Commentary: Bracket busted? You can still enjoy March Madness

Casey Morsell (14) and DJ Burns Jr. (30) of the NC State Wolfpack combined for 35 points in a victory over the Oakland Golden Grizzlies on Saturday. (Submitted: NCAA)

Two days into the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I men’s basketball tournament and not one of the over 22 million brackets filled out on ESPN are perfect. You read that right, not a single one.

Only in March.

March Madness has arrived. After the round of 64 in the men’s tournament, my bracket is just 43 per cent accurate. Abysmal.

Whether your picks are right or wrong – and let’s be honest, chances are you’re in the same boat as me – here are some things to watch out for over the next few weekends as the best college basketball teams in America go head to head in a stew of single elimination absurdity.

Don’t sleep on the women’s tournament either! One thing it has going for it that the men’s side doesn’t is some serious star power.

Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Cameron Brink, Paige Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards, Hailey Van Lith — I could keep going. The future of women’s basketball couldn’t be in a better place. But don’t take my word for it. Watch.

Can you name that many top-line prospects on the men’s side? I think Purdue’s Zach Edey and Colorado’s Cody Williams are the only ones that I could. And that’s because Edey is huge (physically and metaphorically) for Canadian basketball and Williams’ brother Jalen plays for my NBA team.

Stars are a huge draw for most. And for good reason. Caitlin Clark is appointment viewing as far as I’m concerned. But one thing I love about both tournaments is how an unknown player can turn into a cult hero – or even a household name – overnight.

Nobody could be a better example of this than #14 Oakland’s Jack Gohlke, who went from 500 Instagram followers before his team’s upset win over #3 Kentucky to 50,000 followers on Sunday afternoon. He said something in his postgame interview on Thursday that perfectly encapsulates the NCAA tournament.

“I know I’m not going to the NBA, but I know on any given night I can compete with those type of guys.”

Gohlke scored 32 points on 10-20 shooting from three against a Kentucky team filled with future NBA talent. If you haven’t seen the tape, track it down and watch it.

I’ll let you read up on Gohlke yourself. But when else would someone with that kind of story get this kind of spotlight? 

Only in March.

One of my favourite teams to watch has been #11 NC State — who coincidentally matched up with Oakland in the second round on Saturday night. Overtime was needed in Pittsburgh, where DJ Burns Jr. scored six of his 24 to power NC State’s win. Along the way, Gohlke set the record for most three-pointers made in the first two games of the NCAA tournament with 16.

The Wolfpack have a very unique three-man frontcourt rotation. Each of Burns, Mohamed Diarra and Ben Middlebrooks do something very different. Burns is a throwback-type player who looks like he should be protecting a quarterback instead of scoring with his back to the basket like it’s 2004. Diarra is a defensive Swiss Army Knife, picking up the opposing team’s best perimeter players and running the floor to chase down rebounds and protect his team’s basket. Middlebrooks came off the bench to score 21 on Thursday to help upset #6 Texas Tech.

So maybe your bracket has been decimated like mine. Maybe you feel like checking out. Don’t be so hasty! There’s plenty of basketball left, and for every game, there are dozens of emotional moments. Whether you’re a basketball sicko taking notes for your personal mock draft or casually tuning in to see what the buzz is all about, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Nail-biting, nerve-wracking finishes to games. Obscure zone defences and full-court presses. Foolish chants from fans who have travelled from far and wide to back up their school. Controversial whistles from referees. Heartwarming scenes, like Idaho’s band stepping in to play Yale’s fight song when the Ivy League school’s own band couldn’t make the 4,000 km trek.

When else could you expect all of this and more?

Only in March.