Saturday gave us two of the best games of the tournament, with No. 8 Wisconsin upsetting No. 1 Villanova and No. 5 Iowa State erasing a 19-point second half deficit only to give the game right back to No. 4 Purdue.
Sunday hasn’t disappointed either, as the day was chock-full of upsets, dogfights, highlights and last-second shots.
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No. 2 Duke is heading home. The Blue Devils got run out of Greenville by No. 7 South Carolina, as the Gamecocks scored 65 second half points in an 88-81 win on Sunday night. It was a fitting ending for a team loaded with talent that was never quite able to put it all together, as they were more or less punked by a tougher, more physical South Carolina team in what amounted to a road game.
The best game of the day was the nightcap in Indianapolis, as No. 2 Kentucky avoided a late-game collapse and locked up No. 10 Wichita State on the final two possessions of the game. There was so much to love about this game, from the Wichita State revenge factor to the battle between De’Aaron Fox and Landry Shamet to the way that Gregg Marshall schemed Malik Monk into a limited role. What was even better was that the game came down to a final possession, and while it was a low-scoring, defensive slugfest, it was a hell of a game to watch. Defense doesn’t have to be ugly.
The ride isn’t over yet for No. 7 Michigan, as the Wolverines came from behind to beat No. 2 Louisville and get to the Sweet 16. The most impressive part of the win is that Michigan did it while star point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who has ben one of the best players in the country over the course of the last six weeks, finished with just 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting. The Wolverines were involved in a plane crash earlier this month, and ever since then, the narrative that this is a Team of Destiny has ben bandied about. That should stop, because the Wolverines aren’t a Cinderella. They’re just damn good.
With the loss, the ACC — the ‘best conference in the history of conferences’ — is now down to just two teams left in this tournament, No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Duke, while the Big Ten — which was maligned all year long — has three teams in the Sweet 16, including the two teams that beat No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Louisville.
The team that Michigan will play in the next round, No. 3 seed Oregon, came very close to getting upset as well. The Ducks erased an 11-point second half deficit, knocking off No. 11 Rhode Island thanks to a Tyler Dorsey three with 36 seconds left in the game. URI had a couple of shots to tie the game on the final possession, but they couldn’t connect.
No one in the tournament has been more impressive throughout the first weekend than No. 1 seed Kansas, who pulled away from No. 9 Michigan State down the stretch and ended up sending the Fighting Tom Izzos home with a 20-point loss.
No. 1 seed North Carolina was not impressive, however, as the Tar Heels blew a double-digit lead and very nearly lost to No. 8 seed Arkansas on Sunday evening. The Tar Heels were down 65-60 with three minutes left, but used some sterling defense and a 12-0 run down the stretch to pull away with the win. The question with this team is defense and toughness, and while that was something of an issue late in the first half and early in the second half, the Tar Heels made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to win it.
Terry Maston and Johnathan Motley combined for 38 points and 19 boards as No. 3 seed Baylor survived an upset bid from No. 11 seed USC to get back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time under Scott Drew and the first time since 2014. And while No. 3 seed UCLA struggled in the first half, Lonzo Ball did all the things that his Daddy keeps telling us he can do in the second half and carried the Bruins past No. 6 Cincinnati.
Tyler Dorsey, Oregon: Dorsey not only scored 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting against Rhode Island, but he had five boards, three assists and two steals, in addition to, you know, a game-winning jumper.
Moe Wagner, Michigan: The German important scored 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting as the Wolverines knocked off No. 2 seed Louisville to get to the Sweet 16. Just don’t call them the ‘Team of Destiny’.
Josh Jackson, Kansas: Jackson had a team-high 23 points as the Jayhawks beat No. 9 seed Michigan State.