March Madness has begun

Upsets, dominance, and glory are ahead in the greatest month for college sports
Ranz Bontogon – Argosy Photographer

Like the brackets, it was time for all National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA March Madness players to lock in. Last Thursday through Monday across the United States, 64 men’s and 64 women’s teams played for a chance to advance past the first round and gain momentum. This opening portion of the tournament featured shocking upsets and confidence boosters. Let’s break down the few days of March Madness…or as much as I can cover before this article’s deadline!

Thursday held the first 16 men’s games with powerhouses like the North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels, Iowa State Cyclones, and Tennessee Volunteers dominating. While North Carolina’s Armando Bacot recorded 20 points and 15 rebounds, Iowa State defeated their South Dakotan neighbors thanks to an all-around performance from Zeke Mayo, William Kyle III, and Charles Easley. 

It would not be March Madness without upsets as six games that day featured a lower-ranked winner. While 11th-ranked Duquesne and the North Carolina State Wolfpack were popular upset picks, the day’s surprise came from the 14th-ranked Oakland Golden Grizzlies who defeated a historically successful Kentucky Wildcats team (who I unfortunately picked to make the final). The story of the day was of Oakland’s Jack Gohlke who scored 32 points with 10 successful three-pointers. Gohlke, a former Division II player worked his way to Division I at Oakland and touched on the significance of the win post-game saying, “I know I am not going to the NBA, but I know, on any given night, I can compete with those guys and our team can compete with those type of guys.”

Friday was another great day for upsets as six men’s teams, the Northwestern Wildcats, Colorado State Rams, Texas A&M, James Madison, Grand Canyon, and most shockingly, the Yale Bulldogs beat their higher-ranked opponent. Yale qualified for March Madness after a buzzer-beater in the Ivy League final only to face Auburn who has one of the greatest offenses in the nation. Their most improved player, John Poulakidas, doubled his average points per game when he scored 28 against Auburn. A chaotic final six seconds had Auburn miss all of their four shots which finalized Yale’s two-point victory. Unsurprisingly, the defending champions, the UConn Huskies, crushed their first-round opponent along with the Duke, Alabama Crimson Tide, and Purdue notching a win. Purdue’s star player is Zach Edey. A Torontonian, Edey is the third-tallest NCAA player this year standing at seven foot four.

The women’s side also featured its first set of games including last year’s champions, the LSU Tigers who beat Rice University in the first-round 70-60. LSU is known for its star-studded lineup including Haley Van Lith, Flau’Jae Johnson, and of course, Angel Reese. Leading her team for points this year, Reese also dominates in rebounds as she is second in the league with 13.3 per game. Reese also put up an impressive 19 rebounds in game one. Some narrow victors include Colorado State and Iowa State, however, the most exciting game of the day was the Utah State Aggies vs South Dakota State Jackrabbits game. In the first half, South Dakota rallied when down 20 to begin the second half nearly tied. One person was standing in the way, though. Utah’s Alissa Pili went four for seven in the second half while reaching seven rebounds in total. Kennedy McQueen and Jenna Johnson also helped the Utes finish strong and hand South Dakota their first loss in 22 games.

Saturday arrived and so did the current NCAA powerhouse, Caitlyn Clark. Iowa struck gold with Clark who, for reference, has accomplished feats like most career points in a women’s game (49), most NCAA-wide career points of all time (3,798), 17 triple-doubles, 56 30-point games, and 12 40-point games. Iowa is ranked second in the nation and faced Holy Cross in their first game. A lackluster start for the Iowa Hawkeyes gave Holy Cross hope in the first quarter, however with Clark’s 27 points and the tough-as-nails Kate Martin’s 14 rebounds, Iowa secured the win. Despite the large win, the nail-biting start to the game should be a sign that Iowa needs improvements if they want to win this championship. While there were no upset games on Saturday for the women’s teams, it was still incredible to watch players like Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair score 32 points, while Skylar Vann’s versatility helped the Oklahoma Sooners escape a scare against a 12th-ranked FGCU team, and finally, the West Virginia Mountaineer’s, JJ Quinerly hitting 29 points. 

This March Madness has started off promising. No matter how many games you watch, both sides feature exhilarating games, highly skilled players, and unlikely victors. With the Sweet Sixteen beginning on Thursday, it is becoming more staggering that only one team can win despite the incredible talent of all athletes.

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