The student-run newspaper of Cleveland High School


The student-run newspaper of Cleveland High School


The student-run newspaper of Cleveland High School


March Madness Recap

Clarion photo Gregory Shamus
South Carolina women’s basketball team, national champions 2024

As March has come to a close, the phenomenon of March Madness has also come to a close. In the men’s and women’s brackets, 64 teams began play with the goal of becoming a champion. The women’s bracket ended with South Carolina beating Iowa 87-75 to complete their undefeated season.

Although the women’s tournament usually draws less attention than the men’s, this year was an exception because of the many stars and storylines across the bracket. At the forefront of the tournament was Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, who broke the NCAA career record for points scored during the season, and also led the nation in scoring and assists. The other big story of the tournament was LSU, led by Angel Reese, who had beaten Iowa and Clark in the championship the previous year. Reese’s taunt towards Clark at the end of the game sparked a debate about racism and double standards in basketball. Other stars of the tournament included perennial women’s basketball powerhouses UConn, led by Paige Bueckers and Cameron Brink, respectively, as well as JuJu Watkins of USC, who averaged 27 points per game as a freshman, and of course the eventual champion South Carolina.

As the overall top ranked team, South Carolina easily beat their opponents en route to a spot in the Final Four. The Elite Eight games also provided some of the most entertaining matchups of the tournament. UConn and USC competed in one of the top matchups of the tournament right here in Portland. Paige Bueckers and JuJu Watkins competing against each other was a can’t miss matchup, and UConn would win a thrilling matchup 80-73. The biggest story, however, was the Iowa-LSU matchup, which featured a rematch between Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese. With an opportunity for revenge, Clark was lights out, scoring 41 points as Iowa won 94-87. Rounding out the Final Four teams was NC State, who beat top teams like Texas and Stanford on their way to the Final Four.

Although NC State had a good run, South Carolina was too much for them, as the Gamecocks won a relatively unexciting game by the score of 78-59. The other matchup, however, was a thriller. Iowa and UConn competed neck and neck for a spot in the championship game. UConn was able to limit the explosiveness of Clark, and had a chance for a go ahead shot with less than 10 seconds remaining. However, the Huskies’ Aaliyah Edwards was called for a controversial illegal screen on Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall, which effectively ended the game and gave Iowa the victory. The call drew a lot of backlash, but replays showed that it was the correct call, and a national championship was set between South Carolina and Iowa.

In the Final Four the previous year, South Carolina was undefeated and a heavy favorite against Iowa, but 41 points from Caitlin Clark in a 77-73 Iowa win ended the Gamecocks’ dreams of an undefeated season. Heading into the championship this year, South Carolina and head coach Dawn Staley were not going to squander that opportunity again. Although Clark scored 30 points, the rest of Iowa’s team struggled to produce. South Carolina was led by Kamilla Cardoso, who had 15 points and 17 rebounds. After the first half, the Gamecocks held a narrow 49-46 lead. In the second half, Iowa struggled while Cardoso and South Carolina pulled away for an 87-75 victory to secure an undefeated season.

The increased amount of attention to women’s college basketball resulted in record breaking viewership numbers. The Elite Eight matchup between Iowa and LSU drew the largest audience ever for a women’s college basketball game as well as the most watched college basketball game in the 45-year history of ESPN. The record would last only a few days, as Iowa’s national semifinal match with Connecticut averaged the most viewers for a basketball game at any level on ESPN. The Championship game again broke this record, with it becoming the most watched basketball game (including the NBA) since 2019.

Although the men’s tournament lacked the number of stars compared to the women’s tournament, there were still plenty of storylines and moments that caught people’s attention. The first round featured several notable upsets. Oakland, a 14 seed, defeated three seed Kentucky 80-76 behind 32 points and 10 three pointers from Jack Gohlke. The game proved to be the last for Kentucky coach John Calipari, who left for Arkansas following the tournament. Thirteen seed Yale also pulled off a major upset, beating four seed Auburn 78-76. Kentucky and Auburn were not the only SEC teams to underperform; five of the eight teams from the conference lost in the first round of the tournament.

A common story of March Madness is the “Cinderella” team, a lower seeded team that surpasses expectations and beats higher seeded teams on the way to a deep run in the tournament. The Cinderella story this year was NC State. Despite the state of North Carolina being a basketball powerhouse, the Wolfpack had lacked relevance since they won the national championship more than 40 years ago. But led by 6-9, 275 pound DJ Burns, 11 seed NC State surprised the country, beating basketball powerhouses Marquette and Duke on the way to the Final Four. Although they would eventually lose in the Final Four, the Wolfpack returned to prominence for the first time in over 40 years.

Over the course of the tournament, popular picks for the championship would be eliminated early, such as North Carolina, Arizona, and Houston. The Final Four ended up being contested by the two best teams in the country, as well as two surprises. The two best teams in the nation were the defending champions, UConn, and Purdue, who had shockingly lost in the first round the year before. Purdue were led by the consensus National Player of the Year Zach Edey, and they made the Final Four by defeating a tough Tennessee team led by All-American Dalton Knecht. UConn, the overall top seed, made their games look easy, defeating highly-ranked opponents like San Diego State and Illinois by over 25 points. The other Final Four teams were NC State, who defeated a star-studded Duke roster to make the Final Four, and Alabama, who beat one seed North Carolina and then defeated Clemson to make the first Final Four in school history. UConn defeated Alabama, and Purdue defeated NC State, respectively, meaning the national championship would be between the two best teams in the country.

In the championship, Edey put up 37 points, but his teammates could not keep up with UConn. The Huskies held a 36-30 lead at halftime, and in the second half they continued to apply the pressure, resulting in a 75-60 victory. The Huskies were the first team to win back-to-back national titles since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Tristen Newton, who scored 20 points, was named Most Outstanding Player.

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About the Contributor
Rio Madrone
Rio Madrone, Sports Editor
My name is Rio Madrone and I am a junior at Cleveland. This is my 2nd year on the Clarion, and I work as the editor for the sports section. I enjoy watching sports and listening to music!

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