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2024 Men’s March Madness in Review

Brett Lundgren
The Final Four for the 2024 NCAA Tournament was held in Glendale, Arizona, at State Farm Stadium on April 6 and 8.

On Monday, April 8, the UConn Huskies extended their lead in the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers in a 75-60 win, cutting down the nets for the second year in a row, and marking the end of the latest edition of Men’s March Madness, the thrilling Division I Men’s college basketball tournament that electrifies the spring sports scene.

Just like any other year, the tournament left fans on the edge of their seats with wire to wire finishes, teams of destiny, and exciting storylines — leaving no perfect brackets in its path.

Best games:

(10) Colorado vs. (7) Florida

In arguably the most thrilling game of the entire tournament, the Colorado Buffaloes and Florida Gators found themselves in a first round battle that came down to the final seconds. Despite a late twelve point lead for the Buffaloes, the Gators came storming back to tie the game at 100 thanks to a lengthy Walter Clayton Jr. three-pointer. The Buffaloes were unphased though, responding with a KJ Simpson baseline jumper which took place with under two seconds and secured the team a spot into the second round, ending the game at a score of 102-100. Although neither Colorado nor Florida ended up making a deep March Madness run, its finish will be remembered by college basketball superfans for years to come.

(3) Creighton vs. (11) Oregon

This second round matchup with the Creighton Bluejays and Oregon Ducks was something special. The game went into double overtime, ending 86-73 in favor of the Bluejays. The end of regulation and the first overtime saw each side have a chance to win on the last possession, but neither team could finish. Despite Jermaine Couisnard’s 72 total points in the first two rounds, the Ducks couldn’t convert those efforts into a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Creighton appeared to have a greater spark and it really showed during their 15-2 run in the second overtime.

(13) Yale vs. (4) Auburn

Coming into this first round game, both teams were riding high after wins in their respective conference tournaments — the Yale Bulldogs in the Ivy League, and the Auburn Tigers in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Although the Tigers led by 10 points with just under eight minutes remaining, the Bulldogs came storming back to win the game on a wild loose ball sequence. Headed into the tournament, many avid basketball fans had the Tigers making a deep run, but those predictions were shut down in the first round by a feisty Yale squad that squeaked out a 78-76 win.

Upset Runs:

(11) NC State

On March 15, NC State’s tournament hopes hung in the balance. They found themselves down by three in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) tournament semifinal with under ten seconds on the clock. After a missed free throw from the Virginia Cavaliers, Michael O’Connell sped down the court and drained a three pointer at the horn that sent the game to overtime. NC State would go on to win the game by eight in overtime, in addition to a victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament final to punch their ticket into March Madness.

After the Wolfpack won the ACC tournament, they showed no signs of slowing down, rattling off four more wins to advance to the Final Four in Arizona as an 11-seed. Thanks to O’Connell’s miracle bucket in mid-March, the Wolfpack found themselves in the desert, two wins away from a National Championship. Even though they lost to the Purdue Boilermakers in the Final Four 63-50, it shouldn’t take away from the extraordinary run that the Wolfpack had in the ACC tournament and South Region.

(6) Clemson

Despite the fact that the Clemson Tigers were a six seed this year, they made a splash in the West Region, sprinting all the way to the Elite Eight. On their way to the second weekend, the Tigers took down the New Mexico Lobos 77-56 — a very popular upset pick in many brackets. The Tigers weren’t done though, advancing past both the Baylor Bears and Arizona Wildcats. Considering the strength of teams they faced, the Clemson Tigers’ Elite Eight appearance was definitely the most impressive.

Standout Stars:

DJ Burns Jr.

While Michael O’Connell was the man who hit the brilliant buzzer-beater against Virginia in the ACC tournament, the engine for the Wolfpack’s run was DJ Burns Jr. The 6’9’’, 275-pound senior was nothing but dominant. Burns Jr. was able to use his size in the post with quick turnout sky hooks and powerful layups that left his defenders with more questions than answers. Through the NCAA tournament, DJ Burns Jr. averaged over 16 points per game en route to NC State’s improbable Final Four run.

Jack Golkhe

Though his team only won one game, Jack Gohlke and the Oakland Golden Grizzlies were the talk of the tournament during the first weekend. In their round of 64 matchup against Kentucky Wildcats, Gohlke shocked the basketball world with his ten three-pointers and 32-point performance that ignited the Golden Grizzlies 80-76 victory over the Wildcats.

Despite a second round exit at the hand of the NC State Wolfpack in overtime, Gohlke was still able to shine in the scoring department with 22 points. Most years, March Madness blesses its fans with unknown talents that become household names, and Jack Gohlke was the latest example.

Donovan Clingan

The 7’2’’ center for the UConn Huskies played a big role in their run to the title. In their tournament games, Donovan Clingan averaged over 15 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, and an impressive 3.2 blocks per game. Although he wasn’t on the court as much as the other starters, when he was on the hardwood he was making his mark on the game. For a team that had five double-digits scorers, Clingan’s presence in the post acted as a strong anchor for UConn’s dominant title run.

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