Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.
On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.
Most memorable moments from first weekend of 2018 NCAA Tournament
eric musselContrary to what people that were caught up in the moment are going to try and tell you, this was not the craziest first weekend of the NCAA tournament of all time.
We may have had the single-craziest moment ever — we’ll get to that — and we did lose a number of the top teams in the bracket, but the insanity of this weekend wasn’t quite clinical.
That said, we did get left with a number of memorable moments through out the first four days of the greatest sporting event in America. Here are the 12 that will stick with us for the longest time:
12. THE KEENAN EVANS TAKEOVER
We’ve been trying to let you know about this guy all season long. The Texas Tech star averaged 22.5 points and 3.0 assists through the first two weekends of the event, and 33 of the 45 points that he scored came in the second half of two close wins. He hit the go-ahead three to beat Florida with just over two minutes left and made all the big plays in the come-from-behind win over Stephen F. Austin in the first round. He is a killer.
If you’re not a gambler, you may not have noticed that the final, seemingly meaningless shot in Kansas’ win over Seton Hall in the second round had all kinds of weight behind it. Powell hit a running 30-footer as time-expired, cutting the Kansas lead to 83-79. Kansas was favored by 4.5 points in that game. The shot that he hit meant that the Pirates covered the spread. Millions of dollars — that’s not an exaggeration — changed hands as a direct result of that shot going in.
You may not have known who he was before this event started but you probably know who he is now. The Gonzaga freshman scored 15 points and hit the game-winning three as the Zags beat UNC Greensboro in the first round of the NCAA tournament, following that up by going for a career-high 28 points, a career-high 12 boards, a career-high six threes and his first career double-double in a second round win over Ohio State. He’s scored at least 14 points in each of his last six games. He will be the next superstar in Spokane.
9. SYRACUSE IS IN THE SWEET 16 PLAYING BASKETBALL THAT MAKES VIRGINIA SEEM EXCITING
Jim Boeheim, man. You have to give him credit. For the second time in three seasons, his Orange team has snuck into the NCAA tournament with a resume that didn’t deserve a bid and proceeded to make everyone seem like an idiot for saying they didn’t belong. The Orange are in the Sweet 16 after starting in the First Four and failing to score more than 60 points in any of their three games. Boeheim just packs in that 2-3, puts as many long and athletic people on the floor that he can and lets Tyus Battle go make plays. And it works. Sometimes basketball is an easy game, I guess.
8. TEXAS A&M MOLLYWHOPS THE REIGNING NATIONAL CHAMPS
One thing that I never thought that I would see in this event is a team with Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson getting run out of the gym. Those two dudes are so good and so tough and been through so much that I expected them to be in a dogfight every time they set foot on a court for all of eternity. Then Sunday happened, and Texas A&M — who spent four months flirting with the idea that maybe living up to their potential was a possibility — absolutely trucked them. They won by 21 points, and the outcome never really felt in doubt after the final TV timeout of the first half.
7. BUFFALO STEAMROLLS ARIZONA
Remember when we all thought that this was going to be the most memorable upset for the first weekend?
Hahaha. That was fun.
But just because Virginia happened to go full Virginia and exactly one half of the top three seeds in the tournament were knocked out before the start of the second weekend doesn’t mean that what Buffalo did should be swept under the rug. The Bulls eviscerated an Arizona team that looked like they were ready to quit on this utterly forgettable season by the middle of the second half.
6. FLORIDA STATE SENDS XAVIER PACKING
Xavier, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, looked like they were going to be able to cruise into the Sweet 16, as they led the Seminoles by 12 points with under 10 minutes left in the game. But that did not last, as they were outscored 18-4 to close out the game while Florida State reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011.
It’s the first time since 2004 that we head into the Sweet 16 with two of the nation’s No. 1 seeds sitting at home.
5. NEVADA WITH TWO COMEBACKS IN THREE DAYS
Eric Musselman and the Wolf Pack managed two thrilling wins in the span of three days. First, they came from way behind to beat No. 10-seed Texas in the opening round of the event before erasing the second-largest deficit in NCAA tournament history when they came back from 22 points down in the final 11:43 to second No. 2 Cincinnati back to the Queen City.
4. JORDAN POOLE HITS HIS GAME-WINNER
This shot, to beat Houston in the second round, will be the most memorable shot from this first weekend:
While this image is one that will forever epitomize what makes March Madness so special:
3. ROB GRAY’S FIRST ROUND PERFORMANCE
The shame in Poole’s shot going in was that it ended the tournament run of Houston star Rob Gray, who put together one of the best first weekend’s in tournament history as well as a performance that should have been iconic. In the first round, against No. 11-seed San Diego State, Gray finished with 39 of his team’s 67 points, including the game-winning bucket with 1.1 seconds left on the clock.
For the first time in the history of the world, a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament as the Retrievers knocked off Virginia to get their shot to play their way into the Sweet 16. They lost to Kansas State on Sunday, but who cares? It would have been terrific theater to see them get their shot in the Sweet 16, but it was not meant to be.
We’ll have to simply settle for UMBC truck-sticking the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
Loyola-Chicago lifted by 98-year-old nun, fan in Sister Jean
DALLAS (AP) — Loyola-Chicago’s biggest fan is the team chaplain who prays with the players before games and gives them scouting reports the next day.
So 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt was more thankful than shocked when Donte Ingram hit a last-second 3-pointer to beat Miami in the Ramblers’ first NCAA Tournament game in 33 years.
“After the game, she sends a general email to the team,” Ingram said after the 64-62 first-round win Thursday. “And then at the end of the email, it’ll be individualized. ‘Hey, Donte, you did this, you rebounded well tonight. Even though they were out there to get you, you still came through for the team.'”
Schmidt will lead the pregame prayer again Saturday when 11th-seeded Loyola plays No. 3 seed Tennessee looking for a repeat of its last NCAA trip. The Ramblers reached the Sweet 16 in 1985 before losing to Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.
The team chaplain since the early 1990s, Schmidt is an institution at home games, wearing her personalized Nikes. After Ingram’s winner, former President Barack Obama tweeted congratulations to the team — and its well-known nun.
“When we have home games, I say a prayer with all the fans, too, and pray for the opponents, too, that none of us get hurt and that the referees do a good job and all that kind of stuff,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt, who played high school basketball in San Francisco in the 1930s, gets around in a wheelchair these days because of a broken hip that caused her to miss games this season — a rarity over nearly 25 years. She still found a way to follow the Ramblers.
“Where I was for rehab, I couldn’t get the picture so I watched play-by-play for every game I missed,” she said with her usual smile.
The postgame feedback in those emails isn’t always positive. It’s individualized “on how they did, and whether it was good or whether they have to improve in certain parts,” Schmidt said.
Loyola players certainly understand the spirit of the message.
“Her presence and her aura, when you see her, it’s just like the world is just great because just her spirit and her faith in us and Loyola basketball and just her being around,” said Marques Townes, who made the pass to set up Ingram’s winning 3. “She’s the biggest Loyola fan I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
Ingram’s shot wasn’t exactly a Hail Mary, but it was from the March Madness logo several feet behind the 3-point line. The Ramblers will choose to believe Schmidt had something to do with it going in.
“For her to be doing what she’s doing at her age, it’s amazing, and it’s inspiring,” guard Clayton Custer said. “And I think, I mean, I think her prayers definitely mean a little bit extra when she prays for us.”
The Ramblers get at least one more pregame prayer this season.
Thursday Afternoon Recap: Loyola downs Miami at buzzer, Gonzaga survives, URI beats Oklahoma in OT
There was a feeling that Midwest No. 16 Penn could give No. 1 Kansas a tough time, and Steve Donahue’s team did just that during the first half, but Devonte’ Graham would prove to be too much for the Quakers. With the Jayhawks pulling away to win by a 76-60 final score, Graham finished with 29 points to go along with six boards and six assists, and Kansas needed just about all of them. This game ended up looking like a blowout, but Penn led by 10 points late in the first half and trailed by just five midway through the second half.
THE BEST GAME WAS …
No. 7 Rhode Island and No. 10 Oklahoma kicked things off in the first round, and the game did not disappoint. E.C. Matthews and Darron “Fatts” Russell made some key shots during the second half and overtime, helping propel the Rams to the 83-76 overtime win.
West No. 4 Gonzaga found itself in a dog fight with No. 13 UNCG, but the Bulldogs’ late-game execution proved to be the difference. Zach Norvell Jr.’s three-pointer with 20.3 seconds remaining gave Gonzaga the lead for good, as Mark Few’s team would win, 68-64. Johnathan Williams led the way with 19 points and 13 rebounds:
Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com fame joined Rob Dauster on the podcast today to talk through the Coaching Carousel, the bracket reveal and some bracket advice Q-and-A. Spoiler alert: Jeff LOVED the bracket reveal, and he tries to justify that opinion unsuccessfully.
OPEN: What did the Selection Committee get wrong with seeding and bubble teams?
10:25: Jeff tries to justify his love for the bracket reveal.
15:15: UConn, Georgia, Pitt and Memphis. Who should they hire? Who will they hire?