Sam Vecenie of the Athletic and the Game Theory podcast stopped by to chat with Rob Dauster about the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. The two went through each of the eight Sweet 16 matchups, detailing how each one of those eight games projects to play out and going over which lines — spread and over-unders — they like.
Florida Atlantic ends Fairleigh Dickinson’s run for Sweet 16
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fairleigh Dickinson came up just a little short this time.
Johnell Davis scored 29 points, Alijah Martin added 14 and Florida Atlantic ended underdog FDU’s magical March by outlasting the No. 16 seed 78-70 on Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament.
The ninth-seeded Owls (33-3) needed everything they had to put away the Knights (21-16), the nation’s smallest team and a surprise winner Friday night over 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey and top-seeded Purdue in just the second 16-over-1 upset in tournament history.
It will be FAU, not FDU, which will play Tennessee in the East Region semifinals on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“It’s a nice place,” Davis said of the world’s most famous arena. “But we’ve still got to go in and put the work in as every other gym.”
Davis certainly put in the work against FDU, finishing with 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals in 34 minutes.
The Knights couldn’t come up with an encore after eliminating Purdue, but not before fighting to the finish.
When their tourney ended, first-year coach Tobin Anderson and FDU’s players walked across the floor of Nationwide Arena to thank their fans, most of whom never expected to spend five days in Ohio watching their team make history.
Demetre Roberts scored 20 points and Sean Moore had 14 for FDU, which didn’t even win the Northeast Conference tournament before becoming an NCAA team that won’t soon be forgotten. The Knights followed up a win in the play-in game at Dayton by ousting the Big Ten champion Boilermakers and taking FAU to the wire.
“We always talk about 6-0 runs, we were one 6-0 run away from the Sweet 16,” Anderson said. “We went toe to toe with a top-five team in the country, and this team is a top 25 team in the country. We went toe to toe the last few days with two great teams and didn’t back down, didn’t go away.
“We’re not just happy to be here.”
FAU, which edged Memphis on Friday for the school’s first NCAA tourney win, finally took control late in the second half of a game that was played at high speeds and at times looked more like a playground pickup game.
FDU was still within 67-64 when Davis fought for a rebound and made a put-back. After Roberts missed a long 3, FAU’s Bryan Greenlee knocked down a 3-pointer and the Owls pushed their lead to 10.
The Knights got within 76-70, and still had a chance when Greenlee missed two free throws. But Roberts, FDU’s lightning-quick 5-foot-8 guard, misfired on a layup, and the graduate student who followed Anderson to FDU from Division II St. Thomas Aquinas began to untuck his jersey, knowing his tournament was over.
Anderson, who turned around a program that went 4-22 a year ago, told his players not to foul and let the final seconds run off.
But FAU’s Martin tried and missed a 360-degree dunk, leading to an awkward exchange and tense postgame handshake between Anderson and Owls coach Dusty May.
“I apologized to him for that but also reminded him we’re the adults,” May said. “We’ve got to fix that behavior. It’s part of the game. I apologized to him.”
FDU came up short in its bid to become the first No. 16 to win twice in the tournament. The same thing happened to UMBC five years ago. After shocking No. 1 overall seed Virginia, the Retrievers lost to Kansas State in the second round.
Strikingly similar in their playing styles on the floor, there was also a commonality between the fan bases as “F-D-U” chants from one side of the court were met with cries of “F-A-U” from the other as the teams traded baskets.
May was proud of his team’s composure and ability to perform when it felt like the world was in FDU’s corner.
“We never felt like we were a Cinderella team,” said May, who got his hoops start as a student manager at Indiana under coach Bob Knight. “We went into an SEC school and won and have been in some very tough environments.
“But obviously when you’re playing FDU and they’re on the run they’re on, they’re easy to root for.”
For Anderson and the Knights, the tournament is over. The memories will carry them.
“Last year, we were 4-22,” he said, “and we’re right there to go to the Sweet 16. If that’s not one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my life or anybody else has seen, that’s crazy. So every part of this I’ll remember forever and they will too.”
FAU: The Owls will carry a nine-game winning streak into their matchup against the fourth-seeded Volunteers, who took out Duke on Saturday. FAU does have some experience against SEC schools this season, losing at Ole Miss and winning at Florida.
FDU: The Knights seemingly came out of nowhere to become the tourney’s biggest story. Anderson said he and his assistant coaches have already heard from players interested in joining them in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Michigan State outlasts Marquette; Izzo back to Sweet 16
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Tom Izzo leaned on star guard and native New Yorker Tyson Walker to get Michigan State to Madison Square Garden for the Sweet 16.
Walker, a fourth-year player who grew up in Westbury on Long Island, delivered against Marquette in March Madness on Sunday night, scoring 23 points and punctuating Michigan State’s 69-60 victory with a steal and his first ever collegiate dunk late in the game.
And Walker wants to make sure his 68-year-old, Hall of Fame coach has a quintessential Big Apple experience.
“It means everything,” said Walker, who played two years at Northeastern before transferring to Michigan State. “Just growing up, seeing everything, playing at the Garden. Just to make those shots, look over see my dad, see how excited he was. That means everything. And I just owe Coach some pizza now. And a cab ride.”
Joey Hauser – a Marquette transfer – had 14 points and A.J. Hoggard had 13 as seventh-seeded Michigan State (21-12) took over in the last three minutes. The Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in four years and will play third-seeded Kansas State in the East Region semifinals on Thursday.
“I’ve been in Elite Eight games; I’ve been in the Final Four – that was as intense and tough a game as I’ve been in my career,” Izzo said. “And a lot of credit goes to Marquette and (coach) Shaka (Smart) and how they played, too.”
Izzo reached his 15th regional semifinal and won his record 16th March Madness game with a lower-seeded team – one more than Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who retired after this season.
This one was particularly meaningful. Izzo became the face of a grieving school where three students were killed in a campus shooting on Feb. 13.
“It’s been a long year,” an emotional Izzo said in a courtside interview. “I’m just happy for our guys.”
Olivier-Maxence Prosper led second-seeded Marquette (29-7) with 16 points and Kam Jones had 14 points, including three 3-pointers, for the Big East champions.
Michigan State led by as many as 12 in the first half, but Ben Gold and Prosper made back-to-back 3-pointers to help the Golden Eagles close within 33-28 at halftime.
Prosper hit two more 3s in the first minute of the second half to give Marquette its first lead of the day. Michigan State grabbed back the lead with an 8-0 run and didn’t relinquish it.
Back-to-back baskets in the paint by Hoggard and then Walker, both times as the shot clock expired, gave the Spartans a 60-55 lead with 2:20 left. Mady Sissoko then blocked shots on consecutive Marquette possessions, and Walker had a steal followed by a game-sealing dunk with 39 seconds left.
Marquette’s nine-game winning streak ended, concluding a season in which the Golden Eagles exceeded expectations under coach Smart, who has referred to Izzo as a mentor.
Michigan State, meanwhile, finished fourth in the Big Ten but appears to be improving at the right time.
“We’ve still got some dancing to do,” Izzo said. “And we’re going to New York. I couldn’t be more excited for Tyson and even A.J., being a Philly guy.
“After watching the tournament, it doesn’t matter who we play, when we play, where we play, or how, it’s going to be a hell of a game. And I’m looking forward to it.”
Marquette: Coming off their first Big East Tournament title, the Golden Eagles dominated Vermont in the first round of March Madness, but Michigan State was a much tougher opponent. The Golden Eagles committed 11 of their 16 turnovers in the second half, and those giveaways led to 19 Spartans points.
“I thought (Michigan State) played with great aggressiveness, particularly early in the game and at the very end of the game,” Smart said. “And those two the stretches were the difference in the outcome of the game.”
Michigan State: The Spartans came out of their shooting funk after the halfway point of the second half and pulled away. They made 15 of their 17 free throws after halftime.
Tyler Kolek, the Big East Player of the Year, injured his thumb when he caught it on the jersey of a Vermont player in the opening round Friday night.
He finished that game with eight points. He wasn’t much of a factor against Michigan State, either, scoring seven points, losing six turnovers and committing four fouls.
Kolek insisted the thumb “wasn’t an issue at all.”
“Just trying to be out there for my team and command the game. And I didn’t do that today,” he said.
Michigan State’s next opponent, Kansas State, is making its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2018 and first under coach Jerome Tang.
Sanogo, UConn pull away from Saint Mary’s, into Sweet 16
ALBANY, N.Y. – UConn decided to return to its roots five years ago, hiring a former Big East guard as coach and then a couple years later returning to the conference where it became a national power.
Now the Huskies are back in the Sweet 16, looking like the beasts of the Big East again.
Adama Sanogo scored 24 points and Jordan Hawkins delivered from the 3-point line in the second half as UConn pulled away from Saint Mary’s for a 70-55 win on Sunday that put the Huskies in the Sweet 16 for the first time in nine years.
No. 4 seed UConn (27-8) advanced to the West Regional in Las Vegas on Thursday. Next up is eighth-seeded Arkansas, which knocked off No. 1 seed Kansas.
For the second straight game, the Huskies buried an opponent after playing a close first half. UConn outscored Iona and Saint Mary’s by a combined 86-49 in the second half in Albany this weekend.
“Eventually our depth, elite rebounding, top-20 defense, top-five offense, with the depth, I think we’re able to break some teams,” said UConn coach Dan Hurley, a former Seton Hall guard from New Jersey who was hired in 2018.
The Huskies last played in the second weekend of the tournament in 2014, when they won the most recent – and most surprising – of four national titles in a 15-year span. The first three of those titles came as a member of the Big East under coach Jim Calhoun, and all went through the West Region.
That last championship run came as a member of the American Athletic Conference, the league birthed from the Big East’s football-basketball breakup in 2013.
UConn went with the football schools and played seven years in the AAC, where its football program floundered while its vaunted men’s basketball team slipped into irrelevance.
With Hurley in charge, it has risen again, taking another step after being one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament the past two years at a place that never lost its lofty standards.
“I think in the first and even second round of tournaments, it’s more of a burden to play at UConn than it is an advantage,” Hurley said of the pressure.
These Huskies were up to the challenge.
Sanogo followed his 29-point game in the Huskies’ NCAA tourney opener with another powerful and efficient performance in the paint. The 245-pound junior was 11 for 16 from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds, dominating a big-man matchup with Mitchell Saxen (six points, three rebounds and four fouls).
Saint Mary’s (27-8) of the West Coast Conference failed to get out of the first weekend of the tournament for the second straight season as a No. 5 seed.
Aidan Mahaney and Logan Johnson each scored nine for the Gaels, who played the final 25 minutes without third-leading scorer Alex Ducas. The senior left with a back injury, coach Randy Bennett said.
“It’s not all on that. But it did affect our offensive efficiency, and I feel terrible for him,” Bennett said.
UConn used a 14-2 spurt, highlighted by a 3 from Hawkins with 11:28 left in the second half, to go up 51-40.
Hawkins had been scoreless to that point, but he added another 3 coming off a screen moments later to make it 56-45, and the “Let’s Go Huskies!” chants started to reverberate throughout MVP Arena.
“It felt great hitting those shots,” Hawkins said. “Finally found a rhythm.”
Hawkins wasn’t done, making back-to-back 3s to make it 62-47 with 6:38 left. He finished with 12 points.
Meanwhile, the Huskies defense was clamping down on the Gaels, who were held under 60 points for just the fourth time this season.
“We started to turn the ball over a little bit more, which led to them hitting some shots in transition, which really opened up the game for them,” Johnson said.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels, who have become Gonzaga’s closest rival in the WCC, have reached the Sweet 16 just once in program history in 2010.
“People always say, ‘Hey, get to the next level,’” said Bennett, who is in his 22nd season as Gaels coach. “We’ve been a five seed the last two years, and both years we’ve run into a really good team. Last year was UCLA.”
UConn: The Huskies go nine deep, which allows Hurley to keep his players fresh. Sanogo scored 53 points in 51 minutes in two games, with 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan providing 25 solid minutes off the bench.
“We have so many guys we can go to,” said Andre Jackson, who was playing close to his hometown of Amsterdam.
UConn: The Huskies are 3-1 all-time against Arkansas.
Wong, Miller lead Miami past Indiana, into Sweet 16
ALBANY, N.Y. – After nearly getting upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Miami had a point to prove. Indiana paid the price.
Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller led a decisive second-half spurt and Miami stormed into the Sweet 16 for the second straight year Sunday night with an 85-69 win over the Hoosiers.
“Our guys were disappointed about the way they played Friday, so we were really ready to show that this is Miami basketball,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We’re very hard to guard.”
Wong, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year who was limited to five points in a first-round win over Drake, had 27 points and eight rebounds for the Hurricanes (27-7), the only ACC team left in March Madness.
Miller, who had seven points on Friday, scored 19, and Indianapolis native Nijel Pack had 10 of his 12 points in the first half as fifth-seeded Miami got off to a fast start, led most of the game and ended Indiana’s hopes of a sixth national title.
Miami will face top-seeded Houston in the Midwest Region semifinals in Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday.
“I told the team beforehand the ACC needs to be well represented today. And we did,” Larrañaga said.
All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis had 23 points and eight rebounds for the Hoosiers (23-12), who have not been to the Sweet 16 since 2016. Freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino added 19 points and Race Thompson had 11.
Miami needed 16-1 run in the final five minutes to beat Drake. There was another late run this time but it was more composed and not as desperate.
Indiana coach Mike Woodson – who called a timeout less than two minutes into the game with his team trailing 6-0 – gave all the credit to Miami, which held a 42-26 rebounding advantage.
“They played their butts off tonight,” he said. “It was a well-coached game, and I thought they were the better team. They showed it first half and second half. I thought when we got back in it, we didn’t do the things to put us in position once we got the lead to win this game.”
Miami didn’t lose the lead until Indiana went on a 13-0 run bridging the halves to push ahead 43-40. The game was tied at 49-all when Miller, who spent a great deal of time denying Jackson-Davis the ball, hit a layup to ignite a 16-4 burst. Wong hit two 3-pointers and Miller had seven points during that stretch.
Miami led 69-60 when Wong drilled a 3 late in the shot clock, Bensley Joseph followed with a steal, and Miller fed Joseph in the corner for a wide-open 3 that made it 75-60 with 3:23 left.
“We won the game two days ago, and today I performed well,” said Wong, who was 7 of 15 from the field and 4 of 6 from long range. “I appreciate the team for that helping me out, getting me passes and getting me in the rhythm.”
Miller downplayed the feeling of some that Miami is underappreciated.
“At the end of the day, all we can do is just come out and win basketball games,” he 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.”
Miami: The Hurricanes shared the ACC regular-season title with Virginia, which lost to Furman in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Miami fell in the conference tournament to Duke, which was beaten by Tennessee in the second round Saturday. Pittsburgh was eliminated by Xavier earlier Sunday, making Miami the lone ACC team.
Indiana: Woodson has taken the Hoosiers to the NCAA Tournament in both years on the job. It might be tough next year without Jackson-Davis, Thompson and Miller Kopp.
“Just two years ago, we were getting booed in our home city, Indianapolis, off the court in the Big Ten Tournament,” Jackson-Davis said. “Just being in this moment two years later, it’s really special. It’s really special to me to have the Indiana fans on your back and just cheering for you and giving them hope.”
Another win would put Miami in its second straight Elite Eight. Larrañaga has been to the Final Four once, in his previous job at George Mason.
Ole Miss stuns Stanford, reaches first Sweet 16 in 16 years
STANFORD, Calif. – Sobbing as she received hugs from friends and administrators, Mississippi coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin tried to grasp the magnitude of her team’s stunning win against top-seeded Stanford when someone reminded her there’s more basketball to be played.
Her two young daughters danced on the floor.
Her proud father provided a shoutout to everybody back home in The Bahamas.
Her team posed and midcourt and shouted, “Seattle!” That’s where the Rebels are headed next.
Madison Scott hit a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left that gave Mississippi the lead for good, Angel Baker scored 13 points, and the Rebels delivered on their declaration to get defensive, stunning top-seeded Stanford 54-49 on Sunday night to reach the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time in 16 years.
“This is such a big accomplishment. A lot of us came here to make history and that’s what we’re doing,” freshman Ayanna Thompson said.
Behind the entire game, Stanford called timeout with 28 seconds left then Hannah Jump turned the ball over and Scott converted. Haley Jones lost the ball out of bounds on the Cardinal’s last possession with a chance to tie then again in the waning moments.
Marquesha Davis hit a pair of free throws with 15.4 seconds to play as Ole Miss overcame not making a field goal over the final 5:47, going 0 for 8.
These upstart Rebels (25-8) advance to the Seattle Regional semifinal next weekend, while Tara VanDerveer’s Stanford team (29-6) is eliminated far earlier than this group envisioned – the season ending on the Cardinal’s home floor. Jones fought tears after her final game, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds but five turnovers.
Only four No. 1 seeds had lost before the Sweet 16 since 1994, with Duke the last one in 2009. Stanford did so once before, falling to 16th-seeded Harvard in the first round of the 1998 tournament.
The Cardinal had reached 14 straight Sweet 16s and hadn’t lost in the first or second rounds since No. 10 seed Florida State shocked the fifth-seeded Cardinal 68-61 at Maples Pavilion in the second round exactly 16 years ago to the day before on March 19, 2007.
Cameron Brink came back from a one-game absence because of a stomach bug to finish with 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots, but Stanford never led and tried to come from behind all night. The program’s career blocks leader, she finished with 118 on the season and has 297 total.
Stanford had won 21 consecutive NCAA games on its home floor and is 41-5 all-time at Maples during March Madness.
Ole Miss led the entire first half on the way to a 29-20 lead at the break at raucous Maples Pavilion, where the crowd went wild when Brink blocked three straight shots in the same sequence by Rita Igbokwe midway through the second quarter. About two minutes later, Igbokwe grabbed at her mouth after being hit.
The Rebels got a scare when senior guard Myah Taylor went down hard grabbing at her chest with 6:41 left in the third after colliding with Francesca Belibi while moving to defend Indya Nivar. After a short break to catch her breath, Taylor was back running the point.
The fourth-best team in the Southeastern Conference and runner-up in the conference tournament to No. 1 South Carolina, Ole Miss has regularly faced bigger teams and physical tests.
The Rebels declared from Day 1 in the Bay Area they were ready to get defensive to make their mark on the NCAA Tournament. Stanford’s layups regularly rolled out. The Cardinal got called for repeated offensive fouls.
BIG PICTURE Ole Miss: Proud parents Gladstone and Daisy cheered on fifth-year coach McPhee-McCuin as her team reached the second round after last year’s first-round exit by South Dakota. Her daughters, 10-year-old Yasmine and Yuri, 5, rooted the team all the way, with Yasmine yelling, “That’s my mom!” when Ole Miss came out before tipoff. … The Rebels advanced to the Elite Eight in 2007. After grabbing 24 offensive rebounds in the win against Gonzaga, the Rebels crashed the boards again to create second chances with 20 more.
Stanford: The Cardinal also never led in the first half of 55-46 loss at USC on Jan. 15. … They had a 14-game home winning streak since a 76-71 overtime loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Nov. 20.