Basketball, NCAA, Sports

Bracket Breakdown: Madness from the opening rounds

As the dust settles on yet another electrifying first weekend of March Madness, the NCAA tournament has again proven itself as one of the most entertaining spectacles in sports. With 48 games in one weekend, there was no shortage of shocking upsets, dominant performances and nail-biting finishes. 

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

Now that zero perfect brackets remain, fans can take a moment to appreciate the madness that has ensued, as we recap the opening rounds of our favorite sports postseason. 

Biggest upsets

As tradition dictates, the tournament’s opening rounds were not without their share of upsets, bracket-busting and memorable tournament moments. 

The mania truly began on Thursday night, when the No. 14 Oakland University Golden Grizzlies took down the No. 3 seed Kentucky Wildcats, 80-76. 

The Grizzlies were led by Jack Gohlke, an unsung graduate transfer student from a Division II school who turned into a hero overnight. Gohlke caught fire from beyond the arc, drilling 10 three-pointers on 50% shooting for 32 total points in an unforgettable win. 

In true upset fashion, Gohlke said to reporters after the game, “I know [Kentucky] has draft picks and I know I’m 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.”

The upsets continued throughout the opening round but among the most surprising came when No. 13 seed Yale Bulldogs knocked off the Southeastern Conference Champion Auburn Tigers, 78-76. 

The Ivy League Champion Bulldogs won in a chaotic finish, coming back from being down 10 with only seven minutes left and fending off multiple potential game-tying shots at the buzzer. 

Yale was led by junior guard John Poulakidas, who hit a clutch three-pointer with just over two minutes left to take the lead, finishing with 28 points. But the most important play of the game came when freshman center Samson Aletan swatted away an Auburn attempt at overtime in the final seconds of the game.

Best games

The best part of March Madness is the fierce competition, and so far there have been some exciting finishes.  

On the opening night of the round of 64, Samford fans were left heartbroken by a controversial call. The No. 13 seed Bulldogs nearly came back from a 22-point deficit and won their first-ever tournament game in an upset against No. 4 seed Kansas. However, what looked to be a textbook chase-down block from Samford guard junior A.J. Staton-McCray, ended up being called for a foul in the final seconds which saved the Jayhawks from an early exit as they survived 93-89.

“I feel like it was a great play by me,” remarked Staton-McCray to reporters after the game. “Terrible call.”

On Friday, Colorado fans were treated to a last-second game-winner from junior guard KJ Simpson. The baseline jumper with only two seconds left propelled the No. 10 seed Buffaloes over the No. 7 seed Florida.

On Saturday night, No. 3 seed Creighton faced off against a red-hot No. 11 seed Oregon, in perhaps the most tumultuous game of the tournament thus far. 

The 86-73 final score in favor of Creighton might be misleading but this game was truly a roller coaster before the second overtime period. There were 14 lead changes in this legendary contest and some crazy performances from both teams. 

Seniors center N’Faly Dante and guard Jermaine Cousinard combined for 60 points for Oregon, while four of Creighton’s starters scored more than 17 points in the double-overtime thriller.

Additionally, in one of the last but most action-packed games of the weekend, No. 1 seed Houston survived an overtime scare from No. 9 seed Texas A&M. 

The Aggies caught fire late and forced overtime on a tenacious 17-5 run to end regulation, culminating in a three-point buzzer beater by senior Andersson Garcia at the end of regulation. Houston eventually staved off Texas A&M in overtime for the 95-100 win. 

Dominant teams

At this stage of the college basketball season, the intense competition has already showcased the outstanding quality of teams across the board. Yet a couple have stood out and separated themselves heading towards the Sweet 16 as serious contenders. 

First on this list has to be the No. 1 seed University of Connecticut Huskies. Head coach Dan Hurley had his Huskies ready to play this weekend as UConn decimated both their opponents by a combined 166-110 score. 

The Huskies are simply good at everything: offense, defense, depth, coaching, star power — they are truly a powerhouse. This team was already the favorite to win the tournament, as they did last year, and so far they have done nothing but bolster that argument through two games. Watch out for UConn when it comes time to cut the nets.

Equally impressively is another No. 1 seed, Purdue. The Boilermakers had their way with opponents on opening weekend, beating them by a combined 67 points. Purdue eased through the round of 64 and then embarrassed Utah State in the second round with a 106-67 victory.

Led by senior star Zach Edey who is a favorite, yet again, for player of the year, the Boilermakers have plenty of offense and shooting to outpace opponents like they have thus far. Purdue is a real threat for the title.

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One Comment

  1. This was so well written. I hate sports but now I’m interested.