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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Oakland Golden Grizzlies surprise the country in NCAA Tournament

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The Oakland Golden Grizzlies pulled off a historic upset last weekend, defeating the No. 3 seed Kentucky Wildcats. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The nickname of the NCAA basketball Tournament rang true again. The 14th-seeded Oakland Golden Grizzlies took down the third-seeded Kentucky Wildcats 80-76 in the first round of the tournament to prove that madness is alive again in March. 

Oakland University, a mid-major school in Rochester, Michigan, is playing in its fourth-ever NCAA Tournament. The Golden Grizzlies won the Horizon League Championship to earn a bid to March Madness, and they seized every bit of the opportunity in the Round of 64. 

Jack Golhke, a senior playing in his first season in Division I basketball, cemented himself into March Madness legend status against Kentucky. He became one of only four players to make 10 3-pointers in a game in the NCAA Tournament. The six-foot-three guard scurried off screens all game to create space and shoot 10 of 20 from beyond the arc.

The Golden Grizzlies needed all of Gohlke’s 32 points, a career-high, to win. The Horizon League Player of the Year and Gohlke’s teammate, Trey Townsend, added 17 points, and DQ Cole added 12 in the explosive offensive effort. The starting five for Oakland scored just half of Oakland’s points, with the other half coming from the bench; Gohlke’s 32 points and Rocket Watts’ eight totaled 40 points. 

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Gohlke entered the NCAA Tournament shooting extremely well. In the Horizon League Championship game, Gohlke scored 15 points on five-for-12 shooting from the 3-point range to lift Oakland over the Milwaukee Panthers. In the semifinals against the Cleveland State Vikings, Gohlke made seven of his 14 3-point shots to score a total of 21 points. Gohlke also shot two of five from the 3-point range in the first game of the Horizon League tournament. 

Golhke served as the ultimate role player on Oakland’s squad. He shot 355 field goals this season, and 347 were 3-point attempts. The shooting specialist nailed his 3-pointers at an efficient 37.8% clip on the season. Gohlke spent his first four years of college playing for Division II Hillsdale College. In his final year of NCAA eligibility, Gohlke found the perfect role in head coach Greg Kampe’s offense. 

From the Wildcats’ perspective, the loss to Oakland is another early exit and a disappointing season for Kentucky’s basketball program. In the last four seasons, Kentucky has lost in the round of 64 twice, lost in the round of 32 and missed the NCAA Tournament. 

The Kentucky men’s basketball program has a rich history of March Madness appearances, and its recent woes have caused unrest among the fanbase, as they are accustomed to dominant performances. The Wildcats won the National Championship in 2012, made it to the championship game in 2014, made it to the Final Four in 2011 and 2015 and made it to the Elite Eight in 2010, 2017 and 2019. 

Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s job is potentially in peril after turning in disappointing losses in recent years, despite being on a “lifetime” contract that expires after the 2028-29 season. Calipari has been the head coach for the Wildcats since 2009. He’s coached notable NBA players, including Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Anthony Davis, De’Aaron Fox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Calipari’s 2024 team includes NBA prospects Reed Sheppard, Rob Dillingham, Justin Edwards and Antonio Reeves. 

A former Division II player scoring 30 points to take down the star-studded Kentucky was a far-from-ideal outcome for the Wildcats, and potential changes may be on the way as a result. 

For casual college basketball fans, however, the Oakland victory over Kentucky is another fun March Madness outcome. It may have busted some brackets, but it catapulted Gohlke into hero status and gave Oakland fans a story to tell for years to come. 

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