March Madness got Madder still on Friday. A day after two #11 seeds and two #12 seeds advanced, we saw a #15-, #13-, #11- and #10-seed advance. According to ESPN, after Friday’s action, there were just 6 perfect brackets, out of some 13 million. By the time you read this, that number could well have fallen to zero.
#15 Middle Tennessee (25-9, 13-5 CUSA) @ #10 Syracuse (20-13, 9-9 ACC) (6:10pm ET Sunday, TNT) The Blue Raiders shocked the world Friday, beating Michigan State 90-81, becoming just the eighth 15-seed to advance to the second round. “We didn’t guard them good, but man, they made some shots,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said afterward. Middle Tennessee hit 55.9% of their shots, in fact, including 11 of 19 from three-point land, in a game in which they never trailed and all five starters scored in double figures.
A year after a self-imposed tournament ban due to previous academic violations, the Orangemen finished their regular season with losses in four of five games, and then got bounced in the first round of the ACC tournament, but on Friday they overwhelmed the 7-seed Dayton Flyers, outscoring them 40-23 in the second half on their way to a 70-51 victory. Michael Gbinije, who’d been Syracuse’s leading scorer this season, had an off night, scoring just 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting, but Malachi Richardson scored a game-high 21, and Tyler Roberson scored 10 points and pulled down 18 rebounds.
#13 Hawaii (28-5, 13-3 Big West) @ #5 Maryland (26-8, 12-6 Big Ten) (7:10pm ET Sunday, TBS) Not to take anything away from the Hawaii Warriors, but this game was lost pretty much before it started, as the Cal Bears’ were without the services of star guard Tyrone Wallace, who’d broken his hand in practice, and Jabari Bird, who was struck low with back spasms. Cal stayed close in the first half, and was down just 3 midway through the second half, but from their Hawaii slowly drifted away, outscoring them 28-20 in the final 10 minutes. Senior guard Quincy Smith led the Warriors in scoring with 19 points, making 6 of 8 from the floor, and 7 of 8 from the line.
The Maryland Terrapins narrowly avoided joining a host of other 5-seeds in the dustbin of NCAA tournament history. The Terps built themselves a hearty 12-point lead at the half, only to let the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to pull within 2 points with just 63 seconds on the clock, before making 5 of 6 free throws to hold their foes at bay. Jake Layman led all scorers with 27, making 5 of 8 from for three, and hitting all 8 free throw attempts. Maryland had the hot hands Friday, making 51% from the floor, 39% from three and 89% from the charity stripe. South Dakota State shot 41%, 35% and 94% – teams shooting that well in the previous five tournaments have gone 11-5.
#11 Northern Iowa (23-12, 11-7 MVC) @ #3 Texas A&M (27-8, 13-5 SEC) (7:40pm ET Sunday, truTV) Oh mercy… Having frittered away an 8-point halftime lead, the Northern Iowa Panthers found themselves tied 72-72 with the Texas Longhorns. Matt Bohannon inbounded the ball to Paul Jesperson with 2.7 seconds on the clock, Jesperson dribbled to halfcourt, squared up to shoot, the ball leaving his hand with 1.6 seconds to play, which was almost exactly the time needed for the ball to rip through the net, giving the Panthers a 75-72 victory.
Unlike so many other overdogs, the Texas A&M Aggies took care of business, trouncing Green Bay 92-65, by outshooting them 56% to 38%, and outrebounding them 45-25. The Aggies had five guys score in double figures, led by Danuel House’s 20. After a brutal February that included a four-game losing streak, the Aggies have been white hot, going 9-1, their sole loss coming in overtime against Kentucky in the SEC final.
#7 Wisconsin (21-12, 12-6 Big Ten) @ #2 Xavier (28-5, 14-4 Big East) (8:40pm ET Sunday, TNT) The Wisconsin Badgers emerged victorious in what was almost certainly the ugliest game of the tournament thus far, 47-43 win over Pitt, in which the two teams combined to shoot 35% from the floor, 23% from three-point land, and managed only a dozen assists. The Badgers’ 47 points matched the lowest total for a winner all season. Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ were the heroes of the game, making a combined 10 of 15 for 26 points, as the rest of the team made 7 of 38 (18%) for 21 points. Ugh.
Teams getting to the line only 4 times in a game had gone 13-63 this season, but Xavier made all for freebies on their way to a 71-53 win over Weber State in their opening round game Thursday. It was senior forward James Farr who came off the bench to make all four Xavier free throws, on his way to a game-high 18 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Xavier scored the first basket of the game, a Trevon Bluiett 3-pointer, and never looked back, heading into halftime with an 11-point lead that ballooned to 71-53 victory.
#8 Saint Joseph’s (28-7, 13-5 A-10)@ #1 Oregon (29-6, 14-4 Pac 12) (9:40pm ET Sunday, TBS) Saint Joseph’s survived what appeared to be a game-tying dunk with one-tenth of a second left on the clock to beat the Cincinnati Bearcats 78-76. Saint Joseph’s had a 10-point lead midway through the second half, but the Bearcats clawed their way back, eventually taking a 76-75 lead with 16 seconds to play. Isaiah Miles of St. Joe’s responded with a 3 to take the lead, and then Cincy’s Octavius Ellis went up to throw down a game-tying dunk, that to the naked eye had sent the game into OT, but after a lengthy review, it was determined that the ball was still on Ellis’ fingertips as the clock struck zero. Rough.
The Holy Cross Crusaders awoke from their March-long dream to get smoked 91-52 by the Oregon Ducks in the first round. The Ducks’ Chris Boucher led the team in scoring with 20, while Elgin Cook chipped in with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists, as Oregon dominated every facet of the game, outshooting (56%-36%), outrebounding (44-28), outpassing (15-6) and outblocking (6-2) the Crusaders. But then, this is the outcome one should expect in a matchup between a 16-seed and a 1-seed.