Mark Lyons led four scorers in double figures with 23 points as No. 6 seed Arizona knocked off No. 11 Belmont 81-64.
Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark combined for 43 points, but the Bruins dug themselves a massive hole early in the game with their inability to get a defensive rebound — or, for that matter, make a shot — in the first half.
For the third consecutive season, Belmont entered the tournament as a trendy upset pick. And for the third consecutive season, the Bruins were sent home on the wrong end of a tail-whipping.
The biggest issue here is that the Bruins simply looked outclassed. Clark and Johnson are both terrific. They are mid-major all-american caliber guards, and Clark is good enough that he’s drawn some looks from NBA scouts. But Belmont simply didn’t have the size or the athleticism to handle Arizona, a team chock full of top 25 recruits and big men with NBA potential.
Arizona moves on to play the winner of No. 3 New Mexico and No. 14 Harvard. The Wildcats will be an interesting team to watch if they continue to play the way they did on Thursday. Talent isn’t the issue for Sean Miller’s club; they’ve got plenty of it. It’s point guard play and cohesion offensively.
We’ve seen teams with issues put it all together and make a run to — and through — the second weekend, and Arizona certainly has the talent to do that.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.