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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

UConn reigns supreme, USC goes unbeaten in March Madness 2024

The+no.1+Kansas+Jayhawks+taking+on+the+no.+16+Texas+Southern+Tigers+in+a+first-round+matchup+of+the+2022+NCAA+tournament.+The+Jayhawks+won+the+game+86-53%2C+a+dominant+first+victory+on+the+path+to+the+title+they+won+that+year.+%28Courtesy+Tim+Gerland+via+Flickr%29
The no.1 Kansas Jayhawks taking on the no. 16 Texas Southern Tigers in a first-round matchup of the 2022 NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks won the game 86-53, a dominant first victory on the path to the title they won that year. (Courtesy Tim Gerland via Flickr)

The infamous March Madness NCAA tournament came and went, captivating the hearts of fans hoping for their team to make a deep run or for an unlikely contender to cause some miraculous upsets. Though now over, the championship left a number of memorable moments, from unbelievable wins over top seeds to historic attention and coverage for the women’s side, ushering in an unprecedented level of focus on women’s sports. The tournament concluded with UConn and South Carolina taking the respective men’s and women’s titles April 8 and 9.

Once again, the legendary UConn basketball program claimed the men’s title, winning it all back to back in their resounding 75-60 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue, a number one seed,was hoping to finally knock the chip off their shoulder and claim a championship, something eluding the team despite their historic success of reaching later rounds.

A top prospect in the nation, center Zach Edey gave it his all on the court, putting up an absurd 37 points with 10 rebounds, three times as many points as the next leading scorer on the Boilermakers. His efforts came short, however, due to the lights out performance of guards Triston Newton and Stephen Castle, putting up 20 and 15 points respectively and 5 rebounds each.

The triumph was a repeat for the Huskies, the first team to go back-to-back since Florida in 2006-2007. This title also marks their sixth in total, tied for the third most of any men’s team and the most in the 21st century, with all 6 being won after 1999. The only other schools with as many titles in men’s basketball are UCLA, Kentucky and North Carolina, showing just how elite the “blue bloods” that developed college basketball still are today.

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On the women’s side, the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks led by center Kamilla Cardoso finished their perfect season by shutting down superstar Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes 87-75,Down a ten point deficit early in the second quarter, the Gamecocks fought to take a 49-46 lead at halftime and never relinquished it in the second.

No doubt made possible by Cardoso’s MVP performance of 15 points and 17 rebounds, there is also significant credit to be given to SC coach Dawn Staley, who coached the team’s run with an entirely different starting lineup for the year prior. The Gamecock’s victory is also their third in the last two years, a testament to the recent dominance of the school and Staley’s ability to lead.

Though concluding her college career without a trophy, Caitlin Clark still captivated millions with a tenure matched by no other during her time on court. Averaging 31.6 ppg this season and 28.4 overall, Clark is the leading scorer in both men and women’s D1 basketball with 3,951 points, a truly remarkable level of play. Entering the WNBA draft next year, it will be interesting to see how she continues to strive for greatness with even fiercer competition.

“She was really revolutionary for women’s basketball and sports as a whole. She definitely isn’t done yet, but the attention she helped bring to the women’s side of the game is a massive change from the way people used to kind of ignore women’s sports,” freshman Om Shah said.

This year’s champions and runner-ups are certainly not the only schools with stories to tell, however. One team that made a huge splash into the final four was NC State on the men’s side. Led by center DJ Burns, the No. 11 Wolfpack bested No.1 seed Houston, No. 2 Marquette and No. 4 Duke, among other teams, before falling to Purdue in one of the most exhilarating Cinderella stories in recent years.

“DJ was hilarious to watch. The way he and NC tore up everyone in their way until they played Purdue was easily one of the best parts of March Madness this year,” senior Sebastian Tulin said.

Duke itself also received lots of attention due to star player and freshman Jared McCain’s affinity for not just basketball, but content on TikTok, too. Singing and shooting their way into the elite eight, McCain and the Duke team still won many of the people’s hearts over even if they didn’t win the tournament.

“It is usually really hard to like Duke, but Jared McCain is a cool guy and made them surprisingly fun to watch and root for,” sophomore Lucas White said.

Of course, for every team with a surprising success, there is another that has a disappointing or inexplicable defeat. The LSU Tigers, led by the formidable Angel Reese, were stopped short of defending their title when Clark and the Hawkeyes bounced them out of the elite eight, payback for LSU beating Iowa in the championship game last year. Reese declared for the WNBA draft, though, and is ready to move on from the loss as a top prospect for the big leagues.

Kentucky doesn’t get to forget its embarrassment in the first round either. A three-seed this year, they were ousted by the No. 14 Oakland Golden Grizzlies, bringing shame to the Wildcat name. While the unexpectedly hot performance of Jack Gohlke is legendary, there simply is no justification for losing so early with expectations so high.

All in all, March Madness did what it does best: Bring out some of the best sports competitions all year in a hard-fought frenzy where truly anything can happen. With such a memorable and interesting season, fans will be at the edge of their seats waiting to see who can claim the title of NCAA champions next year.

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Brady MacBride
Brady MacBride, Staff Writer
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