The Sweet 16
6-2 Tournament Weekend!
Sunday, March 18
50 Units…Northern Colorado (-7) 81, Drake 72 (Won)
25 Units…Syracuse (+9.5) 55, Michigan State 53 (Won)
25 Units…MD-Baltimore County (+10.5) 45, Kansas State 50 Won)
25 Units…Middle Tennessee (+5) 68, Louisville 84 (Lost)
Saturday, March 17
50 Units…Loyola-Chicago (+4.5) 63, Tennessee 62 (Won)
25 Units…Gonzaga (-4) 90, Ohio State 84 (Won)
25 Units…Texas Tech (-1.5) 69, Florida 66 (Won)
25 Units…Kansas (-4.5) 83, Seton Hall 79 (Lost)
THE SWEET 16
SOUTH - at Atlanta, GA
On Thursday, it's ... Loyola-Chicago vs. Nevada (7:07 p.m. ET); Kansas State vs. Kentucky (approximately 9:37 p.m. ET)
#5 KENTUCKY (26-10) - Who needs an experienced team? This typically freshman-loaded UK Wildcats club slithered past Davidson in Round I and then pummeled an overmatched/outsized Buffalo team in Round II and gotta say that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (27 points/6 assists/6 rebounds against the Bulls) might wind up making this NCAA Tourney his private playpen by the time we're all done.
#7 NEVADA (29-7) - The Wolf Pack's epic comeback from a 22-point second-half deficit against Cincinnati was made possible by the fact the UC Bearcats didn't hit a single field goal in the game's final 5:45! Twins Caleb and Cody Martin combined for 35 points in that Sunday stunner and they read each other's minds down the stretch.
#9 KANSAS STATE (24-11) - Gotta say the K-State Wildcats were in a no-win situation in Sunday's 50-43 non-cover win against 10-point pup UMBC but some grabby "D" (UMBC shot less than 30 percent for the game) and big plays by Xavier Sneed proved to be the winning formula for a Big 12 club that continues to operate below the NCAA Tourney radar.
#11 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (30-5) - Love how the TNT/TBS/TruTv post-game crew has been calling this team the "Fighting Sister Jeans" in honor of the most photographed non-player/non-coach in this tourney ... only divine intervention could have landed that bounding ball in the hoop for G Clayton Custer at the end of last Saturday's 63-62 winner against Tennessee - yes, one of many weekend winners by the Jim Hurley Network!!!
EAST - at Boston, MA
On Friday, it's ... West Virginia vs. Villanova (7:27 p.m. ET); Texas Tech vs. Purdue (approximately 9:57 p.m. ET)
#1 VILLANOVA (32-4) - Don't ask us why it took the Wildcats a little more than half the game to get heated up against Alabama last Saturday but that storm-like surge soon after intermission was something to behold as Mikal Bridges (23 points including five triples) was merely unconscious but let's see how many open looks he gets against West Virginia.
#2 PURDUE (30-6) - Boiler Up! This Big 10 team survived-and-advanced without injured C Isaac Haas and his broken elbow but what were the odds that backup F/C Matt Haarms would deliver an underrated 7-point, 6-rebound/solid defense in the paint game en route to the 76-73 non-cover win against Butler in the Round of 32? We'll be on top of the news as to whether or not Haas can play against T-Tech but right now odds are against it.
#3 TEXAS TECH (26-9) - Okay, so you saw those buzzer-beating wins by Loyola and Michigan, but what about the T-Tech Red Raiders who dodged two late-game shots that would have forced overtime in that 69-66 win/cover against Florida? Maybe the Techsters didn't defend great in those closing seconds but overall perimeter defense was stout against the Gators who shot just 6-of-22 beyond the arc. Also, can everyone stop asking about the toe of Tech's Keenan Evans (22 points in 32 minutes) ... the kid is perfectly fine!
#5 WEST VIRGINIA (26-10) - If senior G Jevon Carter isn't one of the top three players thus far in this man's tourney, then we don't know what we're watching! The do-everything leader of the Mountaineers snuffed out in-state "rival" Marshall with a stat line that featured 28 points/5 assists/5 steals/4 rebounds and only one turnover in 29 minutes. Sneaky feeling he may be the best player on the floor when WVU challenges 'Nova on Friday night.
WEST - at Los Angeles, CA
On Thursday, it's ... Texas A&M vs. Michigan (7:35 p.m. ET); Florida State vs. Gonzaga (approximately 10:05 p.m. ET)
#3 MICHIGAN (30-7) - Maybe the Jordan Poole's heroic three-pointer that beat Houston late/late Saturday night was the shot of the tourney so far but the maize-and-blue are thanking their lucky stars for those three late-game missed free throws by the Coogs and for the fact Michigan made it to another Sweet 16 despite its starters going 15-of-44 from the floor. No way is that gonna work against Texas A&M, boys.
#4 GONZAGA (32-4) - All hail the 'Zags for that electric 11-0 scoring run after Ohio State had swiped a temporary lead in last Saturday's 90-84 win/cover. Okay, so new star-of-stars Zach Norvell, Jr. drained six trifectas en route to a 28-point game but G Josh Perkins (8 assists) was an underrated second-round hero.
#7 TEXAS A&M (22-12) - Talk about a team that put on its "big boy pants" for this tourney so far: The Aggies overcome an embarrassingly bad start to beat Providence in the opening round and then lambasted 7.5-point fav North Carolina 86-65 as windmill dunks, clean open-court steals and rock-hard defense won the day as 6-foot-10 Tyler Davis (18 points/9 rebounds) showed he's ready for the "next level".
#9 FLORIDA STATE (22-11) - Let's face it: This was an opening week of monumental comeback wins and these Seminoles were part of the happy face mix after making up an 11-point deficit late to beat foul-prone Xavier ... don't want to hear Musketeers' coach Chris Mack bellyache about the refs as Florida State simply stole the game with a 31-14 run in the game's final 10:42 as the 'Noles bench once again outscored the starters.
MIDWEST - at Omaha, NE
On Friday, it's ... Clemson vs. Kansas (7:07 p.m. ET); Syracuse vs. Duke (approximately 9:37 p.m. ET)
#1 KANSAS (29-7) - Okay, so these Jayhawks got "backdoored" by Seton Hall when it came to that 4.5-point spread (see Kansas 83, The Hall 79) but note Bill Self's club nailed half of its 56 FG tries against one of the best defenses in the land and off-the-bench C Udoka Azubuike actually played 22 minutes as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury ... can he go 30 minutes here against Clemson?
#2 DUKE (28-7) - Maybe those pre-tourney 6-to-1 odds for the Blue Devils to win it all is looking better when you consider all the powerhouses that lost but Mike Kryzewski's squad still has some fine-tuning to do with this newfangled zone defense and G Grayson Allen (only 10 points in the 87-62 win/cover against Rhode Island) must be more of a scoring threat in the Sweet 16 game versus the Orange.
#5 CLEMSON (25-9) - To be clear, Virginia and Arizona and North Carolina were not the only power conference teams that got punched in the mouth this past week/weekend as these ACC Tigers walloped the Auburn Tigers 84-53 ... and it wasn't even that close (see 43-19 at halftime). Maybe it's high time Clemson G Gabe DeVoe (22 points/5 rebounds/5 assists) started to get some national headlines.
#11 SYRACUSE (23-13) - Wouldn't it be a tad ironic if the "last team" that made it into this year's NCAA Tournament wound up being the "last team standing" come the first Monday night in April? Hey, Jim Boeheim's crew can look downright ugly at times when attempting to get off a shot - the 'Cuse scored 60, 57 and 55 points in its three tourney wins between Wednesday and Sunday and even allowed 20 offensive boards to Michigan State in Round II but Boeheim's troops are alive and kicking and frosh Oshae Brissett (15 points/9 rebounds versus Sparty) is fact becoming a March hero.