Sweet 16 primer: Teams, times, outlooks, more


Now’s the Sweet part.

We’re through the early madness of the men’s NCAA tournament and onto the regional semifinals, just two games away from the Final Four. Only four of last year’s Sweet 16 made it this season, which should make for a refreshing change of pace.


Duke, Butler, Ohio State and Kentucky are the repeaters, but Kansas, North Carolina, UConn and Arizona are hardly regional semifinal rookies. Still, there are some new faces.  San Diego State, VCU and Richmond have never been this far. BYU’s hasn’t made it here since 1981.

It’s not a powerhouse field by seed, either. With four double-digit seed and an average seed of 5, it’s just as “chalky” as last season.

Read on for a little more about each Sweet 16 team.


No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 34-2
How it got here: Beat No. 16 Texas-San Antonio 75-46; beat No. 8 George Mason 98-66.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 4 Kentucky

Essential info: The tournament’s top overall seed played like it the first week and then some. Ohio State hit 16 of 26 attempts from beyond the arc vs. George Mason and 12 of 24 vs. Texas San Antonio. Scoff at the competition if you like, but that’s 56 percent on 50 attempts. That’s absurd, no matter who the Buckeyes are playing. I’d be shocked if opponents allow them to shoot as many 3s the rest of the tournament. Ohio State’s unlikely to continue shooting like that, but even if it only makes 38 percent of those 3s, it’s still a dangerous team. Best take your chances with Jared Sullinger “only” getting 2 points inside.

Tip-off: 9:45 p.m. ET on Friday (TBS)


No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels.

Record: 28-7
How it got here: Beat No. 15 Long Island 102-87, No. 7 Washington 86-83.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2009
Next up: No. 11 Marquette

Essential info: The Heels’ frontcourt has filled up the box score – Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes has scored 139 of UNC’s points in two games and grabbed 51 rebounds – but the play of point guard Kendall Marshall has been even more impressive. He was spectacular vs. Washington, scoring 13 points, dishing 14 assists and grabbing five rebounds, defying the conventional wisdom about freshmen in March. He’ll be looking for more of the same vs. Marquette as the Heels will have a size advantage inside. Henson, with his considerable reach, will be particularly vexing for the Eagles. 

Tip-off: 7:15 p.m. ET on Friday (CBS)


No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats

Record: 27-8
How it got here: Beat No. 13 Princeton 59-57; beat No. 5 West Virginia 71-63.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 1 Ohio State

Essential info: Brandon Knight’s doing his best to make Big Blue Nation forget John Wall. (Kidding. That’ll never happen.) He hit the game-winner vs. Princeton then dropped a career-high 30 vs. West Virginia. He wasn’t the only reason the Wildcats advanced (Jorts!) but was the main one. But to beat Ohio State, they’ll need Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb to boost their scoring (combined for 17 and 15 in two games) and for DeAndre Liggins to perform some defensive magic on the Buckeyes shooters. Of note: Kentucky can match Ohio State with talent and perimeter shooting. Will the post players keep up?

Tip-off: 9:45 p.m. ET on Friday (TBS)


No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles

Record: 22-14
How it got here: Beat No. 6 Xavier 66-55; beat No. 3 Syracuse 66-62.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2003
Next up: No. 2 North Carolina

Essential info: Those 14 losses? Ignore them. Marquette’s always been far better than its record indicates. Thirteen of those losses came to NCAA tournament teams and 11 were by single digits. Think your team got an unlucky bounce or two? The Eagles had more. Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odum are the main scoring threats, but anyone out on the floor can score and create shots for others. And for a team that doesn’t roll out a nasty defense, it sure looked nasty vs. Syracuse. The Orange committed 18 turnovers, mostly because Marquette was making them so uncomfortable. They’ll be able to run with the Tar Heels, but they won’t fall into any needless up-and-down exchanges. Marquette’s too smart for that. It just needs to hit its shots.

Tip-off: 7:15 p.m. ET on Friday (CBS)



No. 1 Duke Blue Devils

Record: 32-4
How it got here: Beat No. 16 Hampton 87-45; beat No. 8 Michigan 73-71.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 5 Arizona

Essential info: The defending champs survived a second-round scare by Michigan, but is in an unusual position entering the Sweet 16. Freshman guard Kyrie Irving – who missed 26 games this season due to a toe injury – finally got back on the court for the Big Dance. He’s played 41 minutes in two games, scored 25 points and showed impressive quickness for a guy who sat out three months. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Irving will get even more time this week, which provides the Devils with yet another offensive weapon and a solid on-ball defender. But they still need senior Kyle Singler to find his shooting form.

Tip-off: 9:45 p.m. ET Thursday (CBS)


No. 2 San Diego State Aztecs

Record: 34-2
How it got here: Beat No. 15 Northern Colorado 68-50; beat No. 7 Temple 71-64, 2 OTs.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: Never
Next up: No. 3 UConn

Essential info: The Aztecs’ historic season keeps getting better. They breezed to their first-ever NCAA tournament win, then turned in a classic vs. Temple to reach the Sweet 16. The athletic frontcourt frustrates opponents, the guards are steady and smart. It’s a tough, defensive minded team. All good things. But reaching the Final Four presents much more formidable challenges than reaching the Sweet 16. If the Aztecs get past UConn, they’ll face either Arizona or Duke, teams that thrive by hitting 3-pointers and grab defensive rebounds well. That’s a formula that’s burned SDSU twice this season.

Tip-off: 7:15 p.m. ET Thursday (CBS)


No. 3 Connecticut Huskies

Record: 28-9
How it got here: Beat No. 14 Bucknell 81-52; beat No. 6 Cincinnati 69-58.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2009
Next up: No. 2 San Diego State

Essential info: Kemba Walker’s on his game. He nearly put up a triple-double vs. Bucknell and dumped 33 on Cincy. He’s one of the few players left in the tournament who can win a game by himself, but he’s even better when the rest of the Huskies come to play. Guard Jeremy Lamb’s only missed five shots in two games – and has 30 points to show for it. The Aztecs will almost certainly use guard D.J. Gay on Walker at first, but if he struggles  6-7 Kawhi Leonard could switch over.) Leonard was effective in limiting Jimmer Fredette earlier this season.) They can’t stop Walker from getting his points, but they can make him work for it. That happens, Lamb becomes crucial.

Tip-off: 7:15 p.m. ET on Thursday (CBS)


No. 5 Arizona Wildcats 

Record: 29-7
How it got here: Beat No. 12 Memphis 77-75; beat No. 4 Texas 70-69.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2009
Next up: No. 1 Duke.

Essential info: Two games, two last-second victories. That’s the Wildcats’ tournament thus far. The first came off a Derrick Williams’ game-saving block, while the other saw Williams make a 3-point play in the final seconds vs. Texas. Some might call that lucky. They wouldn’t be wrong. But give some credit to Arizona for shrugging off a sub-par performance from their star (Williams) by getting 16 points from both Solomon Hill and Jordin Mayes and making 8 of 14 3-point attempts. They’ll need that kind of production against the Blue Devils, who will be aggressive on defense and try to force Kyle Fogg and Momo Jones into turnovers.

Tip-off: 9:45 p.m. ET Thursday (CBS)



No. 2 Florida Gators

Record: 28-7
How it got here: Beat No. 15 UC Santa Barbara 79-51; beat No. 7 UCLA 73-65.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2007
Next up: No. 3 BYU

Essential info: The Gators drove into the Sweet 16 thanks to their aggressive guards, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, who made their shots and were too much for the UCLA defense to handle. That hasn’t been true all season, but it’s worked lately. Expect more of the same when the Gators match up with BYU. The Cougars can’t match the Gators’ athleticism, but they’ll happily run and shoot with Florida. That means Boynton and Walker, two average shooters, will be tasked with maintaining their hot shooting from the first two rounds. If that fails, Florida’s not toast because of its balance – and the chance for some revenge on BYU. That’s some powerful motivation.

Tip-off: 7:27 p.m. ET on Thursday (TBS)


No. 3 BYU Cougars

Record: 32-4
How it got here: Beat No. 14 Wofford 74-66; beat No. 11 Gonzaga 89-67.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 1981
Next up: No. 2 Florida

Essential info: Florida better be ready to guard the perimeter. BYU will come out shooting. Question is, will they connect? Ever since center Brandon Davies was dismissed from the team, the Cougars have attempted roughly two more 3-pointers per game (about 25), but are making just 32 percent of those attempts. With Davies, it was nearly 38. It’s not that they’re a one-dimensional team, it’s that defenses can afford to creep toward the arc more often. It worked vs. Gonzaga when BYU hit 14 of 28. Will the Gators have more success? About the only certainty is that BYU senior Jimmer Fredette will get his. He’s gone for at least 30 points in six of the seven games without Davies.

Tip-off: 7:27 p.m. ET on Thursday (TBS)


No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 25-8
How it got here: Beat No. 13 Belmont 72-58; beat No. 5 Kansas State 70-65.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2008
Next up: No. 8 Butler

Essential info: Jon Leuer (41 points in two games) and Jordan Taylor (33 points) get the headlines, and rightly so. Most of Wisconsin’s offensive sets rely on those two making shots, but it’s possible to win if they struggle. Ask K-State. Taylor missed 14 of 16 shots and Leuer missed six of his 12 attempts. The rest of the team went 13 of 22. That’s how it goes with Bo Ryan’s team, which prizes high-percentage shots or 3-pointers in order to maximize points on every possession. It’s close to the same offense Butler runs, with some variations and slightly more athletic players. Can the Badgers run it better?

Tip-off: 9:57 p.m. ET on Thursday (TBS)


No. 8 Butler Bulldogs

Record: 25-9
How it got here: Beat No. 9 Old Dominion 60-58; beat No. 1 Pitt 71-70.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 4 Wisconsin

Essential info: Last year’s Cinderella team is back for another Final Four run. The Bulldogs won two games in the final second, one on a layup, the other on a free throw. Chalk it up to business as usual for Brad Stevens’ team, which won four of its five NCAA tournament games last season by an average of three points. This version doesn’t have a Gordon Hayward, who was a matchup nightmare for opponents, does everything else. It doesn’t turn the ball over, grabs every defensive rebound and is a solid 3-pooint shooting team. It’ll face a Wisconsin team that emphasizes many of those same qualities and plays at the same deliberate pace. Butler will be in the game. Only question is if it’ll come down to the last second again.

Tip-off: 9:57 p.m. ET on Thursday (TBS)



No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks

Record: 34-2
How it got here: Beat No. 16 Boston 72-53; beat No. 9 Illinois 73-59.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2009
Next up: No. 12 Richmond.

Essential info: Check out the remaining teams in the Jayhawks’ region. If that looks favorable for a Final Four run, that’s because it is. (In ’08, Kansas played teams seeded 16, 8, 12 and 10 en route to the Final Four.) Look at it two ways: Bill Self’s squad can punch its ticket to Houston by beating inferior teams or it’ll face more pressure than ever because of those teams. Provided the Jayhawks stay motivated, expect more of the same of what’s worked thus far – getting the ball to Marcus and Markieff Morris inside. They’ve combined for 72 points and 41 rebounds in two games.

Tip-off: 7:27 p.m. Friday (TBS)


No. 10 Florida State Seminoles

Record: 23-10
How it got here: Beat No. 7 Texas A&M 57-50; beat No. 2 Notre Dame 71-57
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 1993
Next up: No. 11 VCU.

Essential info: Florida State makes one of the oldest clichés around come true: defense wins games. The nation’s most efficient defense was on full display in their tourney wins. A&M isn’t an offensive powerhouse, but Notre Dame is one of the nation’s best shooting teams – and it made barely 30 percent of its shots. Considering that 6-9 forward Chris Singleton – the team’s best player and atop defender – only played 10 minutes due to health issues, it’s even more impressive. Question is, will the ‘Noles’ continue their run of solid offense? That’s back-to-back games where they’ve surpassed their usual shooting standards.

Tip-off: 9:57 p.m. Friday (TBS)


No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Record: 26-11
How it got here: Beat No. 11 USC 59-46; beat No. 6 Georgetown 74-56; beat No. 3 Purdue 94-76.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: Never
Next up: No. 10 Florida State.

Essential info: You win three games, you’re usually in the Elite Eight. Not so with the Rams. But hey, they’re in the Sweet 16 for the first time, so they’re not complaining. If anything, they’ve only gotten better as the tournament’s progressed. They dished 26 assists, had just four turnovers and hit eight 3-pointers vs. the Boilermakers. They’ve always boasted an efficient offense – especially when it comes to taking care of the ball – but that was impressive against a proud defense. Hope they’re ready for more. FSU’s even better on defense than Purdue, especially at challenging shots and forcing turnovers. But the Rams’ guards have handled that pressure thus far.

Tip-off: 9:57 p.m. Friday (TBS)


No. 12 Richmond Spiders

Record: 29-7
How it got here: Beat No. 5 Vanderbilt 69-66; beat No. 13 Morehead State 68-48.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 1988
Next up: No. 1 Kansas.

Essential info: The Spiders rode their two stars (Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson) and a zone defense to the Sweet 16. Especially that zone. It created enough issues for Morehead’s inside-outside combo of Kenneth Faried and Demonte Harper that Richmond breezed into the Sweet 16. Vanderbilt’s shooters were only slightly more effective against it, but only a little bit. That zone will be the key vs. the Jayhawks, too. Kansas thrives when facing man-to-man defense, but has issues when zoned because it lacks a guy who can penetrate the zone consistently, then find open teammates.

Tip-off: 7:27 p.m. Friday (TBS)

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Miller, Wong rally Miami past Texas 88-81 for 1st Final Four

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On the eve of Miami playing for a place in its first Final Four, the quiet conversation floating through the team hotel did not revolve around all that the Hurricanes had accomplished this season. Instead, they talked about what had happened to bring last season to a close.

The sting of an Elite Eight defeat was fresh to those who were there. And they made everyone else feel it, too.

“That loss sat with me for a really long time,” the Hurricanes’ Jordan Miller said. “It doesn’t go away, and the fact that we had the opportunity to come back and make amends, make it right, that’s what was pushing me.”

Miller responded with a perfect performance against second-seeded Texas in the Midwest Region final Sunday. Along with Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Isaiah Wong and March dynamo Nijel Pack, Miller rallied the Hurricanes from a 13-point second-half deficit for an 88-81 victory that clinched that long-awaited trip to the national semifinals.

“How hard we fought to come back in this game, especially on a stage like this, it’s an amazing feeling,” said Pack, one of Miami’s newcomers. “I know how much these guys wanted to win this game, especially being here last year and losing the Elite Eight, and now being able to take it to the Final Four is something special.”

Miller finished with 27 points, going 7 of 7 from the field and 13 of 13 from the foul line, while Wong scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half against the Longhorns, who had been the top remaining seed in a topsy-turvy NCAA Tournament.

Now, the No. 5 seed Hurricanes (29-7) have a date with No. 4 seed UConn on Saturday night in Houston. Two more Final Four newbies, fifth-seeded San Diego State and No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic, will play in the other national semifinal.

It’s the first time since seeding began in 1979 that no team seeded better than No. 4 made the Final Four, so perhaps it is fitting that Miami coach Jim Larrañaga is involved. He took George Mason there as an 11 seed 17 years ago to the day.

Miami was a 10 seed last year when it lost 76-50 to eventual national champion Kansas in a regional final.

“No one wanted to go home,” said Miller, coincidentally a George Mason transfer, who joined Duke’s Christian Laettner as the only players since 1960 to go 20 for 20 combined from the field and foul line in an NCAA tourney game. “We came together. We stuck together. We showed really good perseverance and the will – the will to just want to get there.”

After Miami climbed back from a 64-51 deficit with 13:22 to play, the game was tied at 79-all when Norchad Omier was fouled by the Longhorns’ Brock Cunningham while going for a loose ball. He made both of the foul shots to give the Hurricanes the lead, then stole the ball from Texas star Marcus Carr at the other end, and Wong made to more free throws with 34 seconds remaining to keep them ahead for good.

Miller kept drilling foul shots down the stretch to ice the Midwest Region title for the Hurricanes.

Wooga Poplar scored 16 points, and Pack followed up his virtuoso performance against top-seeded Houston with 15, as the same school that once dropped hoops entirely in the 1970s advanced to the game’s biggest stage.

“You just love when your players accomplish a goal they set out before the season,” Larrañaga said.

Carr led the Longhorns (29-9) with 17 points, though he was bothered by a hamstring injury late in the game. Timmy Allen added 16 and Sir’Jabari Rice had 15 in the finale of a season that began with the firing of Chris Beard over domestic violence charges that were later dropped and ended with interim coach Rodney Terry consoling a heartbroken team.

“These guys more than any group I’ve worked with in 32 years of coaching have really embodied, in terms of staying the course, being a team,” Terry said, choking up so hard on the postgame dais that he could barely speak. “They were so unselfish as a team, and they gave us everything they had. They really did.”

The Longhorns revealed about 90 minutes before tipoff that Dylan Disu, the Big 12 tourney MVP and early star of the NCAA Tournament, would miss the game with a foot injury. He hurt it in the second round against Penn State and only played about 90 seconds in the Sweet 16 against Xavier before watching the rest of that game in a walking boot.

Without their 6-foot-9 star, the Longhorns’ deep group of dangerous guards resorted to potshots from the perimeter against Miami’s porous defense. Rice hit two 3s early, Carr two of his own, and the Longhorns stormed to a 45-37 halftime lead.

On the other end, Texas tried to keep Pack and Wong from producing a sequel to their 3-point barrage against Houston.

Pack, who dropped seven 3s in the regional semifinal, didn’t even attempt one until there were 7 1/2 minutes left in the first half, and his best shot – a looping rainbow as he fell out of bounds – didn’t even count because it went over the backboard.

Wong took as many shots and scored as many points (two) as he had turnovers in the game’s first 20 minutes.

The Longhorns’ advantage stretched to 13 in the second half, and tension built on the Miami bench. At one point, Harlond Beverly and Larrañaga got into a verbal spat and the 73-year-old coach yanked the backup guard from the game.

Fortunately for the ’Canes, Pack and Wong were poised, Poplar and Miller seemingly possessed.

Still trailing 72-64 with about eight minutes to play, Pack and Wong joined Miller and Omier in turbocharging a 13-3 run to give the Hurricanes a 77-75 lead, their first since the opening minutes. When Rice answered at the other end for Texas, Miller calmly made two go-ahead free throws to begin his late-game parade to the line.

Carr made a nifty turnaround jumper to tie the game again for Texas, but the Miami momentum never slowed. Omier made two free throws with a minute left, swiped the ball from Carr at the other end, and Miller and Co. finished it off.

“We just all bought into staying together, keeping that hope alive,” Miller said, “and the way we just willed this one through, I think everybody played really well, and I think it really shows the poise of this squad.”

San Diego State muscles past Creighton, makes 1st Final Four

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Darrion Trammell converted a go-ahead free throw after he was fouled on a floater with 1.2 seconds left, and San Diego State muscled its way into its first Final Four, grinding out a 57-56 victory over Creighton on Sunday in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region final.

Lamont Butler scored 18 points and Trammell had 12 for the fifth-seeded Aztecs (31-6), who slowed down the high-scoring, sixth-seeded Bluejays (24-13) and became the first Mountain West Conference team to reach the national semifinals.

The experienced Aztecs, in their sixth season under coach Brian Dutcher, will play the surprising East Region champion, ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic, on Saturday in Houston for a spot in the national title game.

With the game tied at 56-all on San Diego State’s final possession, Trammell drove toward the free-throw line, elevated for the shot and was fouled by Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard. Trammell missed the first free throw but converted the second.

Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman threw the ensuing inbound pass the length of the floor. San Diego State’s Aguek Arop and Creighton’s Arthur Kaluma both jumped for it and the ball deflected out of bounds. Officials reviewed the play and determined that time had expired, and the celebration was on for the Aztecs.

Scheierman had tied the game at 56-all when he stole an inbounds pass and converted a layup with 34 seconds remaining.

Ryan Kalkbrenner scored 17 points and Scheierman and Arthur Kaluma had 12 apiece for the Bluejays, who went 2 of 17 from 3-point range.

The Aztecs, who got this far thanks to defense and physical play, held the Bluejays to 23 second-half points on 28% shooting. Creighton shot 40% overall.

San Diego State shot 38% but got clutch baskets from Nathan Mensah, whose jumper gave the Aztecs a 56-54 lead with 1:37 left, and Arop, who made two straight shots to put San Diego State ahead 54-50 with 3:03 remaining.

Creighton, which beat San Diego State in overtime in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, fell just short of joining Big East rival UConn in the Final Four.

Kaluma played against his brother, San Diego State’s Adam Seiko. Their parents sat a few rows up at midcourt, sitting quietly before joining Seiko to celebrate.

UConn routs Gonzaga 82-54 for first Final Four in 9 years

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LAS VEGAS — Jordan Hawkins scored 20 points and UConn overwhelmed its fourth straight NCAA Tournament opponent, earning its first trip to the Final Four in nine years with an 82-54 blowout of Gonzaga on Saturday night.

The Huskies (29-8) have felt right at home in their first extended March Madness run since winning the 2014 national championship, playing their best basketball of what had been an up-and-down season.

“The Big East Conference is the best conference in the country, so we went through some struggles,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “But once we got out of that league and started playing nonconference teams again, we’ve been back to that team that looked like the best team in the country.”

UConn controlled the usually efficient Bulldogs at both ends in the West Region final, building a 23-point lead early in the second half to waltz right into the final section of the bracket.

The Huskies’ two NCAA Tournament first-round exits under Hurley are now well in the rearview mirror.

“If you’re playing for him, you’ve got to play up to that standard or else you’re not going to be out there,” UConn guard Andre Jackson Jr. said.

These elite Huskies did what the UConn women couldn’t for once and are headed to Houston, where they will play either Texas or Miami.

The Bulldogs (31-6) didn’t have the same second-half magic they had in a last-second win over UCLA in the Elite Eight.

Gonzaga allowed UConn to go on a late run to lead by seven at halftime and fell completely apart after All-American Drew Timme went to the bench with his fourth foul early in the second half.

The Zags shot 33% from the field – 7 of 29 in the second half – and went 2 for 20 from 3 to stumble in their bid for a third Final Four since 2017.

Timme had 12 points and 10 rebounds, receiving a warm ovation after being taken out of his final collegiate game with 1:50 left.

Alex Karaban scored 12 points and Adama Sanogo had 10 points and 10 rebounds for UConn.

The Zags started off like they had a Vegas hangover, firing off two air-balled 3-pointers and a wild runner by Timme. Once Gonzaga shook out the cobwebs, the Bulldogs kept the Huskies bridled with defense, with hard hedges on screens and Timme sagging off Jackson to protect the lane.

UConn countered by getting the ball into the strong hands of Sanogo, the facilitator. The UConn big man picked apart Gonzaga’s double-teams for five first-half assists, including two for layups. Karaban hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Huskies up 39-32 at halftime.

It got worse for Gonzaga to start the second half.

UConn pushed the lead to 12 and Timme picked up his third and fourth fouls in the opening 2 1/2 minutes – one on a charge, another on a box-out under the rim.

The Huskies really got rolling when Timme took a seat, using their defense to get out in transition and set up 3-pointers. A 14-3 run put UConn up 60-37 and Gonzaga coach Mark Few took the calculated gamble of bringing Timme back in.

It made little difference.

UConn kept up the pressure and kept making shots, blowing out yet another opponent and looking an awful lot like the favorite to win it all.

UConn’s Final Four streak ends with 73-61 loss to Ohio State

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SEATTLE — UConn’s record Final Four run is over, thanks to a monumental performance by Ohio State.

The Buckeyes ended UConn’s unprecedented streak of reaching 14 consecutive Final Fours, beating the Huskies 73-61 on Saturday in the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

“The problem with streaks is the longer they go, you’re closer to it ending than you are to the beginning of it,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “It’s just a matter of time. I mean, it’s not if it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time when it’s going to happen. And it was going to happen sooner rather than later.”

Cotie McMahon scored 23 points for the Buckeyes, who snapped their three-decade Elite Eight drought. The Buckeyes hadn’t made a regional final since 1993, when they eventually lost in the title game to Texas Tech.

“When I had the opportunity to come to Ohio State, this was certainly the goal and the vision to go farther than they have been going,” said coach Kevin McGuff, who had never beaten UConn. “It’s not easy to get here, obviously. But I’m really proud of our team and our program of how we’ve evolved to be able to get to this point.

“Like I said, I mean, I have so much respect for Geno and his staff and all that they have accomplished. So for us to be able to win this game in the Sweet 16 is obviously extremely significant. They’re just hard to beat. They’re so well-coached. So this is a great win for us.”

The third-seeded Buckeyes (28-7) forced No. 2 seed UConn (31-6) into 25 turnovers, ending the Huskies’ season before the national semifinals for the first time in 14 seasons. UConn hadn’t been eliminated this early since 2006.

“It’s an impossibility to do what we have done already,” Auriemma said. “What’s the next highest streak? … And you take that in stride and you say, yeah, it was great while it lasted and it’s a credit to all the players that we had and all the times that you have to perform really, really well at this level.”

Ohio State will play Virginia Tech on Monday night in the Seattle 3 Region final with a trip to Dallas at stake. The Hokies beat Tennessee 73-64.

Ohio State, which had to rally from a double-digit deficit in the first round against James Madison, used full-court pressure to disrupt the Huskies’ offense.

“Our press is what we rely on, and sticking together and talking through it,” said Ohio State’s Jacy Sheldon, who had 17 points and went 10-for-10 from the foul line. “We knew UConn was going to be ready for us, so we knew we were going to have to stay consistent throughout the game.”

This has been the most trying year of Auriemma’s Hall of Fame career. UConn was beset by injuries and illnesses to both players and coaches, including a torn ACL that sidelined star Paige Bueckers all season. It got so bad the Huskies had to postpone a game when they didn’t have enough scholarship players. They also saw their unbelievable run of 30 years without consecutive losses come to an end.

“We picked the worst day to actually be doing the things that we’ve been struggling with all year long,” Auriemma said in a sideline interview during the game.

Lou Lopez Senechal scored 25 points for the Huskies, Azzi Fudd had 14, and Ohio State transfer Dorka Juhasz finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Huskies led 17-9 before Ohio State started scoring and turning UConn over with its full-court press. The Buckeyes scored the next 17 points, forcing 11 turnovers during that stretch, which spanned the first and second quarters. UConn had eight turnovers to start the second quarter, leaving Auriemma exasperated on the sideline.

McMahon was converting those turnovers into points for the Buckeyes as the freshman finished the half with 18 points – equaling the number of turnovers the Huskies had in the opening 20 minutes. Ohio State led 36-26 at the break.

This was only the sixth time UConn had trailed by double digits at the half in an NCAA Tournament game, according to ESPN. The Huskies lost all of those.

UConn did a better job of taking care of the ball in the second half and cut the deficit to 44-39 on Senechal’s layup with 3:53 left in the third quarter. Ohio State responded and still led by 10 after three quarters.

The Buckeyes didn’t let the Huskies make any sort of run in the fourth quarter. UConn got within nine with 4:30 left, but McMahon had a three-point play to restore the double-digit lead. The Huskies never threatened after that.

Now the Huskies will start their offseason sooner than any time in the past 17 years.


This was the first win for Ohio State over UConn in seven tries. The teams’ last meeting was in the 2019-20 regular season. … UConn was a paltry 7-for-15 from the foul line while Ohio State went 22-for-30. … UConn’s season high for turnovers was 27 against Princeton.


The Seattle Regionals are being played in Climate Pledge Arena – home of the Seattle Storm. UConn and Storm great Sue Bird was in the stands, sitting a few rows behind the scorers’ table. She received a loud ovation from the crowd when she was shown midway through the first quarter on the videoboards.


Juhasz graduated from Ohio State two years ago and flourished there, earning all-Big Ten honors twice. She came to UConn last year looking for a new challenge and wanting to play for a team that could compete for national championships. She’ll leave without one.

There is a mutual respect between Juhasz and the Buckeyes’ coaching staff.

FAU holds off Nowell and K-State to reach 1st Final Four

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Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Alijah Martin, Vlad Goldin and ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic became the first and lowest-seeded team to reach this year’s Final Four as the Owls withstood another huge game by Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell to beat the Wildcats 79-76 on Saturday night.

FAU (35-3), making just its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament, won the East Region at Madison Square Garden and will head to Houston to play the winner of Sunday’s South Region final between Creighton and San Diego State.

In one of the most unpredictable NCAA Tournaments ever – all four No. 1 seeds were out by the Elite Eight – the Owls from Conference USA typified the madness.

“I expect the prognosticators to pick us fifth in the Final Four,” fifth-year FAU coach Dusty May said.

The winningest team in Division I this season had never won an NCAA Tournament game before ripping off four straight, all by single digits, to become the first No. 9 seed to reach the Final Four since Wichita State in 2013 and the third to get that far since seeding began in 1979.

Nowell, the 5-foot-8 native New Yorker, was incredible again at Madison Square Garden, with 30 points, 12 assists and five steals, coming off a Sweet 16 game in which he set the NCAA Tournament record with 19 assists. He didn’t get enough help this time.

Nae’Qwan Tomlin was the only other player in double figures for Kansas State (26-10) with 14 points. Keyontae Johnson, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, fouled out with nine points.

Martin scored 17 points, including a huge 3 down the stretch, the 7-foot-1 Goldin had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Michael Forrest made four clutch free throws in the final 20 seconds for the Owls, who held steady as the Wildcats made a late push.

Cam Carter made a 3 from the wing with 22.8 seconds left to cut FAU’s lead to 75-74 and Kansas State fouled and sent Forrest to the line with 17.9 seconds left. The senior made both to make it a three-point game.

Nowell found Tomlin inside for a layup with 8.6 seconds left to cut the lead to one again, and again K-State sent Forrest to the line. With 6.9 remaining, he made them both.

With no timeouts left, Nowell rushed down the court, gave up the ball to Ismael Massoud outside the 3-point line, and never got it back. FAU’s Johnell Davis swiped it away and time ran out.

“It was trying to get Ish a shot,” Nowell said. “Coach wanted to Ish to set the screen, and I waved it off because I felt like on the right side of the court, that’s where Ish hits most of his shots. And they closed out hard to him, and he didn’t get his shot off.”

Nowell was named the most outstanding player of the region, but FAU turned out to be the best team. As the Owls built their lead in the final minutes, Kansas State fans who had packed the building became anxiously quiet and the “F-A-U!” chants started to rise.

The Owls rushed the floor to celebrate a historic moment for the school. FAU didn’t even have a basketball program until the late 1980s and has only been in Division I for the last 30 years.

“I’m living the dream right now,” Forrest said.

FAU held up to Tennessee’s bully ball in the Sweet 16 and dropped a 40-point second half on the best defense in the nation to eliminate the Southeastern Conference team.

Against one of the Big 12’s best, FAU dominated the boards, 44-22, and became the first team from C-USA to reach the Final Four since Memphis in 2008.

The Owls aren’t hanging around much longer. They’re moving to the American Athletic Conference next season. But first: a trip to Texas.