournament. As the field narrowed to the regional semifinals, or Sweet 16, Facebook’s data team looked at which teams were top talkers at the state level across the nation. Mapping out the buzz produced a swath of red from coast to coast, as bubble team Dayton (No. 11 seed) dominated the conversation. Dayton would advance to the Elite 8 round before losing to top-seeded Florida.
Facebook’s “Social Bracket”
After the NCAA selection committee announced the field of 68 teams on Sunday, March 16, we wondered how “bracketology” would play out if teams advanced based on Facebook buzz.
Facebook’s “Social Bracket” was tracking fairly well into the regional semifinals, picking 11 of the teams in the Sweet 16. By the Elite 8 round, only three of the most-mentioned teams remained. Florida was the only Facebook pick to make it into the Final Four.