The DeMatha Stagline

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The DeMatha Stagline

The DeMatha Stagline

March Madness Opening Weekend Takeaways

March Madness Opening Weekend Takeaways

As the frenzy of March Madness officially started, the opening weekend served as a thrilling preview to weeks of intense collegiate basketball action. With more than 22 million brackets filled and ready, fans across the nation eagerly tuned in to witness the excitement around the annual tournament. As big-time powerhouses clashed with underdogs barely ever heard of before, each game had something fresh to it. From buzzer-beaters to Cinderella stories, the opening weekend of March Madness captivates audiences every year with its unpredictability and huge excitement for the game, setting the stage for a big road towards crowning a new champion.

Even before the benefit of hindsight, one takeaway from the opening weekend was that this was UConn’s tournament to lose. The Huskies were dominant as they looked to go back-to-back in this year’s tournament. After crushing Stetson in a 91-52 bout, they showed no showing of taking their foot off the gas. They spread their points around perfectly with all of their starters having double-digit points, especially arguably their player of the game Tristen Newton who dropped 19-8-3 and led them to a 52-19 lead at halftime.

One of the biggest underdog stories of the opening weekend was the Oakland Golden Grizzlies Cinderella run. The Grizzlies busted 95% of ESPN brackets when they defeated the powerful Kentucky Wildcats who were a 3-seed. The leader and star of the team, Jack Gohlke, drained 10 shots from behind the arc and stunned fans across the nation. Gohlke started his collegiate career at a D-II school named Hillsdale College and then made the big decision to leave the team and transfer to Oakland. After Gohlke’s stunning performance, he had NIL deals racking up and many of these advertisements were up on his social media the day after, which showed the quick notoriety the under-looked kid had in sports at the time.

The Houston Cougars dominated the Big 12, which was one of the best-performing conferences this year. The Cougars were ranked the best team in the nation for defensive efficiency entering the NCAA Tournament. They were also top five in turnover percentage, 2-point defense, block percentage, and steal percentage. These rankings appeared to set them up to be one of the biggest contenders to knock off UConn from their back-to-back hopes. The Cougars wasted no time in the tournament crushing Longwood and even leading them 43-16 at halftime. This performance showed their killer defense and many fans remained high on them going for it all this year.

Fellow Stags even weighed in on their favorite teams to watch this year. Sophomore Joe LeGloahec said, “Texas has easily been my favorite so far because I love the way they play. I enjoy the way they run the 2-man game pick and roll style with Max Abmas and Dylan Disu. Max Abmas transferred to Texas and immediately clicked. I enjoy the way the coaching staff runs the offense through him.”

Fellow sophomore Patrick Moran found early upsets of Kentucky and Auburn at the hands of Oakland and Yale exciting. “It’s always great to see an underdog come out on top, even if it messes up brackets. That’s what makes March Madness fun yet challenging to predict. You can predict upsets, but not [all the] combinations,” Moran said.

March Madness delivers tons of excitement, drama, and unforgettable moments as some of the nation’s top teams collide on the floor. With national championship aspirations and school legacy on the line, the tournament is sure to make many heartbroken, for only one team wins. Although every year everyone tunes back into this chaotic and exciting tournament for the same feelings of excitement time and time again.

Note: This article was originally written on March 26. It has been edited mildly by the Stagline advisor, but all analysis and student quotes were gathered and written before the regional semifinals of the men’s NCAA Tournament. The UCONN Huskies did, in fact, become the first team since Florida to win back-to-back national titles and have set a record with 12 straight tournament wins by 13 points or more.

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