While most of the favorites won during Saturday’s second round action of the NCAA Tournament, Loyola-Chicago’s magical run will continue on to the Sweet 16.
The buzz around the NCAA Tournament on Saturday was still about UMBC’s historic upset of No. 1 Virginia on Friday night. As the second round began on Saturday, most of the favorites were able to hold serve and advance to the Sweet 16 late next week.
Out of the eight matchups that were played, the team that was the better seed won seven of them. Despite the lack of upsets, there were five games decided by six points or less. One of them came from the 11 seed in the South Region as Loyola-Chicago had another last-second shot to beat (3) Tennessee, 63-62, and advance to the Sweet 16.
Another team came close to pulling off an upset, but could not quite finish the deal out in Wichita. In the East region, the sixth-seeded Houston Cougars and Rob Gray (23 points) were 3.6 seconds away from an upset, but Michigan freshman Jordan Poole hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to send the three seed to Los Angeles and the Sweet 16.
MICHIGAN WINS IT AT THE BUZZER!!!! ???#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/COR9MEjX59
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2018
Before Butler and Purdue begin Sunday’s Round 2 action in Detroit (12:10 p.m ET, CBS), here are my takeaways from Saturday’s second round action:
Ramblers Rolling On To Atlanta
Loyola-Chicago made sure that the attention stayed on them Saturday as everyone was still talking about the UMBC upset on Friday night. The Ramblers were able to win the game late once again, but this time with a different hero.
With Tennessee up 62-61 with 21 seconds left, Loyola-Chicago once again had a chance to win the game with the final shot. This time, the hero was Clayton Custer. The junior hit the mid-range jumper with 3.6 seconds left and finished with ten points.
RAMBLERS WIN!!! ???
CINDERELLA LIVES ON!#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/ynhEMDNAGs
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2018
During this magical run by the Ramblers, they have kept a balanced attack on offense. In fact, the team’s leading scorer on Saturday night came off the bench. Senior forward Aundre Jackson had 16 points in 22 minutes. It is the most points Jackson has scored in a game this year since December 30 (18 against Evansville).
For Tennessee, it was a tough way for their season to end after going 13-5 in the SEC in the regular season. The Vols got out to a 15-6 lead thanks to the play of Admiral Schofield. But, Loyola-Illinois was able to get back in the game due to Schofield getting two fouls in the first nine minutes.
Loyola-Chicago will be taking on either Cincinnati or Nevada in the Sweet 16. If they bring the defense that has not allowed teams to score 70 points in eight straight games to Atlanta, there’s no reason why their run can’t continue. Give a lot of credit to Porter Moser, Sister Jean, and the Ramblers for providing some March magic in Dallas.
Duke’s Size Proves Too Big For Rhode Island
While some of the top freshmen are out of the tournament, Duke forward Marvin Bagley III keeps making his case to be the top pick in June’s draft. He was 8-for-10 from the floor and had 22 points to go with nine rebounds in Duke’s 87-62 win over Rhode Island.
The Blue Devils have been playing a zone defense over the last month that has been tough for the opposition to figure out. Rhode Island was no exception as they shot 39.7 percent from the floor for the game. The duo of Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. down low combined for 35 points and 15 rebounds in the win.
Duke had all five starters score in double figures and this was on an afternoon where Grayson Allen only had ten points. Despite Allen not lighting up the stat sheet, Gary Trent Jr. hit four trifectas (18 points) and Trevon Duval continued to jumpstart the offense with seven assists.
Right now, the Duke freshmen are finding their rhythm at the right time. They have dominated the first two games in this tournament and they will await Syracuse or Michigan State in the Sweet 16. It is clear they saw what happened with Virginia and didn’t want the same mistake to happen to them. They took a 28-14 lead halfway through the first half and did not look back
Bridges Steals Spotlight In Point Guard Battle
Heading into the first game of the day in Philadelphia, the spotlight on the Villanova-Alabama showdown was on the point guard battle between Jalen Brunson for ‘Nova and Colin Sexton for ‘Bama. Well, Mikal Bridges ended up stealing the afternoon with his second-half performance as ‘Nova won 81-58.
After scoring only a single point in the first half, the junior stepped up his game up a whole other level. He had 22 of the Wildcats’ 49 points in the second half and was 5-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Get hot, stay hot! ?
Bridges and the Wildcats have come alive in the second half! #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/MzgPAEFBqB
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 17, 2018
Villanova took a five-point lead into the locker room, but Bridges widened the lead by scoring fen of Nova’s next 12 points. While he didn’t have a steal, he did have two blocks and took good care of the basketball (one turnover in 26 minutes).
While Jalen Brunson only had 12 points, the Wildcats are able to get scoring from other players and that’s what makes them one of the best teams in the country. Donte DiVincenzo, who is one of the best sixth men in the country, had 18 points and hit five trifectas in 31 minutes.
In addition to the offensive success, Jay Wright’s club forced 15 turnovers, including five from Sexton. As a team, Alabama shot 41.7 percent, but they were outrebounded in terms of offensive rebounds (13-9). It remains to be seen what’s next for Sexton, but he will be a lottery pick if the freshman decides to declare for the NBA Draft.
As for Villanova, they are heading to Boston looking like the best team in the country and with the Haas injury to Purdue, they appear to have a clear path to San Antonio. However, don’t sleep on the three seed, Texas Tech, who survived a battle with Florida Saturday night. Their point guard, Keenan Evans, has 45 points in the first two games of the tourney.
Kentucky Flying Under The Radar?
If there’s one team that benefitted the most from Virginia going down on Friday, it is the (5) seed in the South, the Kentucky Wildcats. With the Cavaliers out of the mix, John Calipari’s squad has opened up their own path to at least the Elite Eight after their 95-75 win over (13) Buffalo in Boise.
After not making a single three-pointer against Davidson on Thursday, Kentucky was 7-for-15 as a team from downtown Saturday. However, their most success came when they would get the ball in the paint as evident by their 44 points in the paint and their 42-30 edge on the glass.
Each time Buffalo tried to make a comeback in the second half with their three-point shooting, Kentucky always seemed to have an answer. The backcourt duo of Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and Hamidou Diallo combined for 49 points and 14 rebounds in the win. Plus, Diallo had a great dunk to seal the deal:
HAMIDOU DIALLO WINDMILL AND THAT’S A HECK OF AN EXCLAMATION POINT
❗️❗️❗️(via @March Madness) pic.twitter.com/eeIdJftfDf
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) March 17, 2018
The unsung hero for Kentucky in this game came off the bench. Sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel had a double-double (16 points and 12 rebounds) and played 13 minutes in the first half with PJ Washington and Kevin Knox in foul trouble.
Now, Kentucky awaits either UMBC or Kansas State in the Sweet 16. The Wildcats have won five in a row and are playing their best basketball at the right time. In this NCAA Tournament, they have shown they could win in different ways and that’s always key to a deep run in March. But, the pressure is on the Wildcats now as one of the favorites, if not the favorite, in the South region.
Delgado Has Historic Game, But Kansas Survives
While Seton Hall’s upset bid against Kansas fell short in Wichita, 83-79, Kevin Willard’s team can leave Kansas with their heads held high as they made the Jayhawks sweat it out for the full 40 minutes. Plus, senior center Angel Delgado had a fantastic stat line when it was all set and done.
Delgado ended the night with 24 points, 23 rebounds, and five assists. Out of his 23 boards, nine of them were of the offensive variety. He joined some exclusive company with the 20-20 double-double that he put up:
Angel Delgado is the 5th player in the last 40 NCAA Tournaments with a 20-point, 20-rebound game. Three of the previous four were No. 1 overall picks (Duncan, Smith, Olajuwon). pic.twitter.com/Jmg7qQaDET
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 18, 2018
Seton Hall played some great defense against Devonte’ Graham, who was held to under ten points (eight) for the first time since January 27 against Texas A&M. However, Graham had nine assists and the supporting cast for Kansas found a way to make big plays in the second half.
One player in particular that stood out was sophomore guard Malik Newman. Newman had 28 points, made four of his eight trifectas, and made all eight of his free throws. The Mississippi State transfer has now scored 20 or more points in four of his last five games.
If Kansas is going to advance past the second weekend and into the Final Four, they will need Newman and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to continue to make big shots to take the pressure off of Graham. Plus, their center, Udoka Azubuike had ten points and seven boards in 22 minutes as he continues to get healthy.
While Seton Hall struggled at times to get their offense going, Khadeen Carrington got hot down the stretch and ended the game with 28 points and Myles Powell did chip in four trifectas as part of his 14 points.
With Carrington, Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, and Ismael Sanogo now done with their college careers, an era at Seton Hall has ended. Those four helped get Seton Hall to three straight NCAA Tournaments and that will not be forgotten in the tri-state area.