The first round of the NCAA Tournament left us wanting more, and the second round delivered.
In a big way.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
The reigning champs went down. Villanova, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament field, lost a thriller to No. 8 seed Wisconsin on Saturday thanks to a pair of massive threes from Bronson Koening and a Jordan-esque move from Nigel Hayes that led to a winning bucket with 11.4 seconds left on the block. The question with Villanova now is what the legacy of this team will be?
The other No. 1 seed in action on Friday night was Gonzaga, and Mark Few’s club survived an upset-bid from No. 8 seed Northwestern on the strength of some questionable-at-best officiating late in the game. Even though this is the third straight year that Gonzaga has been in the Sweet 16, this is a program with the reputation of getting knocked out of the tournament early; somehow, the narrative has become that Gonzaga getting a No. 1 seed and losing in the second round is the norm for that program.
It’s ironic, really. That’s what Villanova does, but because Villanova won a national title, it’s not something we’re allowed to mention anymore.
Have we seen a more dominant performance in this tournament than No. 11 Xavier‘s 91-66 win over No. 3 Florida State? The Musketeers, playing without their most important player in Edmond Sumner, advanced to the Sweet 16. The job that Chris Mack has done with this team this season cannot be overlooked. They’ve dealt with more adversity on their roster than just about anyone left in the tournament not named Duke.
The Game of the Day, however, came in the nightcap, as No. 5 Iowa State squared off with Caleb Swanigan and No. 4 Purdue. Swanigan was sensational, but Purdue blew a 19-point second half lead and let Iowa State take the lead … before a 9-0 in the final five minutes game them the lead back. It was wild, it was intense, it was fun and it was a win for Purdue.
No. 7 Saint Mary’s put a scare into No. 2 seed Arizona, jumping out to a 10-point first half lead, but the Gaels faded down the stretch as Allonzo Trier woke up in the second half en route to a 69-60 win. The Wildcats will advance to take on No. 11 seed Xavier, as Chris Mack and Sean Miller, good friends and former colleagues, will square off.
The first game of the day was as impressive of a performance as we’ve seen out of No. 4 seed West Virginia this season. They’ve had bigger wins this year, but their win over No. 5 seed Notre Dame made a statement with the number of huge jumpers they made down the stretch. It’s not often that West Virginia wins games with their shooting, but that’s exactly what happened Saturday.
Kelan Martin scored 19 points and Andrew Chrabacsz scored 15 as No. 4 Butler sent No. 12 Middle Tennessee and their Cinderella slippers home. The Bulldogs are in the Sweet 16 despite having a team that doesn’t quite have the talent you would expect out of a Sweet 16 team. They’ve not a mid-major anymore, but this is one of college basketball’s best stories.
Iowa State vs. Purdue: Everything about this game was great. Comebacks by both teams, stars playing like stars, big shots, big dunks, great pace. If there was a standout, however, it was Caleb Swanigan, who finished with 20 points, 12 boards and seven assists.
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: Bluiett had 29 points as No. 11 Xavier put together one of the most impressive performances of this tournament, beating No. 3 seed Florida State by 25 points.
Jevon Carter, West Virginia: Carter had 24 points and three assists, hitting four huge threes as the Mountaineers advanced to the Sweet 16.
Not Virginia: The’Hoos saw their scoring issues pop back up on Saturday night, as they managed all of 39 points in a blowout loss to No. 4 seed Florida.