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While the first round of the NCAA Tournament was mostly free of upset carnage, the second round games would not be spared. Villanova and Florida State were the main victims yesterday, and even Florida surprised Virginia with the margin of victory in that contest.
Recap – Buffalo
West Virginia got off to a fast 10-0 start against Notre Dame in the first game of the day and were able to keep the Irish for getting no closer than 3 points for most of the day. They beat the Irish 83-71 and will take on Gonzaga in the West Region in San Jose next Thursday.
The biggest surprise from yesterday again involved Villanova. They reverted back to their old ways of stumbling in 2nd round games, and fell victim to a baseline runner by Nigel Hayes in the closing seconds of their 65-62 loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers move on to the East regional in New York and will face Florida on Friday.
Recap – Salt Lake City
The most controversial game took place in the game between Gonzaga and Northwestern. The Wildcats were in the process of cutting a 20-point deficit down to 5 points late in the 2nd half. However, on the ensuing Northwestern possession, a Gonzaga player stuck his hand through the rim and blocked Northwestern’s shot. Not only was goaltending NOT called, Chris Collins would get a technical for Northwestern after protesting the no-call. It completely changed the complexion of the game and allowed Gonzaga to survive with a 79-73 victory. The NCAA did concede in a written statement that there was a blown call. It was actually funny to see Collins’ facial expression in the postgame press conference while a moderator read the statement prior to Collins’ comments on the game.
In the nightcap, Arizona was able to hold off a late Saint Mary’s run and escaped with a 69-60 victory. While this denied us a potential Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s rematch in the West Region final, it does give us a Xavier-Arizona rematch from the Sweet 16 two years ago.
Recap – Orlando
If it weren’t for the Wisconsin win over Villanova, Xavier’s domination of Florida State would easily have ranked as the biggest upset of the day. The Musketeers were used to getting out to decent leads at halftime but lost a number of games this season after giving up a scoring run to the opposing team to the start of the 2nd half. This was a complete role reversal where Xavier extended their lead to 25 points and never let the Seminoles show any semblance of competitiveness in the final 20 minutes of the game. As mentioned earlier, Xavier’s reward is a trip to San Jose next Thursday to play Arizona in the West Regional.
As happy as Xavier fans were, Florida fans had to be even more elated. They played Virginia relatively even for the first 10 minutes of the game (it was a 13-13 tie at that point) and allowed the Hoos only 26 points in the game’s final 30 minutes. The Gators will advance to the East Regional in New York and will play Wisconsin on Friday.
Recap – Milwaukee
10-0. That is Butler’s record as the higher-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament after their 74-65 win over Middle Tennessee last night. The Blue Raiders got within 3 points at the 4-minute mark in the 2nd half, but never got any closer after a 3-pointer from Butler’s Andrew Chrabascz with 3:29 remaining in the game. Butler moves on to the South Regional in Memphis and will play the winner of today’s North Carolina-Arkansas game.
The best game of the day from an entertainment standpoint was the finale between Purdue and Iowa State. The Boilermakers led by as many as 19 points with 14:30 to play, but the Cyclones went on a 34-13 run to take a 2-point lead with under 3 minutes to play. Purdue never panicked and were able to reclaim the lead on the ensuing possessions. Despite a missed free throw in the closing seconds, Purdue got an offensive rebound and were able to hit 2 final free throws to seal an 80-76 win against Iowa State. Purdue advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 7 years and will play the Kansas/Michigan State winner in the Midwest Regional in Kansas City on Thursday night.
TODAY’S SECOND ROUND MATCHUPS
(7) MICHIGAN VS (2) LOUISVILLE (12:10 PM, Indianapolis, IN – CBS). This is a rematch of the 2013 national championship game and although the stakes aren’t quite that high, they’re still pretty damn high. Michigan really caught fire in the Big Ten Tournament and has been playing at a high level ever since. Louisville has been pretty solid throughout the year, but their biggest wins have come at home so this is hardly a shoe-in for the Cardinals.
(10) WICHITA STATE VS (2) KENTUCKY (2:40 PM, Indianapolis, IN – CBS). Wichita State won a defensive struggle against Dayton and to have any sort of a chance today they’ll need to get their offense cranking. Kentucky outlasted Northern Kentucky and had some offensive struggles of their own. This is a popular upset pick and whether or not it happens it will be fun to see what Wichita’s defense can do against Kentucky’s athleticism.
(9) MICHIGAN STATE VS (1) KANSAS (5:15 PM, Tulsa, OK – CBS). Had Michigan State played as well all season as they did in their First Round game against the Miami Hurricanes, they would not be on the #9 line. This is a program that has a history of advancing deep into the tournament as a lower seed and Kansas is having their own off-the-court issues, so an upset is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Despite all their issues, Kansas is playing at a very high level.
(8) ARKANSAS VS (1) NORTH CAROLINA (6:10 PM, Greenville, SC – TNT). UNC absolutely trashed Texas Southern on Friday and as good as Arkansas is, they still appear to be overmatched in this one. I never want to say that an upset is impossible, but the Razorbacks will have to play their best game of the year to pull this off. This is also a rematch from their 2nd round matchup in 2015 where North Carolina came out a winner.
(11) RHODE ISLAND VS (3) OREGON (7:10 PM, Sacramento, CA – TBS). Oregon was a Final Four caliber team prior to losing Chris Boucher in the Pac-12 conference tournament. Rhode Island has played really well since the start of the Atlantic Ten Tournament and quite frankly should have been playing that well all year. If they had, they’d have done much better than a #11 seed. Having said that, had they played like this all year they probably end up as a #6 seed and end up in this game anyway. An upset is likely if Rhody plays as well as they have been, but don’t count Oregon out entirely because even though they’re not at full strength they’ve still looked pretty good.
(11) USC VS (3) BAYLOR (7:45 PM, Sacramento, CA – TruTV). USC beat a very good SMU team in the Round of 64 and denied us what would have been an intriguing regional match-up between two former Southwest Conference rivals. USC has been hot and cold this year and I don’t see them having quite enough to take down Baylor, but we’ll see how it comes out.
(7) SOUTH CAROLINA VS (2) DUKE (8:40 PM, Greenville, SC – TNT). DUKE AND CAROLINA ARE FINALLY MEETING IN THE TOURNAMENT!! Oh, wait. Wrong Carolina. Duke has been red hot since they began play in the ACC Tournament and South Carolina will really have to play over their heads in order to pull off the upset. Having said that, the game is right in their backyard (not to mention that any remaining North Carolina fans will be cheering for them) and the Gamecocks are coming off one of their more impressive showings of the year, so it’s not a given for the Blue Devils.
-#6 CINCINNATI VS #3 UCLA (9:40 PM, Sacramento, CA – TBS). Cincinnati had an incredibly impressive performance against a K-State team who had been playing pretty well. UCLA wrestled with Kent State a little bit but blew it open in the final ten minutes of their game. On the court this one should be interesting. We’ve got Cincinnati’s strong defense, and UCLA’s amazing offense. Cincinnati was able to score against Kansas State and they should be able to today as well. This is just a great match-up.