More chaos ensued in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday as multiple high seeds were upset in the second round.
The best part about the NCAA Tournament is that it is impossible to predict everything that is going to happen. That was the case on Sunday as the upsets and the madness continued. There were upsets in terms of seeding in in five of the eight matchups that were played as teams like Xavier, North Carolina, Michigan State, and Cincinnati were all sent home early.
Meanwhile, the South region is completely wide open as to who will get out of Atlanta and make it to the Final Four in San Antonio. Of course, the top seed, Virginia, was already out after the first round. But, the seventh-seeded Nevada Wolfpack added to the madness when they erased a 22-point, second-half deficit against the No. 2 Cincinnati Bearcats in Nashville.
Since No. 3 Tennessee lost on Saturday and No. 4 Arizona lost on Thursday, there is some history with these top four seeds not heading to Atlanta for the Regionals
In the history of the tournament, there has never (I repeat NEVER) been a region that has featured none of the top 4 seeds in the Sweet 16. Until now. The South Region in Atlanta will feature (5) Kentucky, (11) Loyola Chicago, (7) Nevada and either (9) Kansas St. or (16) UMBC.
— David Worlock (@DavidWorlock) March 19, 2018
Meanwhile, Villanova is the only Big East team left standing. In the East region, (10) Butler took (2) Purdue to the wire in Detroit. But the Boilermakers held on for a 76-73 win without their big man, Isaac Haas. Vincent Edwards and Carsen Edwards combined for 33 points in the win with Haas relegated to spectator.
Xavier, the top seed in the West, took on No. 9 Florida State and was sent packing after the Seminoles pulled off the 75-70 upset. The Musketeers had an 11-point lead with 8:55 to go. But when J.P. Macura picked up his fourth foul, Florida State started their comeback that was capped by a PJ Savoy three-pointer with 1:12 left. It ends a great run at Xavier for Macura and Trevon Bluiett, who was held to just eight points.
With the Sweet 16 now officially set for Thursday and Friday, let’s take a look at some of my storylines from Sunday’s second round action:
Wolfpack Complete Wild Comeback Over Cincinnati
When Cincinnati had a 65-43 lead over Nevada with 11:51 left in the game, it looked like the Bearcats were going to head to Atlanta for the Sweet 16. But Eric Musselman’s team had other ideas. The Wolfpack went on a 33-10 run after that point as the Mountain West regular season champions march on.
With the score tied at 73, it was Josh Hall’s putback with nine seconds left that ended up being the game-winning basket. Hall’s basket capped a second half where Nevada shot 51.5 percent from the floor (17-for-33).
NEVADA TAKES THE LEAD!!!
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 19, 2018
After a great start to the game for Cincinnati, their leading scorer for the game, Jarron Cumberland, went ice cold in the second half as he made just two of his 12 shot attempts. When you consider Nevada made this comeback after only forcing seven turnovers for the game, it’s even more impressive.
The key for Nevada in the second half was the play of Cody Martin. Martin had a team-high 13 points and four assists as the Wolfpack forward finished the game with a team-high 25 points. Martin, who played all 40 minutes, hasn’t scored that many points in a game since he dropped 26 on Feb. 28 against UNLV.
In what is considered the battle of the underdogs, it will be Nevada going up against Loyola-Chicago on Thursday with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight. Only in March can you have that kind of matchup. With both teams winning their two games by single digits, it should be no surprise if this one is a nail-biter to the end.
Texas A&M Brings The Block Party To Charlotte
It’s hard enough to knock off the defending champions in the NCAA Tournament on the first weekend. It’s even tougher to do when North Carolina is basically playing a virtual home game in Charlotte. But, that’s what Texas A&M did yesterday in their 86-65 blowout win.
From the beginning of the game, North Carolina could not establish a rhythm from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels were 6-for-31 from beyond the arc with one of their leaders, point guard Joel Berry II, making only two of his ten attempted trifectas.
Once the three-pointers weren’t falling for North Carolina, the Aggies found a way to dominate the interior with their shot blocking. They had eight blocked shots with three of them coming from center Tyler Davis. Plus, they outrebounded North Carolina, 50-36.
While Texas A&M only went 9-9 in the SEC, they had some good wins in the non-conference over West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Penn State, and USC. They have a team that on any given night can beat anyone in the country with their size.
Next up for the seventh-seeded Aggies is a Sweet 16 matchup in Los Angeles against No. 3 Michigan on Thursday. With Moritz Wagner down low for the Wolverines, expect a good battle in the frontcourt between Wagner and Robert Williams, who had this highlight dunk:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2018
Orange’s Zone Defense Sends Them To Omaha
Syracuse’s trademark 2-3 zone defense has always been frustrating for opponents and Michigan State was no exception on Sunday. The Spartans shot just 8-for-37 from beyond the arc and went the last 5:43 of the game without making a basket.
After a great second half against Bucknell on Friday, Miles Bridges just could not get into a rhythm against Syracuse. He was just 4-for-18 from the floor and finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
It was odd for Tom Izzo to not use Jaren Jackson Jr. that much in this game. Jackson Jr., who is likely going to be a top-five pick if he declares for the draft, had just two points in 15 minutes. That’s the shortest time Jackson has spent on the court since the Big Ten Quarterfinals against Wisconsin (15 minutes).
The Orange also didn’t have much success on the glass as their 30 total rebounds were nearly outnumbered by Michigan State’s offensive rebound total (29). Their two big men, Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe, were in constant foul trouble. Despite that, Syracuse had three players score in double figures, including Tyus Battle’s game-high 17 points. The sophomore guard had the last four points of the game and he played all 40 minutes in the upset.
TYUS BATTLE WITH NO REGARD FOR YOUR BRACKET! pic.twitter.com/Wjbn3fiiAm
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2018
Syracuse will now head to Omaha for the Sweet 16 where they will face an ACC rival in Duke. The Blue Devils beat Syracuse 60-44 in Durham on Feb. 24 and have the size to dominate on the glass. However, if Duke doesn’t hit their three-pointers, Syracuse could pull off another upset.
Clemson Makes Statement With Blowout Win
When you think of a matchup between Clemson and Auburn, football is the sport that usually comes to mind. When these two schools played a football game back in September, Clemson won 14-6.
On Sunday night, it was Clemson that won the battle of the Tigers but by a much larger margin than you’d see in football as they smoked Auburn by a final score of 84-53. Clemson held Bruce Pearl’s team to the fewest points they have scored all season long.
While Clemson may seem like a surprise as the five seed in the Midwest, keep in mind that they went 11-7 in the ACC (tied for third in the conference) and ended up finishing in the top 20 of the AP poll.
Brad Brownell’s team had four players score in double figures, but one name to keep an eye on is senior guard Gabe Devoe. Devoe has scored 22 points in each of the first two games for Clemson and he was 6-for-9 from downtown in yesterday’s win.
Clemson’s next test will be on Friday night in Omaha when they take on the top seed, the Kansas Jayhawks. If Clemson is going to win the game, their defense has to stay locked in. This season, the Tigers gave up 65.9 points per game, which were the third fewest of any team in the ACC (only Virginia and Syracuse game up fewer).
So, while you may look at Clemson as a football team, the basketball team is finding their own version of success and they should not be slept on as they reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997. Give a lot of credit to the ACC for having four teams left in the field (Big 12 has four also).
Cinderella Story Ends For UMBC
In a matchup that no one could have possibly predicted heading into the NCAA Tournament, the 16 seed UMBC Retrievers took on the Kansas State Wildcats (nine seed). It was a game where both teams had long shooting droughts, but Kansas State ended the Cinderella story, 50-43.
The Retrievers couldn’t find the same shooting magic that they had against Virginia as they shot 29.2 percent from the floor and only got 12 points from the star of the first round, Jairus Lyles.
If you like defense, this game was for you as the two teams combined to turn it over 35 times and they had 24 steals. While the Wildcats only scored 50 points, 18 of them came from junior Barry Brown. Brown has scored exactly 18 points in three of his last five games.
While UMBC was able to force turnovers, they were unable to capitalize on those opportunities. On the 18 turnovers that they forced, they only scored three points and only 14 of their 43 points came in the paint.
While Kansas State gets to move on to face Kentucky in the battle of the Wildcats on Thursday, the UMBC story is one that will be remembered for a long time. The Retrievers should be proud of what they accomplished as they nearly made even more history on Sunday night.