Could Fairleigh Dickinson be the greatest Cinderella story in NCAA tournament history?
USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerbeg breaks down why Fairleigh Dickinson has a chance to be the greatest Cinderella story in NCAA tournament history.
When Sunday’s NCAA tournament business closes, the men’s Sweet 16 will be set while the women will have half of the Sweet 16 field decided.
Already two No. 1 seeds have been knocked out on the men’s side, highlighted by No. 1 Purdue’s stunning loss to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson. Now FDU aims to do what no 16-seed has ever done: Reach the Sweet 16.
The Knights will try to make it happen Sunday (7:45 p.m. ET, truTV) against Florida Atlantic, a potent mid-major that’s 32-3 on the year after its dramatic win over Memphis. But first, No. 11 Pitt and No. 3 Xavier get the party started at 12:10 p.m. ET on CBS.
The women’s action gets going with the defending champs, as No. 1 South Carolina tries to move to 34-0 against South Florida (1 p.m. ET, ABC). Iowa standout Caitlin Clark then takes the national stage in the next game on ABC has her No. 2 Hawkeyes take on No. 10 Georgia.
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MEN’S TOURNAMENT: Complete scores and schedule
WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT: Complete scores and schedule
SATURDAY’S PLAY: Catch up on all the men’s, women’s action
The Musketeers, for the first time since the 2016-17 season, are headed to the Sweet Sixteen.
No. 3 Xavier (27-9) had all five starters reach double figures in scoring in a fairly comfortable 84-73 victory against No. 11 Pittsburgh. The Panthers (24-12) had been a second-half team all season long and closed the deficit to eight points late in the second half, but they left themselves too much work to overcome.
Xavier forward Jack Nunge led the way with 18 points and three rebounds, though he fouled out with 3:19 left in the game. With reserve guard Desmond Claude chipping in another 11, Xavier actually had six players reach double figures in scoring.
Xavier controlled the game in most major offensive categories: the Musketeers recorded assists on 22 of their 30 field goal attempts, compared to Pittsburgh’s 11 assists; they were more efficient from the floor, shooting 47.6% on 30-of-63 shooting, compared to Pittsburgh’s shooting 38.6%; and Xavier outrebounded Pittsburgh 44-41.
This marked Xavier’s 16th game this season with 20 or more assists, which is most in D-I this season. Xavier will now face No. 2 Texas on Friday in the Midwest bracket.
After a first quarter largely controlled by South Florida, No. 1 South Carolina took charge in the second quarter to take a 33-29 lead at halftime in their second-round matchup.
Aliyah Boston led the Gamecocks in scoring with nine points, as the team controlled the boards by outrebounding the Bulls 23-16, including 10 offensive rebounds. South Carolina also got the free throw line, going 8-for-12 from the line, while South Florida went 1-for-2.
South Florida’s Elena Tsineke leads all scorers with 12 points, half of which came from behind the 3-point line.
The Bulls jumped out to a 16-12 lead at the end first quarter before South Carolina took control of the second quarter, going on a 15-4 scoring run to lead by as much as seven in the quarter. South Florida ended the quarter on a 7-2 run to close the gap.
— Jordan Mendoza
There’s some history behind Dawn Staley’s outfit.
The South Carolina coach sported a Cheyney State jersey for Sunday’s second-round game against South Florida. Cheyney State played in the very first women’s NCAA tournament in 1982 despite then being a Division II team.
Coached by Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer, Cheyney State made it all the way to the title game that year before losing to Louisiana Tech. Cheney State is still the only HBCU to reach a Division I Final Four, doing it again in 1984.
— Nancy Armour
In their Round of 64 victory against No. 6 Iowa State, No. 11 Pittsburgh allowed 41 points in the entire game. In the Round of 32, it’s a different story. No. 3 Xavier had scored 42 points by the 5:01 mark … of the first half. The Musketeers have opened up a 48-34 lead at the half on a torrid 19-of-36 performance (52.8%) from the field.
One big part of the difference has been beyond the arc, where Xavier has converted half of its 14 attempts. In particular, guard Adam Kunkel is on fire, going a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point range, with a team-high 15 points. Forward Jack Nunge is right behind him, chipping in 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
The Panthers started hot but then cooled off, getting outscored by a margin of 27-16 to close the half. Making matters even more concerning for Pittsburgh, Xavier guard Souley Boum, who led the Musketeers this season with 16.5 points per game, has yet to score a single point and is 0-of-6 from the field.
The first game of the day, a matchup in the men’s bracket between No. 11 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Xavier, tipped off just after noon Sunday. And if the offensive pace to start is any indication of what is to come the rest of the day, scoring will be on display.
The Musketeers were the leading scoring team in the Big East this season and have separated themselves from Pittsburgh midway through the first half, opening a 28-18 lead. Xavier ripped off a 14-3 run and is shooting 57.1% from the field on 12-of-21 attempts. Guard Colby Jones and forward Jack Nunge each have eight points to lead the Musketeers.
Pittsburgh is shooting 7-of-16 from the field, at a clip of 46.7%.
The matchup also provides an interesting bit of nostalgia and familiarity as Xavier head coach Sean Miller starred as a guard for the Panthers from 1987-92, where he started 124 of the 128 games in which he played.
All season long, this promised to be the most wide-open NCAA men’s tournament in a generation. The bluebloods weren’t as blue. The top-ranked teams had obvious flaws. The combination of an extra COVID year for older players, an out-of-control transfer environment and a crop of freshmen that largely weren’t ready for prime time meant teams’ fortunes yo-yoed from game to game, week to week.
Now here we are, nearly done with the first weekend of March Madness, and there’s an important question to ask: Who is going to win the national championship?
Maybe it would be better to say it another way. If you’re still alive by Sunday night in this crazy tournament, go ahead and dare to dream. Even you, Princeton. It’s truly that up for grabs.
– Dan Wolken
No, you’re not seeing double.
Indiana and Miami will play each other in the second round of both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The men’s game is Sunday night in Albany, New York, while the women’s teams will face off Monday in Bloomington, Indiana.
“That’s awesome. I mean, what a great situation,” said Katie Meier, coach of the Miami women. “I know our athletic director was on a plane going back and forth with someone from Indiana as well.”
The NCAA doesn’t have a record of how many times schools have played each other in each of the tournaments, let alone in the same round. But suffice to say, it hasn’t happened often. Meier had been asked about the potential for the double dip ahead of Saturday’s game, but she didn’t want to answer and jinx herself. Good thing, as the Hurricanes fell behind by 17 before rallying to beat Oklahoma State.
Top-seeded Indiana had rolled earlier in the day while IU and Miami’s men’s teams both secured their spots Friday.
“We’re looking forward to playing Indiana,” Meier said, “and hopefully the ‘Canes come out on top in two.”
– Nancy Armour
This was a tournament to remember for the Ivy League even before Princeton’s men reached the second round.
This is the first year the Ivy’s teams have won first-round games in both tournaments. A day after the Princeton men stunned Arizona, the 10th-seeded Princeton women upset N.C. State on Friday night on a 3-pointer with seven seconds left.
“We were watching (the men) in the locker room right before practice,” Julia Cunningham said Friday night. “Watching them, all the coverage they are getting from the media, it was so well deserved. We looked at each other and thought, we’re next, now it’s our turn.
“It is special,” she added. “A special week to be a Tiger.”
– Nancy Armour
How many teams will you have in your Sweet 16? We’ll know who advances after Sunday’s eight-game slate featuring some of the highest seeds still standing after a wacky and unpredictable start to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
But we’ll all be paying close attention to the outlier, as No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson looks to build off Friday night’s historic upset of No. 1 Purdue with a second-round matchup against No. 9 Florida Atlantic.
Keep this in mind, though: Of the eight games played Sunday, six feature the highest possible seeds — No. 6 against No. 3, No. 5 against No. 4 and No. 7 against No. 2.
Here’s a list of Sunday’s games ranked by how watchable they are:
1. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic (7:45 p.m. ET)
2. No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 4 Connecticut (6:10)
3. No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Kansas State (2:40)
4. No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 Creighton (7:10)
5. No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 TCU (9:40)
6. No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Marquette (5:15)
7. No. 5 Miami vs. No. 4 Indiana (8:40)
8. No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 11 Pittsburgh (12:10)
– Paul Myerberg
With its upset of No. 1 seed Purdue, the Knights gave the Northeast Conference its first win in the first round of the NCAA men’s tournament in four decades. But the Knights wouldn’t be here without Merrimack, which won the conference title but was ineligible because of its shift to Division I – NCAA rules state a school must sit out four years after such a transition.
So Merrimack coach Joe Gallo and the rest of the team stayed home and watched Fairleigh Dickenson pick Purdue – and big man Zach Edey – apart. So is there jealousy among its Northeast foes?
“To quote my 6-year-old, ‘Dad, we beat them, so we want them to win,’ ” Gallo told CBS Sports. “People have also been tough on our league all year, so I’m happy for the win.”
– Heather Tucker
The UMBC Twitter account finally has a best friend. It’s the Farleigh Dickinson men’s basketball team’s Twitter account. What do they have in common? They both thrive in creating absolute chaos and busting brackets.
The UMBC Twitter account celebrated Fairleigh Dickinson’s victory over Purdue, which probably destroyed many NCAA men’s tournament brackets. The FDU Twitter account caught wind of this and declared their new friendship together.
It was always going to be hard for UMBC to find someone who understood it. After all, it’s not often that you get a 16 seed upsetting a 1 seed. UMBC was the first men’s program to do it when it knocked off No. 1 Virginia in 2018. But if there’s anyone who understands the feeling, it’s FDU.
— Mike D. Sykes II, For the Win
Houston entered the NCAA Tournament with the No. 1 ranking in the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, despite its loss in the American Athletic Conference championship game just prior to the unveiling of the brackets last Sunday.
The Cougars, who were playing without leading scorer Marcus Sasser in the loss to Memphis, retained 21 of 32 No. 1 votes to stave off second-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide received eight firsts after winning the SEC title in impressive fashion.
Houston handled Northern Kentucky in its first-round game and Auburn in its second-round game, while Alabama routed Texas A&M Corpus Christi in its tournament opener. The Crimson Tide knocked off No. 8 seed Maryland late Saturday.
— Eddie Timanus
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