Southwest Regional breakdown, team capsules


Who wins, who’s overrated and what’s the best game? I’m here to help.

Here’s a Southwest Regional breakdown with team capsules below. Enjoy.

Underrated: UNLV
By nearly any measure — victories, RPI, rating — the Rebels deserved better than an underperforming Big Ten team capable of insane shooting performances and a second-round matchup with Kansas.

Not that it’s a no-win situation. Lon Kruger’s team (24-8) is filled with athletic players who thrive on defense and create matchup difficulties for nearly any team. UNLV as an 8 seed? No respect.

Overrated: Vanderbilt
Giving the Commodores a 5 seed isn’t horrible. They posted another solid season and have three fine players in John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and Festus Ezeli. But they were third in the SEC East and faded down the stretch.

Last year, they fell to Murray State as a 4 seed. Could Vandy be the 5-12 upset this time around?

Most likely first-round upset
I already mentioned Richmond-Vanderbilt, so let’s target another first-round game: No. 11 USC vs. No. 6 Georgetown. The Hoyas (21-9) lost five of their last six games, three of which came when point guard Chris Wright went out with a hand injury. He’ll be back for the NCAA tournament, but he’ll almost certainly be rusty, as will the Hoyas’ offense.

As for the Trojans (19-14) they do have to get past VCU first. But USC has the talent and the game-breaking player in Nikola Vucevic to get to the second round.

Best matchup: Kansas vs. Louisville
A possible regional semifinal game looms as perhaps the toughest test for the top-seeded Jayhawks. Kansas struggles against quick guards who can hit from outside, and the Cardinals (23-8) have two in Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles.

Not that it’s about the upset — it should be a wildly entertaining game, too. Louisville loves to push the pace and Kansas (32-2) has never been shy about running when given the chance. The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, should be salivating at the thought of the Cardinals’ post defense.

Impact player
It could be Chris Singleton, Florida State’s outstanding defender and best player. He hasn’t played since fracturing his foot on Feb. 12, but maintains he’ll play again this season. He would certainly be the difference in the first round vs. Texas A&M, and would make life miserable for the No. 2 Irish.

But, in light of his uncertain status, I’ll go with Purdue’s JaJaun Johnson. The senior center is the best player in the region. He’s a double-double machine, blocks shots and provides the big plays when the third-seeded Boilermakers need them. He’ll be the reason why Purdue gets to the Elite Eight.

Champion: Kansas.
Alas, Johnson isn’t enough. The Jayhawks are too deep, too talented and playing too well to pick anyone else. No, this wasn’t written last season when Kansas was doing all those things entering the tournament only to lose in the second round.

The difference is that Kansas isn’t as reliant on one player to do all the clutch scoring and has more threats on the outside. Plus, point guard Tyshawn Taylor — demoted after a late-season suspenion — got motivated to play. He smoked Texas in the Big 12 title game.

The Jayhawks are motivated and the’re playing like it. That’s enough.


No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks

Location: Lawrence, Kan.

Conference: Big 12

Coach: Bill Self

Pre-tournament record: 32-2, 14-2

Best wins: Arizona, Missouri (twice), Kansas State

Surprising losses: None

Team stats

Key players: Junior forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris, senior guard Tyrel Reed, sophomore guard Elijah Johnson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Rebounding, shooting, depth.

Weaknesses: Sloppy play, free-throw shooting.

Outlook: Perhaps the deepest and most talented team in the tournament, the Jayhawks boast impressive offensive stats – they make 58 percent of their 2s, 39 percent of their 3s and hit the offensive glass – and a defense that occasionally wins games, too. Self’s team isn’t as good at man-to-man defense as the 2008 champs, but the offense usually makes up for any defensive lapses. The Morris twins – or Morrii, if you prefer – have developed into game-breaking forwards. Marcus is more versatile and more likely to step back for a 3, while Markieff is essential to Kansas’ defense and rebounding. Kansas doesn’t have any guards who can consistently create their own shot, but that hasn’t been an issue when teams have to account for the Morrii down low. When Kansas is on, they’re the best team in the country. Then again, that’s what we wrote about last year’s team, too.

No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Location: South Bend, Ind.

Conference: Big East

Coach: Mike Brey

Pre-tournament record: 26-6, 14-4

Best wins: Pitt, Wisconsin

Surprising losses:None

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Ben Hansbrough, senior forward Tim Abromaitis, senior forward Carleton Scott.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, ball-handling, defensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, perimeter defense.

Outlook: Notre Dame’s always had a good offense under Brey. The problem’s been defense. This season, the Irish are better at contesting shots and grabbing misses. They’re not Purdue, but it’s been enough. Question is, will that decent defense and superb offense be enough for a Final Four run? Much of its depends on Hansbrough and Abromaitis. The pair are lethal from deep – they’ve hit 44 percent of their 333 attempts beyond the arc – which opens things up for their undersized forwards inside. You can’t force the Irish into a fast game, either. Hansbrough excels at dictating the tempo and takes over when needed. Your best hope? Get in their face and force the two into rushed shots.

No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers

Location: West Lafayette, Ind.

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: Matt Painter

Record: 25-7, 14-4

Best wins: Ohio State, Wisconsin

Surprising losses: Richmond, Minnesota, Iowa

Team stats

Key players: Senior center JaJuan Johnson, senior guard E’Twaun Moore, junior guard Lewis Jackson.

Full team roster

Strengths: On-ball defense, ball-handling, interior defense, 3-point shooting.

Weaknesses: Offensive rebounding, shooting slumps.

Outlook: They don’t come much better than Moore and Johnson. The seniors have been Boilermakers’ mainstays since their freshman seasons, and have improved greatly each year. Johnson’s perhaps the best post player in the nation, boasting a repertoire of moves and a fine spot-up jumper. Moore excels at creating his own shot, usually a pull-up jumper from 12 feet, though he’s also improved his outside shot. Jackson, a 5-9 point guard, is tough, quick and thrives when foes underrate his scoring ability. Those are Purdue’s horses, but Painter also has a deep bench that fill outside shooting and defensive roles. But Purdue is perplexing. Just two weeks ago, it had won seven straight and was eyeing a No. 1 seed. Now it enters the Big Dance having lost two in a row. This team’s capable of reaching the Final Four, but the Sweet 16 might be realistic right now.

No. 4 Louisville Cardinals

Location: Louisville, Ky.

Conference: Big East

Coach: Rick Pitino

Pre-tournament record: 25-9, 12-6

Best wins: Pitt, Syracuse, UConn

Surprising losses:Drexel, Providence

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore guard Peyton Siva, senior guard Preston Knowles, junior forward Terrence Jennings, junior guard Kyle Kuric.

Full team roster

Strengths: Forcing turnovers, shooting, challenging shots.

Weaknesses: Defensive rebounding, free-throw shooting.

Outlook: The Cardinals go as their guards go. When Siva’s able to shake off defenders and get into the lane, and when Knowles and Kuric are hitting from outside, Louisville’s a tough, tough out. Kuric’s the most consistent shooter, but can’t create his own shot like Knowles and Siva. The guards are quick, aggressive and can spark a run and open a big lead in a matter of minutes. Still, for every big run the Cardinals make, they’re also as likely to go cold on a moment’s notice. If the defense isn’t creating easy baskets off turnovers and the shots aren’t falling from outside, Louisville’s a team primed for an upset. Teams with physical post players or who have good guards are trouble. That’s Morehead State exactly.

No. 5 Vanderbilt Commodores

Location:Nashville, Tenn.

Conference: Southeastern

Coach: Kevin Stallings

Pre-tournament record: 23-9, 9-7

Best wins: North Carolina, Kentucky, Belmont

Surprising losses: South Carolina, Arkansas

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Jeff Taylor, sophomore guard John Jenkins, junior center Festus Ezeli.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, 3-point defense, shot-blocking.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, rebounding.

Outlook: Vandy is like half a dozen other tourney teams: When the Commodores are hot from outside, they’re tough. If not, they’ll be home early. Simple as that. With Jenkins and Taylor, Vandy has two of the game’s outstanding shooters. They can hit from anywhere, at any time. But Jenkins dealt with a bum ankle during the SEC tournament and Jenkins has been struggling lately. That leaves a lot for Ezeli to do down low. And really, it’s just those three. Murray State stunned Vandy last year in a 4-13 matchup. Another exit could be in the works.

No. 6 Georgetown Hoyas

Location: Washington

Conference: Big East

Coach: John Thompson III

Pre-tournament record: 21-10, 10-8

Best wins: Syracuse, Louisville

Surprising losses: None

Team stats

Key players: Senior wing Austin Freeman, senior guard Chris Wright, junior guard Jason Clark.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, guard play.

Weaknesses: Turnovers, fouls.

Outlook: Two of the 11 Big East teams in the field finished the season on a swoon: Villanova and Georgetown. Yet the Hoyas have escaped the naysayers bemoaning the Wildcats’ season, mostly because point guard Chris Wright broke his hand on Feb. 23 vs. Cincinnati. The Hoyas haven’t won since. Freeman remains a supremely talented offensive player and Clark’s capable of scoring in bunches. But without Wright’s ability to break down defenses, Georgetown becomes one-dimensional on offense. As an added worry, the Hoyas have no reliable post players and struggle on defense. Remember the first-round loss to 14-seed Ohio last year? History could repeat itself.

No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies

Location: College Station, Texas.

Conference: Big 12

Coach: Mark Turgeon

Pre-tournament record: 24-8, 10-6

Best wins: Temple, Missouri, Kansas State

Surprising losses: Baylor (twice), Nebraska

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore forward Khris Middleton, junior forward David Loubeau, senior guard B.J. Holmes.

Full team roster

Strengths: Rebounding, defense, deliberate play.

Weaknesses: Shooting, sloppy play.

Outlook: The Aggies would feel right at home in the Big Ten. They rarely push the pace and focus on maximizing each possession. They rebound well and rarely allow an easy look at the basket. Sometimes it’s ugly, but it works. Where A&M gets into trouble is when it faces teams with elite scoring talents. The defense gets stretched, then the Aggies fall behind and don’t have enough offensive firepower to catch up. They have underrated guards and a solid scorer in Middleton, though he’s been less aggressive looking for his shot of late. A Sweet 16 berth would be a fine accomplishment for this team.

No. 8 UNLV Rebels

Location: Las Vegas

Conference: Mountain West

Coach: Lon Kruger

Pre-tournament record: 24-8, 11-5

Best wins: Wisconsin, Kansas State, Virginia Tech

Surprising loss: UC Santa Barbara

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Tre’Von Willis, junior forward Chase Stanback, junior guard Oscar Bellfield, sophomore forward Quintrell


Full team roster

Strengths: Forcing turnovers, challenging shots.

Weaknesses: Fouls, 3-point shooting.

Outlook: If the Rebels could hit shots consistently, they’d be dangerous. They’re a dynamite defensive team that relies on its physical man-to-man to force turnovers and force bad shots. That’s not a bad scheme when you’re loaded with athletic players – all between 6-3 and 6-8 – who also do a fair job on the boards. And yet, there’s the shooting. UNLV works for its shots by breaking down defenders and ball movement. Just one outside threat would make it so much easier. The Rebels will be a tough out, but the Sweet 16 is a long shot.

No. 9 Illinois Illini

Location: Champaign, Ill.

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: Bruce Weber

Pre-tournament record: 19-13, 9-9

Best wins: North Carolina, Wisconsin, Gonzaga

Surprising losses: Illinois-Chicago, Indiana

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Demetri McCamey, senior center Mike Tisdale, sophomore guard Brandon Paul, senior forward Mike Davis.

Full team roster

Strengths: Perimeter defense, shooting, shot-blocking.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, settling for jump shots.

Outlook: The talent’s there for a Sweet 16 run. Maybe even further. But the Illini will be lucky to get out of the first round. Few teams are more baffling. McCamey’s a gifted point guard and has drawn comparisons to Deron Williams, but he makes too mistakes. Davis and Tisdale are skilled big men, but very soft inside. When’s Paul’s shot is falling, he’s impossible to stop. But that’s becoming increasingly rare. And, for all of Illinois’ defensive ability, they don’t get stops when it matters most. But this isn’t a team to be taken lightly. A few favorable matchups could result in the Illini heating up from outside and making it to the second week of the tournament. But odds aren’t good.

No. 10 Florida State Seminoles

Location: Tallahassee, Fla.

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Coach: Leonard Hamilton

Pre-tournament record: 21-10, 11-5

Best wins: Duke, Clemson

Surprising loss: Auburn

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Derwin Kitchen, sophomore guard Michael Snaer, junior forward Bernard James, junior forward Chris Singleton.

Full team roster

Strengths: Interior defense, shot-blocking, offensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Ball-handling, 3-point shooting.

Outlook: There are two FSU teams. One plays nasty defense and beats teams like Duke. The other plays good defense and comes up short in losses to North Carolina. The difference? Singleton. Their best player and defensive stopper has missed five games with a fractured foot. Even if he plays, he won’t be the same Singleton foes saw for most of the ACC season. He has the height (6-9) to guard forwards and the mobility to handle guards. Without him, FSU is more limited on defense and offense. This athletic team will be a tough out, but without a fully healthy Singleton, it won’t see the weekend.

No. 11 USC Trojans

Location: Los Angeles

Conference: Pac-10

Coach: Kevin O’Neill

Pre-tournament record: 19-14, 10-8

Best wins: Texas, UCLA, Washington, Arizona

Surprising losses: Mercer, TCU, Bradley, Oregon State

Team stats

Key players: Junior forward Nikola Vucevic, junior guard Jio Fontan, senior wing Marcus Simmons, senior forward Alex Stephenson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Ball-handling, defensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, offensive rebounding, shooting.

Outlook: USC’s the most bi-polar team in the field. The Trojans have beaten Texas, yet lost to Bradley. They beat Washington, but lost to TCU. They took down Arizona, yet fell to Mercer. At home. They’re athletic, sturdy on defense, have one of the Pac-10’s best talents in Vucevic and a floor leader in Fontan. The problem? USC just makes dumb plays sometimes. Maybe it’s a fatigue factor. O’Neill rarely goes to his bench and rides his starters as long as he can. But the Trojans are capable of brilliance. You just never know when. There’s not a more difficult team to predict in the field. Beating VCU and Georgetown? It’s possible.

No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Location: Richmond, Va.

Conference: Colonial Athletic

Coach: Shaka Smart

Pre-tournament record: 23-11, 12-6

Best wins: UCLA, ODU, George Mason

Surprising losses: Georgia State, Northeastern

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Joey Rodriguez, senior forward Jamie Skeen, senior guard Brandon Rozell.

Full team roster

Strengths: Forcing turnovers, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Rebounding, interior defense.

Outlook: The Rams lost six of their last 11 games, but somehow snuck into the tournament. But the strength of the CAA and a win vs. George Mason in the conference tournament was apparently enough. They’ll have their hands full vs. USC as well. The Rams will have decent athletes, but nobody who can check athletes from major conference schools. They’ll need to open up space for Skeen and find Rodriguez and Rozzell open on the wings for 3-pointers. Might not make it out of the First Four.

No. 12 Richmond Spiders

Location: Richmond, Va.

Conference: Atlantic 10

Coach: Chris Mooney

Pre-tournament record: 27-7, 13-3

Best wins: Purdue, Duquesne

Surprising losses: Rhode Island, Bucknell

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Kevin Anderson, senior center Justin Harper, senior forward Dan Geirot.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, ball-handling, perimeter defense.

Weaknesses: Rebounding, settling for jump shots.

Outlook: The Spiders’ aggressive man-to-man defense doesn’t force as many turnovers as last season, but it’s still an effective deterrent of open shots. They even do it without getting into foul trouble. This team’s capable of beating elite teams, too. A win vs. Purdue is awfully impressive. Anderson’s an excellent talent, flanked by Harper and Geirot up front. But take caution: the Spiders rarely rebound. It’s just not how they play. That means if their shots aren’t falling – not usually the case – they’re in trouble. They’ll have a chance against Vandy, but only if John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor aren’t hitting.

No. 13 Morehead State Eagles

Location: Morehead, Ky.

Conference: Ohio Valley

Coach: Donnie Tyndall

Pre-tournament record: 24-9, 13-5

Best win: College of Charleston

Surprising loss:at Eastern Illinois

Team stats

Key players: Senior forward Kenneth Faried, senior guard Demonte Harper.

Full team roster

Strengths: Rebounding, interior defense, forcing turnovers.

Weaknesses: Turnovers, perimeter defense, free-throw shooting.

Outlook: Faried grabs all the attention because of his ferocious rebounding – he broke Tim Duncan’s career mark this season and is the top offensive and defensive rebounder this season – and freakish athletic ability. After Florida escaped with a six-point win over Morehead State back in November, coach Billy Donovan called Faried “the next Dennis Rodman.” But Faried’s far from the only star at Morehead. Harper’s the team’s second-leading scorer and assist leader and, at 6-foot-4, has the size to play against anyone. This is the tandem’s second appearance in the NCAA tournament, which could pay dividends in a close game. And given their defensive style of play, expect a close game.

No. 14 St. Peter’s Peacocks

Location: Jersey City, N.J..

Conference: Metro Atlantic

Coach: John Dunne

Pre-tournament record: 20-13, 11-7

Best win: Alabama

Surprising loss:Lehigh

Team stats

Key players: Senior swingman Jeron Belin, senior guard Nick Leon, senior guard Wesley Jenkins.

Full team roster

Strengths: Challenging shots, steals.

Weaknesses: Making shots.

Outlook: For most of the season, the Peacocks won with their defense. Few teams are better at forcing teams into bad shots. Opponents make just 40.6 percent of their 2-pointers and 30.5 percent of their 3s, both well below the D-I average. But here’s the thing: When St. Peter’s ripped off three wins to take the MAAC tourney title, it made 47 percent of its field-goal attempts. That’s not great, but was far better than what St. Peters’ did most of the year. If the Peacocks come close to that vs. Purdue, they’ll be in position to pull off the upset.

No. 15 Akron Zips

Location: Akron, Ohio.

Conference: Mid-American

Coach: Keith Dambrot

Pre-tournament record: 23-12, 9-7

Best wins: Kent State (twice), Detroit

Surprising losses: Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan

Team stats

Key players: Junior forward Nikola Cvetinovic, sophomore center Zeke Marshall, senior guard Steve McNees.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shot-blocking, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Rebounding, interior scoring, fouls.

Outlook: The Zips are an aggressive, defensive-oriented team that relies on its depth to wear out opponents (mostly because the offense can’t reliably hit shots). They blocked 15 shots in the MAC tournament championship vs. Kent State. Much of that credit goes to Marshall, who blocked nine of those himself. But unless someone emerges as a scoring threat (senior guard Darryl Roberts, maybe?), the Zips probably won’t pull off an upset like Ohio did last year against Georgetown.

No. 16 Boston Terriers

Location: Boston

Conference: America East

Coach: Patrick Chambers

Pre-tournament record: 21-13, 14-4

Best wins: Vermont, Nevada

Surprising losses: Maryland-Baltimore CO, Hartford, New Hampshire

Team stats

Key players: Senior wing John Holland, junior forward Darryl Partin, freshman guard D.J. Irving.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, challenging shots.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, defensive rebounding.

Outlook: The Terriers have won 11 straight, but that’s quickly coming to an end. Outside of Holland, Boston doesn’t have any game-breaking players. That’s not a dig on their fine run to end the season, just a realistic assessment of their tournament chances. Their biggest strength is challenging shots on the perimeter and inside, but they don’t have the height to compete inside and their guards will be a step too slow for Kansas. It could stay close for a while if Holland heats up, but that’s about it.

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Texas blows out Xavier 83-71 for spot in NCAA Elite Eight

texas xavier
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tyrese Hunter scored 19 points, Marcus Carr and Christian Bishop added 18 apiece, and second-seeded Texas rolled to an 83-71 victory over No. 3 seed Xavier on Friday night to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years.

Playing most of the way without ailing star Dylan Disu, the Longhorns – the highest seed left after No. 1s Alabama and Houston lost earlier in the night – built a 42-25 lead by halftime. They quickly pushed it past 20 before cruising the rest of the way into a matchup with fifth-seeded Miami on Sunday night for a spot in the Final Four in Houston.

Sir’Jabari Rice had 16 points and Timmy Allen added 11 for the Longhorns (29-8), who kept Souley Boum and the rest of Xavier’s perimeter threats in check while making life miserable for Jack Nunge down low.

Adam Kunkel hit five 3-pointers and led the Musketeers (27-10) with 21 points. Nunge scored 15 but needed 19 shots to get there, while Colby Jones also had 15 points. Boum didn’t hit a field goal until early in the second half and finished with 12 points.

The job the Longhorns did in shutting down Xavier was merely the latest example of some masterful work by interim coach Rodney Terry. The longtime assistant took over in December, when Chris Beard was suspended and later fired over a since-dropped domestic violence charge, and Terry has not only kept the season from falling apart but sent his team soaring.

Things won’t get any easier against Miami, which romped to an 89-75 win over the Cougars.

And especially without Disu, who led the Longhorns to a Big 12 tourney title and earned MVP honors on the same floor just over two weeks ago, and who’d been dominant through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Disu tried to play through a left foot injury that the Longhorns had successfully kept secret Friday night, but he lasted only a couple of minutes before limping off the floor and straight to the locker room. When he returned to the bench, he was wearing a big walking boot, a black hoodie and a grim expression.

Relegated to a 6-foot-9 cheerleader, Disu at least had plenty to celebrate.

Carr got the Longhorns off to a fast start, spinning through the lane like a Tilt-A-Whirl for tough buckets at the rim, and even knocking down a spinning, desperation 3 as the shot clock expired. And when Musketeers coach Sean Miller traded out a man-to-man defense for a zone, the Longhorns began to pound the ball to Bishop in the paint.

With dozens of family and friends on hand, the Creighton transfer from the Kansas City suburb of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, went to work. Bishop threw down one dunk on Carr’s alley-oop lob, then slammed down another a few minutes later.

By the time Allen banked in a half-court heave, the Longhorns had established a 42-25 halftime advantage – and had to be redirected from the Xavier tunnel, where they were busy celebrating, toward their own locker room.

Xavier tried to creep back a couple of times, but the Longhorns never allowed their lead to sniff single digits. And that gave Terry, who returned to Texas after head coaching jobs at Fresno State and UTEP, a chance to breathe deeply and enjoy the moment.

The 54-year-old from the small Texas town of Angleton was on Rick Barnes’ staff the last time the Longhorns reached the Elite Eight, back in 2008. He was on the 2003 staff that guided them all the way to the Final Four, too.

Now, he’s one step away from taking Texas on another improbable trip to college basketball’s biggest stage.

Creighton ends Princeton’s March Madness run with 86-75 win

creighton princeton
Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Creighton used its size, 3-point shooting and a swarming second-half defense to end the March Madness run of Princeton, beating the 15th-seeded Tigers 86-75 on Friday night in the Sweet 16.

The sixth-seeded Bluejays (24-12) advanced to their first regional final since they were part of an eight-team NCAA Tournament in 1941. Creighton will play No. 5 seed San Diego State in Sunday’s South Region final, with each team seeking its first Final Four.

Ryan Kalkbenner, the two-time Big East defensive player of the year, scored 22 points to lead the Bluejays to their sixth win in seven games. Baylor Scheierman made five 3s and finished with 21 points.

“Kalk, he impacts us at the rim on both ends of the floor and defensively provides so much for us,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I thought he really got going late in the first half and carried it over to the second half. Baylor just plays at every level. He can make the mid-range. He shoots the 3. He sees the floor incredibly well, and believe it or not, he’s become a pretty good defender.”

The Tigers (23-9) were led by Ryan Langborg with 26 points and Ivy League player of the year Tosan Evbuomwan with 24 points, six rebounds and nine assists.

Princeton shook up brackets everywhere by beating No. 2 seed Arizona in the first round, then blew out seventh-seeded Missouri last weekend in Sacramento, California.

Playing in its first Sweet 16 since 1967, Princeton was hoping to become the first Ivy League champion to make the Elite Eight since Penn’s Final Four run in 1979, the first Tigers squad to reach the Final Four since Bill Bradley led them there in 1965, and the second straight No. 15 seed to play in a regional final. Saint Peter’s last year became the first 15 seed to achieve that feat.

Princeton’s offense bore no resemblance to the back-cutting, deliberate style that defined the late Pete Carril’s coaching tenure. Instead, the Tigers went toe to toe against Creighton’s fast-paced offense until they stalled out at the start of the second half.

Creighton used a 9-2 run to take 56-45 lead, a four-minute stretch during which Princeton coach Mitch Henderson called two timeouts and Evbuomwan drew his third foul.

The Bluejays just wouldn’t stop. When Princeton cut the deficit to 61-52, Creighton answered with seven more points and the Tigers couldn’t get closer than seven points after that.

“Princeton’s really good at establishing their pace, so you’ve just got to take them out of it,” Kalkbrenner said. “Their whole goal is to take us out of our pace.”

After beating North Carolina State and third-seeded Baylor in Denver last weekend, drawing confidence from not needing oxygen masks like their opponents, Creighton eliminated the suddenly popular Ivy Leaguers. Now, the Bluejays are one win away from the national semifinals.

“It’s been amazing, it’s been a dream come true. This is why I came to Creighton in the first place, to make a run with this group of guys,” Scheierman said. “It’s just been an incredible experience. I’m looking forward to continuing that on Sunday.”

Miami beats No. 1 seed Houston; all four top NCAA seeds out

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Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nijel Pack and Miami hit shots from near and far against the stingiest defense in the country to beat Houston 89-75 on Friday night in the Sweet 16, leaving the NCAA Tournament without a single No. 1 seed among its final eight teams for the first time since seeding began in 1979.

Miami (28-7), only the fifth team this season to score at least 70 points against Houston (33-4), will play second-seeded Texas or No. 3 seed Xavier in the Midwest Region final for the chance to go to the Final Four.

About 30 minutes before Houston’s loss, top overall seed Alabama fell to San Diego State in Louisville, Kentucky. Fellow No. 1 seeds Purdue and Kansas lost during the tournament’s first weekend.

The fifth-seeded Hurricanes reached a regional final for the second straight year just a few hours after Miami’s ninth-seeded women’s team hung on to beat Villanova and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time. Miami and UConn are the only schools with teams remaining in both tournaments.

This is the first time in three years Houston didn’t make it to the Elite Eight.

The Cougars simply couldn’t stop a multifaceted Miami offense led by Pack’s 3-point shooting. He had season highs of seven 3-pointers on 10 attempts and 26 points.

Isaiah Wong’s mid-range game helped get the ‘Canes out to a fast start, and he finished with 20 points. Jordan Miller hurt the Cougars with his penetration and had 13 points, and Norchad Omier was his usual rugged self under the basket while recording his 16th double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

It resulted in a heartbreaking end for a Cougars team that was in the Sweet 16 for a fourth straight time, had won 15 of its last 16 games and had the season-long goal of playing in next week’s Final Four in its home city.

Miami coach Jim Larrañaga, much to his players’ delight, busted out dance moves in the locker room befitting a 73-year-old man harkening to the disco era. Then Wooga Poplar and Joseph Bensley joined him up front for an impromptu line dance.

Larrañaga will seek his first Final Four with Miami and second overall – he took George Mason there as an 11 seed in 2006.

Miami used a 16-5 run spanning the halves to go up by double digits, with Omier’s three-point play and Jordan Miller’s short bank-in with the left hand making it 47-36 and forcing Houston coach Kelvin Sampson to call timeout less than two minutes into the second half.

Houston battled back to make it a two-point game, but then Pack made three 3s and Miller and Wooga Poplar hit one each to fuel a 16-2 run that put the Canes ahead 70-53. The lead grew to as much as 17 points, and Houston never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.

There was no denying it was Miami’s night after Houston made a mini run with under five minutes to play. With the shot clock running down, Omier was forced to put up a jumper just inside the free-throw line. It bounced off the front of the rim, then the backboard, then the front of the rim again before dropping through. A minute later, Houston’s Jarace Walker missed from point-blank range.

Walker led the Cougars with 16 points. Jamal Shead added 15 and All-American Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark had 14 apiece for the Cougars, who shot just 37% overall and 29% from distance.

Houston – which came into the game as a 7.5-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook – found itself behind at half for the second straight game after the Hurricanes played their sharpest half of the tournament.

Miami turned the ball over just once the first 20 minutes, converted Miami’s six turnovers into 15 points and shot 6 of 14 from distance against the second-best 3-point defense in the country.

Pack made four of them, and all were timely. His first three gave Miami leads and his fourth broke a 31-all tie.

San Diego State ousts No. 1 overall seed Alabama from NCAAs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Darrion Trammell and San Diego State used a dominant defensive performance to knock top overall seed Alabama out of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, bottling up All-America freshman Brandon Miller in a 71-64 victory in the Sweet 16.

Trammell scored 21 points while Miller, whose outstanding season was marred by off-the-court complications, was held to nine points on 3-of-19 shooting and had six turnovers.

The fifth-seeded Aztecs (30-6) will face either Creighton or Princeton on Sunday in the West Region final as they seek their first Final Four in program history. With fellow No. 1 seeds Purdue and Kansas losing during the tournament’s first weekend, Houston – which played Miami on Friday night – was the only top-seeded team remaining.

San Diego State trailed 48-39 midway through the second half before going on a 12-0 run and controlling the game from there. The Aztecs finished with eight blocked shots – five by Nathan Mensah – and forced 14 turnovers.

The March Madness run of Alabama (31-6) was clouded by its response to the Jan. 15 fatal shooting of a 23-year-old woman in Tuscaloosa, which led to capital murder charges against a then-Crimson Tide player, Darius Miles.

Miller was at the scene of the shooting and has not been charged, but police have said in court documents that Miles texted Miller to bring him his gun. Authorities have said Miller is a cooperating witness, and he did not miss any playing time. Miller has received armed security protection during the tournament.

Mark Sears had 16 points and Jahvon Quinerly and Charles Bediako scored 10 each for Alabama, which shot 32% overall and a miserable 3 of 27 (11.1%) from 3-point range. The Crimson Tide fell short of the second Elite Eight berth in school history.

“Alabama’s a great team. They have a lot of talented players and individuals,” Trammell said. “We knew it was going to be hard. It was a dogfight. Very physical.”

Sears’ layup got Alabama within 66-64 with 46 seconds remaining, but Matt Bradley made two free throws and Micah Parrish followed by making three of four attempts, including two with 17 seconds left.

Jaedon LeDee finished with 12 points for the Aztecs.

Houston-Miami matchup a battle for respect

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Top-seeded Houston is in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament, but the Cougars don’t feel they receive the proper respect.

Heading into the second weekend of the tournament, that feeling lingers despite the Cougars being just one victory away from their third straight Elite Eight appearance.

“A lot of people were pushing for us to lose,” Houston guard Tramon Mark said. “They didn’t believe we were a real 1 seed because of the conference (American Athletic) we play in. But I think we’re one of the best teams in the country still, and we proved it.”

The Cougars (33-3) look to take the next step when they battle fifth-seeded Miami (27-7) on Friday night in Midwest Region play in Kansas City, Mo.

Houston spent the entire season near the top of the national rankings and surely isn’t a surprise Sweet 16 participant.

“I put ourselves in a whole different category,” forward J’Wan Roberts said. “I don’t compare us to other teams. We just stick to what we do, and it shows. Other No. 1 teams got beat, but we didn’t.”

The Cougars and Alabama are the No. 1 seeds still playing. Purdue lost in the opening round and Kansas fell in the second.

Houston coach Kelvin Sampson tries to simplify the approach during March Madness.

“We’ve been here many times in the final 16,” Sampson said. “The next 40 minutes are going to be big. We’ve got to find a way to get the next 40 minutes, and then we’ll move on from there. If not, it’s over.”

Star guard Marcus Sasser (groin) is still gimpy despite scoring 22 points in Saturday’s 81-64 win over Auburn. On Thursday, Sasser proclaimed he will be “around 90 percent” for the game. Teammate Jamal Shead (knee) said he is 100 percent recovered.

Mark scored a career-high 26 points against Auburn.

The Hurricanes are in the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. Last season, they reached the Elite Eight before being routed 76-50 by eventual national champion Kansas.

Star guard Isaiah Wong said it is a great era for the Hurricanes, who are just two victories away from matching the school record.

“It’s just an honor being part of this program, with the history we have,” Wong said. “We have a great team this year and last year too, and I feel like it’s great to see how we came up.

“My first year we wasn’t as good, but for the last two years, we’re going to the Sweet 16, and last year the Elite Eight.”

Still, guard Jordan Miller said that Miami also doesn’t receive the level of respect it should.

“I wouldn’t say underappreciated, but at the end of the day, all we can do is just come out and win basketball games,” Miller said. “I feel like winning a game in itself is a way to get recognition. We’re going to the Sweet 16. That’s a lot of recognition. We don’t necessarily care about what the media says.”

Wong averages a team-best 16.1 points and Miller is right behind at 15.1 Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier both average 13.4 points with the latter collecting a team-leading 10.1 rebounds per game.

Omier grabbed 17 rebounds in Sunday’s 85-69 victory over Indiana. That was a program record for boards in an NCAA Tournament game, surpassing the 14 he collected two nights earlier in a 63-56 victory over Drake.

“If I’m being honest, I really don’t know,” Omier said of his success. “I just like playing with my teammates. They always motivate me to go do what I love to do, and I love rebounding.”

Wong scored 27 points against Indiana.

Miami guard Wooga Poplar, who injured his back against Indiana, has yet to be cleared but will be in the starting lineup if he can play.

Houston holds a 9-5 series edge over Miami but the schools haven’t met in 52 years.

The winner faces either second-seeded Texas or third-seeded Xavier in Sunday’s regional final.