March Madness went ahead and went, well, mad on Saturday in the first day of Round 2 action to kickstart the weekend. One day after No. 1 seed Purdue got booted to the curb by No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, a second No. 1 seed got sent packing – and it was a big one as reigning champion Kansas fell to No. 8 seed Arkansas in a stunner. The Jayhawks led or were tied for all but 114 seconds of the 2,400 played across two halves of action, but it wasn’t doing so as the clock struck zeroes in a 72-71 loss thanks to a string of Razorbacks free throws in crunch time.
And get this: that wasn’t even the most surprising result of the day.
No. 15 seed Princeton punching its ticket to the Sweet 16 was, by point spread, the real shocker of Saturday’s slate. Princeton knocked off No. 7 seed Missouri 78-63 to become the fourth 15 seed to get to the Sweet 16 in tourney history, giving us our first official Cinderella story of the year. The Sweet 16 berth marked Princeton’s first in 56 years (!!) – 18 years before tourney expansion – and gave the Ivy League its first team dancing into the Sweet 16 since Cornell did it in 2010.
That’s just a sliver of the goods Saturday delivered as we cleared the halfway mark of the second round. The rest – in winners and losers fashion – is detailed below.
Let’s dive in.
No. 1 overall seed Alabama looked every bit the part of the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament in a dominant, runaway 73-51 win over No. 8 seed Maryland. The Tide have run it up on teams all season in SEC play and they did the same against the Terps, outscoring them 45-28 in the second half to distance themselves en route to a Sweet 16 berth. Freshman star Brandon Miller contributed 19 points after being held scoreless in the first round and Jahvon Quinerly led all scorers with 22 points. The win moved Alabama to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons under coach Nate Oats after failing to do so in 16 years leading up to 2021.
Vegas knows, folks. Vegas always knows. That might be the takeaway here from No. 1 seed Kansas’ second-round loss Saturday to No. 8 seed Arkansas. The Jayhawks were the shortest favorite for a No. 1 seed in the second round in nearly three decades – favored by only 3.5 points without the services of Hall of Fame coach Bill Self – and it ended with a season-ending 72-71 loss to Arkansas in a stunner. The loss guaranteed at least two No. 1 seeds would not see the second weekend of the Big Dance after No. 1 seed Purdue on Friday fell in the first round to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, in what is the biggest upset in tourney history.
“It was a tough game. A battle,” KU interim coach Norm Roberts said. “It was tough not having Coach here. But we don’t make any excuses. We have to line up and get it done, and we came up a little bit short today.”
In about as close to a road game as you can get in a second-round NCAA Tournament game, No. 1 seed Houston held off No. 9 seed Auburn in Birmingham, Alabama, to punch its Sweet 16 ticket in style with a 81-64 win. The Cougars looked to be on shaky ground entering the second round with Marcus Sasser dealing with a groin injury and Jamal Shead playing through a knee injury, but they flexed their depth in a big way with Tramon Mark turning in a career-high 26 points to lead them to a win.
Auburn played Houston tight deep into the second half and had a lead that grew to as many as 10 in the game, but, as they have done several times this season, they ran out of steam late and succumbed to several big Houston runs that helped put the game on ice. With No. 1 seed Purdue losing Friday and No. 1 seed Kansas losing Saturday, the Cougars – betting favorites to win it all entering the tournament – survived and advanced and saw their chances to win it all open up even more.
Without injured defensive star Jaylen Clark and with big man Adem Bona dealing with a shoulder injury, No. 2 seed UCLA kept it moving into the Sweet 16 with an impressive 68-63 win over No. 7 seed Northwestern thanks to an elite defensive showing late. The Bruins held Northwestern to 2-of-12 shooting to end the game and got some major performances from its stars to boot, with Jaime Jaquez Jr. carrying them with 24 points and eight boards. Amari Bailey stayed hot with 14 points and six dimes and David Singleton also made some big shots late before turning his ankle.
No. 13 seed Furman’s bid to be this year’s Cinderella story in March Madness struck midnight Saturday as No. 5 San Diego State dominated the Paladins from start to finish in a 75-52 win to advance to the Sweet 16. The Aztecs started slow but roared out to a 14-point lead at halftime that ballooned to as many as 26 in the second half as they cruised into the reginal semifinals. Furman was a feel-good story in the first round after taking down No. 4 seed Virginia but it struggled against SDSU’s havoc-wreaking defense, committing nine turnovers and shooting a woeful 16-of-50 from the field. The Paladins struggled to slow SDSU’s balanced offensive attack, too, with four Aztecs – led by Micah Parrish‘s 16 points – finishing in double figures on the afternoon.
“We prepared hard, we knew they were good, and then we played a really good game today on both ends of the floor,” said SDSU coach Brian Dutcher after the game. “We hang our hat on defense. That’s what we do every game. When we get the opportunity to start making shots and play good offensively, then we’re very good.”
Tennessee trailed off down the stretch run of the season and lost point guard Zakai Zeigler while Duke entered Saturday on a 10-game winning streak as one of – if not the – hottest team in college basketball. So go figure: the Vols smoked the Blue Devils 65-52 to advance into the Sweet 16 in a game that wasn’t all that close late.
Tennessee’s stifling defense got the better of Duke and its talent-heavy roster in limiting Duke to a season-low 52 points in the win. The Vols forced 15 turnovers and converted those into 18 points in their column, which was effectively the difference in the game.
“We love offense, we love high-scoring, entertaining basketball, but clearly the defensive fortitude and effort and execution by Tennessee, complemented by timely and good offense [was the difference],” said CBS Sports analyst Clark Kellogg.
Vols wing Olivier Nkamhoua was the breakout star of the session after overcoming a 4-point first-half to explode for 23 points – including a stretch where he scored 13 straight – in the second half. He finished with 27 points, five boards and one heckuva highlight reel finish to cap off a sensational day.
No. 7 seed Missouri forced 10 or more turnovers in every game this season. Until Saturday. No. 15 seed Princeton turned it over just nine times against Mizzou’s relentless pressure on its way to a dominant 78-63 win over its SEC foe. With the win, Princeton became just the fourth Ivy League team to reach the Sweet 16 in the modern era and the first since Cornell in 2010. Equally as impressive was how Princeton dominated on the glass with a 19-2 edge in second-chance points. After beating Arizona on Thursday and taking out Mizzou, Princeton hardly feels like an underdog anymore. The Tigers are a confident, fundamentally sound bunch marching into the Sweet 16.
A dream run to the Big Ten Tournament title game and a first-round NCAA Tournament win for Penn State came to an end in Round 2 vs. No. 2 seed Texas as the 10th-seeded Nittany Lions fell 71-66. Penn State hung around to the end and briefly led in the final minutes, but Texas – which punched its first ticket to the Sweet 16 since 2008 – turned the cruise control on to make six of its final six field goal attempts in separating down the stretch.
“I thought our guys came in and competed at a very high level,” said UT coach Rodney Terry. “This has been a very resilient group all year long. Basketball is a game of runs. I think this team has done this at a very high level since January 1.”
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