Sunday, April 14, 2024

No. 3 Kentucky stunned by No. 14 Oakland, John Calipari’s future in doubt; three 11-seeds advance

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🐻 Good morning to everyone but especially …


The Oakland Golden Grizzlies are more than a good story. They’re a damn good team with a historically great shooter, and now they’re the author of an all-time March Madness upset, too. No. 14 Oakland dispatched No. 3 Kentucky, 80-76, for the program’s first Round of 64 win.

The characters of the story are straight out of a fairy tale … except they’re very, very real.

  • Jack Gohlke knocked down 10 3-pointers, tied for second-most in an NCAA Tournament game and one shy of the all-time record, en route to a career-high 32 points. Just who is this guy?! I’m glad you asked, because David Cobb has the answer: a sixth-year senior who spent five years at Division-II Hillsdale. This season, he has taken a staggering 347 3-pointers and only eight 2-pointers.
  • Coach Greg Kampe is in his 40th season at Oakland. He celebrated his team’s Horizon League Tournament title at a dive bar. He’s hilarious and self-deprecating. He survived a near-death experience with sepsis in 2017. And thank goodness he did. He’s one of the truly great characters in the sport, as Matt Norlander detailed last week.
  • Trey Townsend added 17 points and 12 rebounds. His father, Skip, also played for Kampe at Oakland and is a credentialed photographer at the tournament.

March Madness is just the best.

Meanwhile, we got three 11-6 upsets, just the second time three No. 11 seeds won on the same day.

  • After winning five games in five days to win the ACC Tournament and make the NCAA Tournament, NC State kept its March magic going with an 80-67 win over Texas Tech. As I wrote last week, why not the Wolfpack? They face Oakland tomorrow in a surprise matchup.
  • Jermaine Couisnard scored 40 points to lead Oregon over his former team, South Carolina, 87-73. Couisnard’s 40 points are the most in Oregon NCAA Tournament history and the most by a player on a double-digit seed since Stephen Curry in 2008.
  • In its first NCAA Tournament since 1977, Duquesne started the 11-6 upsets off early with a 71-67 win over BYU. The Dukes’ coach, Keith Dambrot, coached LeBron James in high school and is retiring after this season. But he’ll gladly put retirement off for a bit, and a gift from James may have helped.

Here are all of the winners and losers from Day 1 and our Day 1 takeaways.

😊 Honorable mentions

👀 And not such a good morning for …


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In hindsight, we should have seen this coming. The inconsistencies. The inexperience. The defensive lapses. The lack of cohesion.

And, frankly, the track record. This is what Kentucky is in March.

The Wildcats have exactly one NCAA Tournament win in the last four years. They have lost to a 14 seed (Oakland this year) and a 15 seed (Saint Peter’s in 2022) in the first round, and a 3 seed (Kansas State in 2023). In 2021, they went 9-16 and missed the tournament entirely.

The inexperience is expected. That’s what John Calipari has in Lexington: a one-and-done factory. Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham — both potential top-five picks who were terrific all season — shot three for 14 combined, scoring 13 points. Fellow prized freshman D.J. Wagner was scoreless and missed all five of his shots. March is just different, and it’s often unkind to the uninitiated.

The defense has also become expected. In its last three season-ending losses, the Wildcats have allowed 80 points on average, against opponents many people had never heard of until they appeared on the bracket. This year, Kentucky had its worst defensive efficiency on record.

Here’s the stat that gets me: Before 2022, Kentucky was 27-0 against 12 seeds or worse. The Wildcats are 0-2 in those games since.

And it’s not just the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have exactly one SEC Tournament win over the last four years. That puts their overall postseason record during that span at 2-7.

Another early exit clouds Calipari’s future and leaves us wondering if it’s time for a change, Matt writes.

  • Norlander: “There have been way too many terrible losses for Kentucky and Calipari in the past few seasons, but the crescendo to Thursday night’s pratfall against Oakland feels like the worst of them all. … Calipari was the right coach at the right time when he came to Lexington in 2009 to save the program. And save it he did. Now this program needs something of a savior again. At minimum, it needs a fixer. And we are running out of reasons to believe Calipari is still the guy who wants the tools in his hands or, even worse, that he knows how to use them.”

😰 Not so honorable mentions

  • Here are the latest updates on the Shohei Ohtani/Ippei Mizuhara gambling scandal.
  • Brandon Ingram suffered a knee injury.
  • Kevin Huerter (dislocated shoulder, torn labrum) is out indefinitely.
  • J.B. Bickerstaff says he’s been threatened by gamblers and that sports betting has “crossed the line.” He’s not wrong.
  • The NBA is shutting down the G League Ignite program. Honestly, I think it’s the right move for an experiment that never quite produced as intended.
  • There’s tension in the MLBPA.

🏀 Picks, schedule for second day of men’s NCAA Tournament first round



One of the best parts about March Madness? After a wild first day, we get to do it all over again today with 16 more games to finish the men’s first round.

No. 1 overall seed UConn opens its title defense against Stetson, while fellow No. 1 seed Purdue opens what it hopes to be a redemption tour against Grambling State. No. 1 seed Houston also gets going against Longwood. But it’s a No. 2 seed — Marquette — whose game I’ll at least put on “could be interesting” alert. Tyler Kolek is returning from an oblique injury and will face a Western Kentucky team that plays at the fastest pace in the nation. Chip Patterson has all the top storylines for today’s action.

We also have expert picks, and outside of my alma mater (9) Northwestern taking on (8) FAU, my favorite game on the slate is (11) New Mexico vs. (6) Clemson. Can the Lobos make 11 seeds a perfect four-for-four? Chip says

  • Patterson: “The backcourt trio of Donovan Dent, Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. are going to cause all kinds of havoc for Clemson’s defense, and I’m not sure if the Tigers’ ball-handlers are going to succeed enough against New Mexico’s pressure. Clemson does have a size advantage that New Mexico will want to avoid, but with pace and pressure, the Lobos can dictate the terms of the game. Pick: New Mexico -2.5

🏀 Women’s NCAA Tournament first-round picks, Cinderella candidates


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The first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament is here, and what a slate it is. Isabel Gonzalez outlined the top 10 games of the first round, and atop the list is …

  • Gonzalez:1. (7) Iowa State vs. (10) Maryland — Both of these teams suffered three losses in November, largely because their schedules were tough. However, both finished the regular season better than they started. Since Feb. 14, Iowa State has beaten every single opponent except Texas. Meanwhile, Maryland — a team that has been to the NCAA Women’s Tournament every year since 2011 — made a statement with an upset win over Ohio State during the Big Ten Women’s Tournament.”

No. 1 overall seed South Carolina also opens its tournament, though it will be without Kamilla Cardoso, who is suspended for the game against Presbyterian for her actions in the SEC Tournament title game. But the Gamecocks have plenty of star power, including …

  • Gonzalez:MiLaysia Fulwiley — Her game is built for big moments, and that makes her a player to watch in the win-or-go-home NCAA Women’s Tournament. Her 24 points led all scorers in the spicy SEC Women’s Tournament championship win over LSU, and her play has led to NIL deals — including a multi-year deal with Curry Brand.”

Here are all of Isabel’s players to watch.

As for a star who won’t be there, No. 4 seed Virginia Tech got the devastating news that Elizabeth Kitley has a torn ACL. Isabel explained how Kitley’s absence impacts the Hokies, who begin their tournament against Marshall.

Here’s more:

📺 What we’re watching this weekend

🏀 We’re watching the NCAA Tournaments all weekend long. Here’s the men’s schedule, and here’s the women’s schedule.


🏀 Cavaliers at Timberwolves, 8 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 76ers at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV


🏀 Celtics at Bulls, 8 p.m. on NBA TV
🏒 Panthers at Rangers, 8 p.m. on ABC


🏒 Penguins at Avalanche, 2 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Thunder at Bucks, 7 p.m. on NBA TV
⚽ USMNT vs. Mexico, 9:15 p.m. on Paramount+
🏀 Pacers at Lakers, 10 p.m. on NBA TV

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