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Top 18 moments from 2018 NCAA tournament

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Big Dance withdrawal already? Fret not, as you can relive all the madness here, with the top 18 moments of the 2018 NCAA tournament.

18. Zhaire Smith does a Zhaire Smith thing

The Texas Tech freshman very well could be the best dunker in the country. Stephen F. Austin would be available as character witnesses about his credentials. Not too many guys in the country are going to be dropping 360-degree alley oops in a tourney game.

17. McQuaid’s crazy bank

Michigan State made just 8 of 37 3-pointers against Syracuse as it saw its season end. One of those makes was really cool though. Matt McQuaid’s blocked-then-banked triple at the first-half buzzer was the rare highlight for the Spartans against the Orange.

16. Two posters for the price of one

Wright State may have only gotten a few hours in the NCAA tournament, but Tennessee gave them a pair of posters to take home with them courtesy of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield unleashing two viscous dunks in their opening-round matchup.

 

15. Rob Gray slays

The Houston star brought Houston back from the brink against San Diego State and became an insta-star of the tournament when he scored 39 points against the Aztecs. His entire performance will be etched in Cougar lore, but it’ll be his game-winner that gets remembered by the country.

14. Loyola’s run begins

It ended in the Final Four, but it began with a last-second 3-pointer to knock off sixth-seeded Miami in the first round. If not for that, Sister Jean would have never entered our lives, and we all would have been lesser for it.

13. Arizona’s bizarre season comes to a close

It was an exceedingly weird season for Arizona. Injury, allegations, PEDs, losing streaks and Deandre Ayton being awesome, plus plenty more, made for a you-can’t-turn-away year, but it also made for a lot of dysfunction. The fact that the Wildcats didn’t look too sad to see it all end as Buffalo absolutely whupped them wasn’t exactly surprising, but it was striking.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

12. Dan Mullen takes his shot at Wichita State

Sure, most of the the best shots and most explosive fireworks came on the floor during the tournament, but Illinois State coach Dan Mullen landed his own bit of pyrotechnics with a simple tweet chiding Missouri Valley Conference defectors Wichita State after the Shockers’ first-round upset loss.

11. Miles Bridges throws down

Sure, Michigan State’s tournament ended with a dud – well, actually it was just a bunch of bricks – but at least the Big Dance was treated to a Miles Bridges special when the Spartan sophomore unloaded a nasty tip dunk against Bucknell.

10. Cincy Stunner

When you’ve got a 22-point second-half lead, generally you win. When you’ve got that kind of advantage in the NCAA tournament, you hold on to it for dear life.

Unless you’re Cincinnati.

The Bearcats suffered an unconscionable combustion down the stretch against Nevada to cough up their huge lead and an amazing potential path to the Final Four when the Wolf Pack stormed back to end Cincy’s season in the tournament’s first weekend.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

9. “Overdose of swag”

Michigan found its way to the national title game, but needed Jordan Poole to bail them out of the second round with his buzzer-beater against Houston.

The shot prompted John Beilein to say Poole has an “overdose of swag,” which is honestly just about the most amazing compliment anyone has ever paid anyone ever.

8. Custer-beater

First it was Donte Ingram, then it was Clayton Custer. Loyola got a game-winner from the junior guard in the final seconds to earn its spot in the Sweet 16 and keep its magical Cinderella run alive for what would prove to be a Final Four season.

7. Leonard Hamilton is awkward

Maybe it’s just the age and culture we live in, but I feel pretty confident that the most memorable thing about Florida State’s Elite 8 tournament won’t be the fact that the Seminoles knocked off Xavier and Gonzaga to get there but rather the weird way in which Leonard Hamilton answered a pretty straight-forward and legit question about his team’s decision not to foul and extend the game in the waning seconds of its loss to Michigan.

6. Loyola’s second weekend

Clutch shots, unselfish play, Cinderella status and general likability made Loyola the darling of this year’s NCAA tournament. Whether it was a late 3 that lifted them past Nevada or the no-question-about-it handling of Kansas State to get to the Final Four, Loyola was just a ton of fun and looked the part of a national semifinalist.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

5. Grant Hill becomes a meme

Luckily for Bill Raftery, breaking your glasses is a temporary problem. Unfortunately for Grant Hill, becoming a hilarious meme is forever.

4. Sister Jean mania

This tournament will be remembered for plenty of things. Just keep reading this list and you’ll find plenty of memorable moments. If, though, in 25 years we look back and think of a single person from this year’s tournament, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it was Sister Jean.

The 98-year-old nun and team champlain stole the show who her hoops knowledge, charm and wit.

3. Grayson Allen’s game-winner spins out

Grayson Allen nearly had his Laettner moment. The Duke senior’s shot that would have secured the Blue Devils’ spot in the Final Four with an iconic moment in a classic game simply just didn’t drop.

It was an amazingly apt end to a career that was incredible for plenty of reasons.

2. UMBC realizes the impossible

Everyone knew it had never been done. After 135 tries, the question became could it be done?

UMBC said yes.

The Retrievers became the first-ever 16 seed to upend a No. 1, with their shellacking of overall top seed Virginia in the first round. They won fans over with their play and fun Twitter account. What they really did, though, was make history.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

1. Nova cuts down the net

Donte DiVincenzo was unstoppable offensively and a stopper defensively while Villanova won its second title in three years. It was a dominant run through the tournament for the Wildcats, who established themselves as an elite squad when the narrative for much of this season was that no such thing existed.

When the curtain came down on 2017-18, Villanova was the star of ‘One Shining Moment.’

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2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s tip times, TV channels, announcer pairings

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Half the spots in the Final Four are up for grabs Saturday. Be sure you know where your TV needs to be before the nets are cut down.

Atlanta: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 6:09 p.m. – No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 11 Loyola, TBS

Los Angeles: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 8:49 – No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 9 Florida State, TBS

No. 11 Loyola moves on to Elite Eight after beating No. 7 Nevada

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It was supposed to cripple the league – and maybe it still will in the long-term – but it also gave birth to an idea. It created space to dream and imagine. There simply was reason to hope.

Wichita State’s decision to leave the Missouri Valley Conference for the AAC robbed the league of its marquee program and, the thinking went, its national relevance. With the conference’s dominant force suddenly gone, though, there was a question that suddenly became pertinent. Once perhaps delusional, it was not essential.

“It’s this huge overwhelming wave of optimism,” Loyola coach Porter Moser told NBC Sports in January. “I think every single program is asking, ‘Why not us?’”

Two months later, the Ramblers are still asking that question, but for a different audience. Once, they just asked it of themselves. Then of the conference. Now, of the country.

The Ramblers’ run through March continued Thursday as they won a spot in the Elite Eight by toppling No. 7 Nevada in the South Region semifinals, 69-68, in Atlanta to be just 40 minutes shy of a Final Four that last hosted Loyola in 1963.

Fifty-five years later, it’s now fair to ask, why not these Ramblers?

Loyola and its magnetic, lovable and charming sensation of a team chaplain, Sister Jean, haven’t come up with an answer to that question yet. There has been no reason it can’t be Loyola through an entire MVC season, Arch Madness and three NCAA tournament opponents.

There are no lottery picks on the floor. Moser is in his second stint in the Valley after being fired from Illinois State in 2007. They don’t play with much flash or even speed.

Loyola, though, makes it work.

All the Ramblers have done this season is win. They won in Gainesville against Florida. They won 15 MVC games and the league title with a four-game cushion. They skated through the conference tournament. Buzzer-beaters got them by Miami and Tennessee in the first weekend. In the Sweet 16, they didn’t spare a fellow Cinderella, instead dispatching Nevada with lethal offensive efficiency.

Nevada looked like it may overwhelm Loyola early as it built a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the game. The Ramblers, though, struck back by keeping the Wolf Pack off the board for nearly the last 8 minutes of the first half to take a four-point lead into the break.

The strong play considered on the other side of halftime for Loyola, which astonishingly made its first 13 shots of the second half. Still, despite the perfect start, the Ramblers only briefly took a double-digit lead before Nevada sliced it back down below 10.

Loyola’s inability to build a substantial lead came back to bite it as Nevada, the comeback kids of this tournament, mounted its attack on the deficit and had it erased before the under-four timeout, setting up the final frantic minutes of a battle.

With a one-point lead and less than 10 seconds on the clock, Loyola got a 3-pointer from Marques Townes to seal victory. The Ramblers shot 75 percent from the floor in the second half, but still needed a clutch shot. And they got it.

Nevada Caleb Martin scored 21 points and Jordan Caroline added 19. They spearheaded a Wolf Pack offense that looked like its speed and athleticism just might be too much for Loyola. There were times when the Ramblers just looked overmatched. But there were more times when they just out-executed Nevada anyway.

Loyola is in the Elite Eight. The question persists.

Why not Loyola?

Sister Jean the star of Loyola’s Cinderella run

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Yeah, Loyola beating Tennessee to gain a spot in the Sweet 16 is a great basketball story, but the best news about their Cinderella run is something else entirely.

America gets another week with Sister Jean.

The Ramblers’ 98-year-old team chaplain has captured the hearts of the March Madness public, with her pre-game prayers and post-game celebrations. Clayton Custer’s game-winner was fine, but Sister Jean’s been great.

Loyola, though, will now have to try to defy Sister Jean. She picked against the Ramblers in the Sweet 16 in her bracket.

Saturday’s tip times and TV assignments released

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With Day 1 in the books, Saturday’s times and TV assignments have been announced for teams looking to book a trip to the Sweet 16. All times Eastern.

Pittsburgh: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 12:10 p.m.: No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 9 Alabama, CBS
  • 2:40 p.m.: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Rhode Island, CBS

Boise: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 5:15 p.m.: No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Buffalo, CBS
  • 7:45 p.m.: No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Ohio State, CBS

Dallas: Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore and Ros Gold-Onwude

  • 6:10 p.m.: No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Loyola (Chicago), TNT
  • 8:40: No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 6 Florida, TNT

Wichita: Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin and Evan Washburn

  • 7:10 p.m.: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Seton Hall, TBS
  • 9:40 p.m.: No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Houston, TBS

No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) stuns No. 6 Miami in last second

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The NCAA tournament has its first application for Cinderella status, and it was delivered in dramatic fashion.

Eleventh-seeded Loyola defeated No. 6 Miami, 64-62, on a last-second 3-pointer by Donte Ingram.

It was a frantic finish for the Ramblers, who trailed for most of the game but were always within arm’s length of the Hurricanes. That allowed them to take advantage of Miami’s miscues.

Loyola had a chance to tie with 26 seconds remaining, but Marques Townes made just one of two free throws. That, though, gave way to a Lonnie Walker turnover when a Rambler defender went for a steal and deflected the ball off him and out of bounds. That still wasn’t enough as Loyola couldn’t convert on two looks near the bucket.

Walker’s troubles weren’t over, however, as he missed the front-end of a one-and-one on Miami’s ensuing possession, giving the ball back to Loyola with 9 seconds. That was enough time for the Ramblers to jet up the court, find Ingram and score the game-winner.

While undoubtedly an upset, Loyola’s win certainly doesn’t qualify as a fluke.  The Ramblers were the Missouri Valley Conference champions riding a 10-game winning streak that kept them perfect since the calendar flipped to February. It’s not even the first team from the Sunshine State that they’ve bested as they knocked off Florida in Gainesville earlier this season.

Clayton Custer, the MVC player of the year and Iowa State transfer, scored 14 points while Ingram added 13. The Ramblers forced 16 Miami turnovers that helped them weather the Hurricanes’ 51 percent shooting afternoon. Miami’s 8 of 13 night from the charity stripe did it no favors either.

It’s a second-straight first-round bow-out for Miami, which started the season 10-0. It was a difficult season in south Florida as the Hurricanes dealt with allegations from the federal probe into college basketball as well as the injury that cost Bruce Brown, Jr., who missed the last 12 games of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot.

Loyola will try to earn a spot in the Sweet 16 on Saturday against No. 3 Tennessee. The Ramblers last reached the tournament’s second weekend in 1985, which was also the last time they were in the field.

They may even have a higher power on their side as they try to score another upset.