Yesterday’s 2nd-round games started slowly with Villanova and Duke beating Alabama and Rhode Island (respectively) in blowout fashion, but the evening games did not disappoint. In Boise, Gonzaga jumped out to a fast start against Ohio State with a 15-point lead. The Buckeyes didn’t panic – they gradually whittled the lead away and led by as many as 5 points with 5 minutes to play. Unfortunately for Ohio State, they ran out of gas and Gonzaga made one final run to win 90-84. Kentucky also took Buffalo’s best punch and were able to keep the Bulls at arm’s length throughout the game and won 95-75 to advance to the South Regional in what is sure to become Cat-lanta next weekend.
One team that will be joining UK in Atlanta will be the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago; they had another game-winning shot in the closing seconds (courtesy of Clayton Custer) and won 63-62 after Tennessee missed a buzzer-beater of their own. Texas Tech and Florida also had a close game in the nightcap in Dallas, but the Red Raiders held off Florida and beat the Gators 69-66 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005.
A heroic 24-point, 23-rebound performance from Angel Delgado wasn’t quite enough for Seton Hall to overcome Kansas in a de facto road environment in Wichita. The Pirates were able to cut the deficit to 3 points in the final seconds, but the Jayhawks were able to put their game away late with clutch free throws and advanced to the Sweet 16 with an 83-79 victory. Free throws were not as kind to Houston in the nightcap – Devin Davis missed two free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining for the Cougars. Michigan rebounded the final miss and Jordan Poole hit a buzzer-beating 3 to send the Wolverines on to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season. They will advance to the West Regional and play either North Carolina or Texas A&M.
(10) BUTLER VS. (2) PURDUE (12:10 PM, CBS). The big story for this one will be the health status of Isaac Haas – he did practice with the Boilermakers after suffering a fractured elbow in their win against Cal State-Fullerton on Friday. His elbow is in a cast, but it is unlikely he will be cleared to play in this game. Butler will be looking for revenge from their Crossroads Classic matchup in December where they were blown out by Purdue.
(11) SYRACUSE VS. (3) MICHIGAN STATE (approx. 2:40 PM, CBS). Syracuse’s win against TCU on Friday night ensured the 8th straight year that a team from the First Four in Dayton would advance to the Round of 32. The Spartans (outside of a pair of losses against Michigan) have been almost unbeatable for the past 2 months and figure to have a huge home-court advantage about an hour away from campus.
(7) TEXAS A&M VS. (2) NORTH CAROLINA (5:10 PM, CBS). It’s rare that you see a team on the 2-line with 10 total losses, but North Carolina has had a number of quality wins (home and away) throughout the regular season. Texas A&M started off the year strong with their victory against West Virginia in Germany, but were inconsistent throughout the regular season while dealing with injuries and suspensions. History tells us that Carolina has had tough 2nd round games in recent years, but they will be tough to beat in what will likely be an even bigger home crowd after Virginia’s early exit.
(16) MARYLAND-BALTIMORE COUNTY VS. (8) KANSAS STATE (approx. 7:40 PM, TruTV). Jairus Lyles and UMBC have had quite the week – it started with a buzzer-beating shot to win the America East Championship at Vermont the previous week, and culminated with a shockingly easy win against top overall seed Virginia in their opener on Friday. They will look to continue their Cinderella ways against a Kansas State team that also had a surprisingly easy victory against Creighton in their opener on Friday night.
(7) NEVADA VS. (2) CINCINNNATI (6:10 PM, TNT). The Bearcats started slow against Georgia State on Friday afternoon, but were able to wear down the Panthers in the 2nd half and won fairly comfortably. In contrast, Nevada trailed for virtually all of regulation before forcing overtime and outlasting Texas in their opener. The winner here will play Loyola-Chicago in the South Region next Thursday.
(9) FLORIDA STATE AT (1) XAVIER (approx. 8:40 PM, TNT). While the Seminoles hammered Missouri into submission in their opener, they did lose Terence Mann to injury and he will be questionable as to whether or not he will play tonight. Xavier has their own injury issue with Naji Marshall and a strained back, and will need the benefit of a deep bench to contend with a Florida State team that will be looking for revenge for last season’s blowout loss in the 2nd round of last season’s tournament.
(5) CLEMSON VS. (4) AUBURN (7:10 PM, TBS). While this is normally a nice rivalry in college football season, both teams will be playing for a rare trip to the Sweet 16 in the first game in San Diego today. Clemson will be playing for their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1997; Auburn has not made it to the Sweet 16 since 2003 (and that was a team that many people felt should not have made the field to begin with).
(13) MARSHALL VS. (5) WEST VIRGINIA (approx. 9:40 PM, TBS). This wasn’t the rivalry that fans and Hoops HD staff members were originally clamoring for prior to the bracket being unveiled last week, but this will be the first time the Thundering Herd and Mountaineers will renew their in-state rivalry in postseason play. John Elmore has become a folk hero for Marshall fans; the Mountaineers will have a huge advantage in terms of postseason experience, however.