Busting Brackets

NCAA Tournament: 3 key takeaways from Oakland's shocking upset over Kentucky

Oakland v Kentucky
Oakland v Kentucky / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

A mixture of dismay and elation spreads across the face of the crowd in Pittsburgh as the clock winds down and Kentucky has yet to regain the lead in the first round of the Southeastern divisional round of the NCAA Tournament. A game that some who traveled far may have thought to be a shoo-in has turned into one of the most nail-biting endings early in the Madness and the first major upset. Before tip-off, many in the know realize that during the tournament, anything can happen. While Kentucky may have been seeded higher, there’s always preparation and plans for each matchup. Kentucky has been known as a powerhouse school for many years, being no stranger to the limelight and high-stakes games.

This isn’t Coach Kapilari’s first rodeo, and he has a front end of the roster full of capable scorers; however, on nights that the shots don’t fall, things can get dicey. They haven’t advanced to the sweet 16 they’ve grown accustomed to since 2019. Their defense isn’t by any means an issue, but with the focus on high scoring, it can go awry quickly. Oakland’s record may not be anything to tout at first glance, but they go toe to toe with every opponent they face. Many of their losses have been under ten points, and they have faced plenty of strong teams with impressive results. 

Key 1: Guard the Perimeter:

Whether it's from a lack of concern for the matchup, an opposite focus, or sheer bad luck, the perimeter defense from Kentucky allowed Oakland to steal the show. Scoring six more and shooting 16% better from beyond the arch, Kentucky was struggling to take control of the momentum, which is usually no problem for them. Even though most of these came from one person on the Golden Grizzlies offense, nothing apparently could be done to stop him, which was a crucial dagger for the Wildcats. 

Key 2: “Tournament Players”

No matter how well your scouting report is, the ‘clutch’ factor is very hard to identify, especially in college. The mamba mentality comes out when it matters, and one player embodied that tonight. Jack Gohlke came off the bench for Oakland and scored an impressive 32 points, cementing his name in the record books. This impressive feat shows that, given the right opportunity, people can shine. 

Key 3: No one is safe

 We’ve mentioned it before. This tournament is a completely different beast. Young athletes come here to make a name for themselves and earn the respect of their school. There is more on the line than in any other game during the whole year, and it shows in the level of gameplay.

Ranking of top 20 players from South Region. Ranking of top 20 players from South Region. dark. Next

Even being written off by many, Oakland secured their school's only second tournament win by playing their best basketball and proving to everyone that they deserved the invitation.