The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

The Student News Site of Boston Latin School

The Argo

Let the (March) Madness Begin

On March 19, the ever-so anticipated March Madness tournament will kick off with 68 college basketball teams battling in a single-elimination bracket for the chance to win the national championship. Each year, millions of fans compete by picking who they believe will win each of the 63 matchups, all the way from the round of 64 to the championship game. 

Throughout the month-long event, we can be sure to witness countless upsets, overtime thrillers and occasionally, a Cinderella story. As we get closer to the start of the tournament, three teams — Purdue University, University of Connecticut (UConn) and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) — have proved themselves this season as contenders for the national championship. 

Let’s start out with the defending champions, the UConn Huskies. After a historic run in last year’s tournament, becoming only the second four seed to win it all, the Huskies have only gotten better. Currently at 17-2, UConn holds the number one spot in ESPN’s top 25 rankings. The team’s scoring is led by senior guards Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer, both averaging 15 points per game. 

Newton is a versatile playmaker who is able to get his teammates easy looks at the rim, a large reason for the remarkable run in last year’s tournament. Spencer joins the team this year as a transfer from Rutgers and serves UConn as a prototypical two guard, with his ability to both create his own shots and knock down open looks. He leads the team in three-point percentage, at an elite 45 percent. This duo is able to play very well off each other, which has led to the tremendous success for this Huskies team. 

Arguably the most important piece for UConn this year, however, has been the sophomore forward, Alex Karaban. Boston Latin School boys’ varsity basketball Coach Jerry Etienne coached the Massachusetts native for several years and has come to know his skillset well. Coach Etienne calls Karaban a “high IQ perimeter threat,” and most importantly “a glue guy.” This description proves apt. When center Donovan Clingan suffered a foot injury, Karaban seamlessly transitioned to the five position, enabling the Huskies to continue their domination, even in the absence of their primary big man. 

Despite an incredible record, UConn lacks an elite presence on both sides of the ball. The team ranks No. 46 in points per game, and allows 64.6 points to their opponents each game, which is only good for 30th in Division I basketball according to ESPN. While these numbers are not bad by any stretch, the Huskies need to enhance their performance if they wish to repeat as champions.

Constrasting the success of UConn, no team crashed and burned more than Purdue University in last year’s tournament. After earning a number one seed, the Boilermakers lost in the first round to sixteen-seeded Fairleigh-Dickinson University, marking the largest upset in March Madness history. This year, they have put themselves in a position to erase their previous embarrassment and redeem themselves. 

Purdue is headlined by Zach Eddy, the 2023 Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year. The 7’4”, 300-pound center is the most unstoppable force in college hoops, and yet, he’s still improving. Kyle Tucker, a staff writer for the Athletic, claims that “​​Edey has gotten smarter, stronger, more confident and competent seemingly every day he’s been in college.” In his senior season, Edey is averaging 23 points per game, the third highest in Division I, an extremely efficient 63 percent from the field. Due to Edey’s output, supplemented by sophomore guard Braden Smith’s playmaking, the Purdue Boilermakers are top ten in points per game and rank second in ESPN’s top 25 teams. With Purdue’s current construction, they have the ability to make a long run in the tournament. Due to their long history of disappointments, however, it may not be wise to put the fate of your bracket in the hands of the Boilermakers. 

North Carolina is another team looking to have a big bounceback year, coming off of last year’s underwhelming performance when they failed to qualify for the tournament, despite making it to the national championship the previous season. UNC is led by arguably the best pick-and-roll duo in college basketball. 

The initiator of their offense, RJ Davis, is a crafty three-level scorer currently averaging over 21 points per game. After receiving the AP player of the week for the third time this season, Matt Norlander of CBS Sports went as far as to call Davis the “best guard in the country.” The big man Armando Bacot is a dominant presence inside, averaging a double-double while anchoring their defense. Coach Etienne believes that “UNC will only go as far as Davis and Bacot take them,” emphasizing the importance that this pairing will have on the outcome of their tournament run. 

The Tar Heels currently sit at 16-3 (9-0 in conference play) despite the loss of Caleb Love to the transfer portal. UNC made up for some of his offensive output by adding Stanford University transfer Harrison Ingram, five-star recruit Elliot Cadeau and University of Notre Dame transfer Cormac Ryan. Without the same level of star power that they had during their 2022 run, however, the Tar Heels will have to rely on contributions from each member of the organization if they wish to add another banner to the historic program. 

While we can try to predict the outcome, we cannot know for sure what will come to fruition. Wishing everyone luck in making their 2024 March Madness Brackets!

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