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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Moments ‘til Madness: Thrilling tournament tales

The highlights of another unforgettable first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

"Moments 'Til Madness " Column Graphic
Graphic by Gretta Goorno

Finally, we’ve made it to March. And it’s been a great tournament so far. Somehow, each and every year, this playoff brings enthralling narratives that take over the sports world. Whether it's a Cinderella story, a dominant team or a new star of the sport, March Madness never fails to entertain. It’d be hard to capture everything that happened in the 40 games that have been played, so let’s take a look at the best storylines from the first two rounds.

Jack Gohlke takes over for the University of Oakland

If you watch sports, you now know the name Jack Gohlke. Averaging 13.1 points per game and coming off the bench for No. 14 seed Oakland, Gohlke shot just eight 2-pointers the entire season, with 364 3-pointer attempts. That itself is a staggering stat, but adding to it, the former Division II 3-pointer specialist drilled 10 threes against the uber-talented University of Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday, just one three away from tying the NCAA Tournament single-game record. Drawing comparisons to Stephen Curry during his Cinderella run at Davidson College, Gohlke was shooting from just about any distance or angle beyond the 3-pointer arch, as millions around the world watched in awe. This effort gave Oakland just enough to take down the No. 3 seed Kentucky in the first round. Not only did Gohlke and Oakland permanently etch themselves into March Madness history, but they also put Kentucky coach John Calipari in one of the hottest seats in college basketball. With little to no tournament success in recent years, many believed Calipari could be out of a job this offseason. One game can make a world of difference when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.

An unexpected run by North Carolina State University

In the same pocket of the bracket, No. 11 seed NC State team, who barely squeaked by in the ACC Tournament, has shown why to never lose hope in a season. Matched up against a strong Texas Tech University squad, NC State didn’t have much trouble. Winning the game by 13 points, they were able to contain Texas Tech’s offense, while also managing to shoot just under 40% from the 3-point line and about 50% from the field. Next, they took on the now well-known Oakland team in a battle of Cinderellas. In what may have been one of the most entertaining games of March Madness, NC State was able to pull out a 6-point overtime win. They were led by a new fan favorite, DJ Burns Jr., a 6’9” 275 pound big man, who put up 24 points and 11 rebounds. It’s hard to root against this team and I’d bet a lot of people will be rooting for NC State in their matchup against the star-studded No. 2 seed Marquette University later this week.

Will Purdue University get their revenge?

Everyone knows the story from last year. What was supposed to be the best team in the sport completely collapsed to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson University. After being essentially the laughing stock of college basketball, the Boilermakers are firing on all cylinders so far in the 2024 NCAA Tournament. The expected back-to-back National Player of the Year Zach Edey has had 53 total points and 35 total rebounds to this point, helping Purdue more than handedly beat their first and second round opponents. Not to mention, they absolutely clobbered the Utah State University Aggies on Sunday, winning by 39 points. What seems to be the difference for this team is Edey’s supporting cast, who have been shooting the ball extremely well. If Purdue’s guards can keep up their play, it’ll be hard to imagine this team not reaching the Final Four. While another implosion is definitely possible (anything can happen in March), Purdue is playing championship basketball at the perfect time.