- Covers college basketball
- Joined ESPN.com in 2011
- Graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato
Well, our annual tradition of reseeding the field continues. This effort is both beloved and resented by fan bases around the country. But we’ll continue to do our best either way.
There are, per the norm, few major changes for most teams at this point. But some movement is necessary. Thanks, Princeton, Fairleigh Dickinson and Furman. Other seeds that might have seemed secure now warrant additional scrutiny based on what we’ve witnessed in recent days.
Yes, Houston’s Jamal Shead (knee) and Marcus Sasser (groin) are both expected to play in the second round. But Sasser hasn’t finished a game in a week, and Kelvin Sampson said his entire team needs rest right now. If we can’t confirm Sasser can give 100 percent for the Cougars, it’s difficult to call this the same Houston team.
And our apologies to the Cinderellas. The big wins are often contrary to their respective bodies of work — FDU has losses to Hartford and Sacred Heart this season — not a sign that they were underrated entering the NCAA tournament.
It’s not an exact science. It’s just an attempt to make sense of the chaos we’ve witnessed over the past 24 hours.
Here is our reseeding of the second-round teams.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Original seed: No. 1 overall (South)
First-round result: Defeated Texas A&M Corpus Christi (No. 16), 96-75 (Thursday)
The cloud of controversy that surrounds Alabama will not disappear, regardless of the success it experiences. The lopsided 96-75 win over Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the first round showcased the ceiling of the Crimson Tide, who were also given the gift of the Arizona Wildcats and Virginia Cavaliers being eliminated from the South region in a pair of upsets.
Alabama rolled into the second round despite SEC Player of the Year Brandon Miller failing to score and playing just 19 minutes due to a groin injury. If this becomes an ongoing concern, Alabama might not reach its ceiling. But if Miller is good to go, there’s a chance an Alabama team that scored 132 points per 100 possessions without his contribution could reach the Final Four with limited opposition.
Up next: vs. Maryland (Saturday, 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original seed: No. 1 (West)
First-round result: Defeated Howard (No. 16), 96-68 (Thursday)
Bill Self missed his fourth consecutive game on Thursday; he also missed the entire Big 12 tournament after he was hospitalized and stents were placed in his heart for a blocked artery. Kansas still managed to beat Howard 96-68, even though the Bison had connected on more than 50% of their shots early in the first half. It’s unclear when Self will return, although he told CBS he could come back for the Jayhawks’ next game.
Whether the head coach is present on the sidelines or not, this is a team that has lost just two games (both to Texas) since Feb. 4. Led by Jalen Wilson’s 20-point effort on Thursday, Kansas scored 126 points per 100 possessions against Howard, while connecting on 57% of its shots inside the arc and 41% of its 3-point attempts. Kansas is clearly one of the two or three most dominant teams in the field.
Up next: vs. Arkansas (Saturday, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 1 (Midwest)
First-round result: Defeated Northern Kentucky (No. 16), 63-52 (Thursday)
Marcus Sasser, who suffered a groin injury in the AAC tournament semifinals, attempted to help his team in the opening round on Thursday. But he played just 14 minutes before reaggravating the injury and missing the rest of the game. The injury has now impacted Sasser for three consecutive games over a six-day span. That matters.
There are significant, trackable differences in the Cougars with and without Sasser this season. Here’s a significant one: This Houston team has made 36.4% of its 3-pointers with Sasser on the floor, and just 28% without him, per hooplens.com. The Cougars, who were 4-for-16 from 3 against Northern Kentucky, just aren’t the same team without a healthy Sasser. Plus, Kelvin Sampson said Jamal Shead (10.4 PPG) is dealing with a knee injury. The Cougars are still a good team. But Sasser makes them great.
Up next: vs. Auburn (Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original seed: No. 2 (West)
First-round result: Defeated UNC Asheville (No. 15), 86-53 (Thursday)
Mick Cronin has had to coach through injuries in past years.
During the 2020-21 season that ended with a Final Four run, Johnny Juzang missed five games due to injury. Last year, Jaime Jaquez Jr., who scored 17 points Thursday, had various injuries, too.
This season’s injuries — Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the league tournament semifinal while Adem Bona has missed the past two games due to a shoulder injury — didn’t stop UCLA from putting together one of the first round’s most dominant efforts: a 33-point win over a UNC Asheville team that had been 18-1 in its previous 19 games. With Jaquez, the steady leadership of Tyger Campbell (10 assists, two turnovers) and key role players (freshman Amari Bailey had 17 points), UCLA remains a Final Four contender. Clearly.
Up next: vs. Northwestern (Saturday, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT)
Original seed: No. 2 (Midwest)
First-round result: Defeated Colgate (No. 15), 81-61 (Thursday)
On Dec. 12, Rodney Terry led Texas to an 87-81 win over Rice in overtime. It was his first game as the acting head coach. He would finish the season in the same role after the school fired Chris Beard following domestic violence allegations. During his interim role, Texas is 19-7, after finishing second behind Kansas in the Big 12 title race and capturing the Big 12 tournament title — with a win over the Jayhawks.
He has put himself in the running to land the permanent role for a Texas team that won its fifth consecutive game — a run that features two wins over Kansas and a victory over TCU — in the opening round on Thursday. Marcus Carr scored at least 17 points for the 16th time this season. Entering the second round, Texas has won its past five games by an average of 15.2 PPG.
Up next: vs. Penn State (Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, CBS)
Marquette Golden Eagles
Original seed: No. 2 (East)
First-round result: Defeated Vermont (No. 15), 78-61 (Friday)
A team’s Final Four potential often depends on its ability to weather adversity during the most crucial chapter of the season. With Tyler Kolek, the all-Big East first-teamer, suffering from a thumb injury — he was 3-for-11 with eight points — and in foul trouble, Shaka Smart turned to other players, such as Oso Ighodaro (14 points), in the win over Vermont Friday.
Smart won his first NCAA tournament game since 2013, when he was head coach at VCU. And it was the Big East regular-season and tournament champion’s 10th consecutive victory. That’s impressive.
Even more impressive? This was Marquette’s 14th win by at least 14 points this season. Friday’s win proved this group can still steamroll a team even when its top player struggles.
Up next: vs. Michigan State (Sunday, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 3 (South)
First-round result: Defeated UC Santa Barbara (No. 14), 74-56 (Friday)
The biggest question about Scott Drew’s ability to lead this team to the Final Four, two years after the Bears won the school’s first national title, has been its defensive challenges (97th in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom).
The general premise has been true for more than 20 years: Teams that aren’t elite on defense don’t win national titles. Although the Bears secured the first-round win on Friday, UCSB registered a 58% clip inside the arc against them.
The counter, however, was that Adam Flagler (18 points) & Co. connected on 69% of their shots inside the arc. That’s how this Baylor team will either thrive or sink in this NCAA tournament. Yes, the defense is a real concern, but this is also one of America’s best offensive units (second in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom). Is that enough to reach the second weekend? We’ll see.
Up next: vs. Creighton (Sunday, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)
Kansas State Wildcats
Original seed: No. 3 (East)
First-round result: Defeated Montana State (No. 14), 77-65 (Friday)
Jerome Tang began his time at Kansas State by hosting weekly Sunday dinners at his house. He said he used those moments to bring his team together. The continuity helped this group beat rival Kansas for the first time in program history after a seven-game losing streak. It also allowed the Wildcats to earn a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament.
With Keyontae Johnson (18 points) and Markquis Nowell (17 points, 14 assists) continuing to lead this team, Kansas State didn’t have a lot of trouble in the first round against Montana State.
Per ESPN Stats & Information, Nowell scored or assisted on 60% of Kansas State’s points in the win, the first time KSU has advanced to the second round since 2018. The Wildcats also made 70% of their shots inside the arc.
Up next: vs. Kentucky (Sunday, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
Duke Blue Devils
Original seed: No. 5 (East)
First-round result: Defeated Oral Roberts (No. 12), 74-51 (Thursday)
Forget the Duke that wrestled with injuries, a new coach and other growing pains earlier this season. After a 74-51 win over Oral Roberts in the first round — mid-major star Max Abmas finished with just 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting — the Blue Devils have now won 10 in a row. Six of those victories were double-digit beatdowns.
You can talk about the growth of Kyle Filipowski (9 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals in a rough 2-for-7 outing), the leadership of Jeremy Roach (23 points) or the maturation of Dereck Lively II (six blocks) as contributing factors.
The real story? Duke has been top-10 in adjusted defensive efficiency during that 10-game surge, per barttorvik.com. A confident, imposing Duke team that’s defending with the best of them? That won’t be fun for anybody.
Up next: vs. Tennessee (Saturday, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 3 (West)
First-round result: Defeated Grand Canyon (No. 14), 82-70 (Friday)
Since the 1999-2000 season, each of Mark Few’s Gonzaga teams has ended the season with a top-10 ranking in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom. That means for more than two decades, with various teams and players, Few has found a way to produce one of college basketball’s best offensive units each year.
This season might have challenged the notion more than those in the past. There was confusion and instability in his backcourt early on. In November and December, Gonzaga looked like a team that might not hit that next gear.
Fools. All of us. In the Bulldogs’ 82-70 win over GCU, Julian Strawther (28 points) and Drew Timme (21 points) powered a Gonzaga team that made 56% of its shots inside the arc and 46% of its 3-point attempts. And if you check KenPom, you’ll see a familiar mark. Gonzaga has the No. 1 offense in America.
Up next: vs. TCU (Sunday, 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original seed: No. 3 (Midwest)
First-round result: Defeated Kennesaw State (No. 14), 72-67 (Friday)
When Sean Miller arrived for his second stint at Xavier — where he had his first head coaching job from 2004 to 2009 — he scored a victory that didn’t show up in the box scores. When the bulk of a roster that had won the NIT last year decided to stay and play for Miller, he avoided the disruption that new coaches often experience, especially in the transfer portal era. He also added Souley Boum (17 points) from UTEP.
The depth and experience has helped this team weather the loss of Zach Freemantle to a season-ending injury. Jerome Hunter, Freemantle’s replacement in the starting lineup, led the Musketeers with 24 points in Friday’s win over Kennesaw State — Jack Nunge’s late block saved the game — and Xavier advanced to the second round for the first time since 2018.
Up next: vs. Pitt (Sunday, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 4 (West)
First-round result: Defeated Iona (No. 13), 87-63 (Friday)
At halftime, Rick Pitino was smiling while being interviewed by a sideline reporter. His Iona team was leading UConn 39-37. Neither the smile nor the lead lasted. In the second half, the Huskies outscored the Gaels — ranked first in the MAAC in offensive efficiency — 50-24. That’s the switch UConn can hit.
The Huskies are 11-3 in their past 14 games, and all three losses were decided by three points or fewer. They’re the top offensive rebounding team in America, courtesy of Adama Sanogo, who finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds in Friday’s win. And they have wings who can hit big shots. Jordan Hawkins & Co. helped UConn connect on 44% of its 3-point attempts. When Dan Hurley’s squad plays to its potential, it can compete with any team in the field.
Up next: vs. Saint Mary’s (Sunday, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT)
Original seed: No. 6 (South)
First-round result: Defeated NC State (No. 11), 72-63 (Friday)
The Bluejays have been trying to shake the stench of an early-season funk for weeks. Picked to win the Big East in the league’s preseason poll, Greg McDermott’s team started 6-0 before a 3-8 stretch seemed to erase every early assessment. From there, it felt like college basketball moved on and forgot about Creighton.
Per barttorvik.com, however, Creighton has been a top-15 team nationally since that rocky 3-8 chapter ended in January. In the first-round win over NC State Friday, the Bluejays were good on defense (NC State connected on just 42% of its shots inside the arc) and followed Ryan Kalkbrenner (31 points) for a solid offensive effort, too.
This looks more like the Creighton team pollsters assumed they’d see when they picked the Bluejays to win the Big East.
Up next: vs. Baylor (Sunday, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original seed: No. 4 (East)
First-round result: Defeated (No. 13), 58-55 (Thursday)
The Vols nearly squandered a sizable lead on Thursday. With 12:02 to play in the game, Tennessee took a 48-30 advantage on a Josiah-Jordan James jump shot. From there, one of the top three defensive teams in America gave up a 25-10 run that put Louisiana within striking distance in the final minutes of the game.
Yes, the Vols advanced. But the win highlighted troubling trends for them. In the four games since point guard Zakai Zeigler suffered his season-ending ACL injury, they’ve committed turnovers on nearly 22% of their offensive possessions. Tennessee finished with 18 turnovers against Louisiana, which triggered that rally by the Ragin’ Cajuns. It’s something to watch going forward after Thursday’s close call.
Up next: vs. Duke (Saturday, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 4 (Midwest)
First-round result: Defeated Kent State (No. 13), 71-60 (Friday)
There were stretches this season when Race Thompson couldn’t even get through a game. He missed time due to various injuries, including a knee injury he suffered in January. And he never looked 100 percent even when he did return. On Friday, however, he was Captain America to Trayce Jackson-Davis’ Iron Man as the two combined to score 44 points and grab 20 rebounds.
Entering the game, Indiana had made 53% of its shots inside the arc this season with Jackson-Davis and Thompson on the floor together, per hooplens.com. That dominance continued against Kent State. It was the first time two Indiana players had scored 20 points or more since 2016, per ESPN Stats & Info. The Hoosiers have generated momentum late in the season, and they might be peaking at the right time.
Up next: vs. TCU (Sunday, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT)
Saint Mary’s Gaels
Original seed: No. 5 (West)
First-round result: VCU (No. 12), 63-51 (Friday)
VCU had won nine consecutive games before it ran into Saint Mary’s on Friday. The third-ranked offense in the A-10 was held to 51 points, its lowest tally since a Nov. 20 loss to Memphis, when the Rams scored 47 points. Randy Bennett’s Gaels are a legit top-10 defense nationally, and their suffocating effort against VCU proved as much. Alex Ducas and Mitchell Saxen combined to score 34 points, and the Gaels won even though Aidan Mahaney, the team’s No. 2 scorer this season, failed to register a point. Bennett won’t change who he is. The Gaels aim to constrict opposing teams’ offensive flow in a slow-paced affair, and the strategy has consistently worked in their favor this season.
Up next: vs. UConn (Sunday, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT)
San Diego State Aztecs
Original seed: No. 5 (South)
First-round result: Defeated Charleston (No. 12), 63-57 (Thursday)
SDSU had been a sexy upset pick in its first-round matchup against 12-seed Charleston. It wasn’t easy, but the Aztecs secured their fifth consecutive win, 63-57, and advanced to the round of 32. Brian Dutcher’s squad has lost just one game since Jan. 31. Ranked top-10 in adjusted defensive efficiency, this is a team that can lock up its opponents and control any game.
But its offensive output could become a challenge. Matt Bradley (17 points) was the only double-figure scorer against Charleston. And during this five-game winning streak, SDSU has registered more than 100 points per 100 possessions (the line of demarcation in offensive output for college basketball) just twice.
Up next: vs. Furman (Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 5 (Midwest)
First-round result: Defeated Drake (No. 12), 63-56 (Friday)
The press release arrived hours before Miami was set to face Drake: Norchad Omier, the All-ACC third-teamer who suffered an ankle injury in the league tournament, was available to play.
Miami is certainly a different team when he’s available. Omier finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds as the Hurricanes turned a seven-point deficit midway through the second half into a seven-point victory. Nijel Pack (21 points) steadied this crew. But the Canes, first in the ACC this season in offensive efficiency, registered just 91 points per 100 possessions. It was a rare offensive slip for Jim Larrañaga’s squad.
Up next: vs. Indiana (Sunday, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT)
Original seed: No. 6 (East)
First-round result: Defeated Providence (No. 11), 61-53 (Friday)
Kentucky fans can breathe. For now. After last year’s first-round loss to Saint Peter’s and the 9-16 campaign from the 2020-21 season, John Calipari entered his first-round game Friday in the closest thing to a must-win he’s ever experienced. And Providence, as a brand name, made the Wildcats an easy upset pick. But the Friars, who finished with a 36.2% clip, haven’t been a good team in months. Meanwhile, Kentucky has enough depth and talent to compete with some of the top teams in America.
None of it was easy on the eyes. Oscar Tshiebwe, the reigning Wooden Award winner, finished 4-for-10 with eight points — but 25 rebounds. Jacob Toppin (18 points) and Antonio Reeves (22 points) had enough juice to help Kentucky overcome a 36.5% mark from the field. That might not suffice for a trip to the second weekend, but it’s enough for Kentucky to shake the image of last year’s upset.
Up next: vs. Kansas State (Sunday, 2:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
TCU Horned Frogs
Original seed: No. 6 (West)
First-round result: Defeated Arizona State (No. 11), 72-70 (Friday)
Just before halftime on Friday, Mike Miles Jr. went down with an injury. He’d already been impacted by a knee injury that interrupted his season. Midway through an NCAA tournament game, he got hurt again. But Miles Jr. (26 points) played through the pain and led TCU to the second round for the second time since 1987. When Arizona State sent the double-team toward him in the final seconds, Miles found JaKobe Coles, who scored on a game-winning floater. Despite the back-and-forth action against the Sun Devils, TCU never unraveled. The Horned Frogs committed just five turnovers in the game, too. Their journey will continue in the second round on Sunday.
Up next: vs. Gonzaga (Sunday, 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
Michigan State Spartans
Original seed: No. 7 (East)
First-round result: Defeated USC (No. 10), 72-62 (Friday)
Tom Izzo has openly admitted that this isn’t one of his most talented teams. There isn’t a Draymond Green, a Jaren Jackson Jr. or a Mateen Cleaves on this roster. But through sheer grit and hustle, the Spartans were still competitive in the Big Ten. The same principle fueled Michigan State’s first-round win. Joey Hauser (17 points, 4-for-6 from the 3-point line) led the way as MSU reached the second round under Izzo for the 19th time in his career. The Spartans — who own wins over Kentucky, Indiana and Maryland — can’t close the talent gap they might face in the next round, but they won’t get outworked.
Up next: vs. Marquette (Sunday, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 7 (South)
First-round result: Defeated Utah State (No. 10), 76-65 (Thursday)
With 10:44 to go on Thursday, Dennis Gates called a timeout after the Aggies took a 49-47 lead on a Dan Akin dunk. The Tigers wouldn’t be on the ropes for long. All-SEC first-teamer Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge combined to go on a 20-7 run by themselves after the timeout, giving Missouri control of the game and the 76-65 win.
A Tigers offense ranked top-10 in offensive efficiency can hit that switch and change things in its favor. Missouri has won a lot of gritty matchups this season, which is why it wasn’t rattled. To advance to the next round, however, the Tigers will have to be a better defensive team. Utah State was the third team in Missouri’s past four matchups to make at least 66% of its shots inside the arc.
Up next: vs. Princeton (Saturday, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT)
Original seed: No. 7 (West)
First-round result: Defeated Boise State (No. 10), 75-67 (Thursday)
For five long years, Chris Collins failed to put together a winning season. That’s right. After he’d made history by leading Northwestern to the NCAA tournament in 2017, a first for the school, he followed up with back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back losing campaigns. But the Northwestern brass continued to believe in him. And after defeating Boise State in the first round in Sacramento, he has now led the Wildcats to their second NCAA tournament win as a program.
They did it with the traits that helped them beat Indiana (twice) and Purdue this season. They were cautious ball handlers (just seven turnovers against BSU) and star Boo Buie (22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) carried the team.
Northwestern’s isn’t just a fun story. This is a good defensive team (top-20 in adjusted defensive efficiency) with the power to put together offensive bursts against good teams (56% inside the arc, 38% from the 3-point line on Thursday).
Up next: vs. UCLA (Saturday, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT)
Original seed: No. 8 (West)
First-round result: Defeated Illinois (No. 9), 73-63 (Thursday)
The story of Arkansas this season has largely centered on its ceiling and its struggles to reach it. Per ESPN’s latest NBA mock draft, both Nick Smith Jr., (No. 7) and Anthony Black (No. 10) are projected lottery picks, while Ricky Council IV is a projected second-rounder. Council (18 points), Black (12 points) and Smith (6 points) combined to score 36 points in the 73-63 win over Illinois on Thursday.
It wasn’t all pretty for a team that made 40% of its shots inside the arc and just 27% of its 3-point attempts. But these elite athletes can defend when they want to defend. And that was the lesson here. Arkansas has been top-30 in adjusted defensive efficiency and top-40 in adjusted offensive efficiency since Feb. 1, per barttorvik.com.
Up next: vs. Kansas (Saturday, 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Florida Atlantic Owls
Original seed: No. 9 (East)
First-round result: Defeated Memphis (No. 8), 66-65 (Friday)
With Memphis unraveling because of internal drama and Kendric Davis dealing with an ankle injury, the Owls secured the first NCAA tournament win in school history on Friday. Nick Boyd’s go-ahead shot with seconds on the game clock sealed the win. But this came down to FAU, 32-3 this season, showcasing the good, consistent effort it has employed all season. The poise, too.
The Owls are top-40 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency this season. A typically astute 3-point shooting team (37% this season) finished 8-for-28 against Memphis. But FAU’s 18 offensive rebounds — a 44% offensive rebounding rate — secured second-chance opportunities as Memphis wrestled with its own internal conflicts down the stretch. Now, the Owls (four of whose players scored 10 points or more) will face the greatest Cinderella of all time, Fairleigh Dickinson, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Up next: vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (Sunday, 7:45 p.m. ET, truTV)
Original seed: No. 8 (South)
First-round result: Defeated West Virginia (No. 9), 67-65 (Thursday)
Most teams encounter hurdles on the road. But Maryland’s hot-and-cold act, between the Xfinity Center in College Park and everywhere else, was difficult to process this season. Entering the NCAA tournament, Maryland had a 3-11 record this season outside its home floor. And when West Virginia took a 19-6 lead in the first half on Thursday, it appeared that the turbulence would continue for the Terps. An early 16-0 run by the Mountaineers at the start of the second half seemed to seal Maryland’s fate.
But Julian Reese — the brother of LSU women’s basketball star Angel Reese — scored 17 points and forced WVU big man Jimmy Bell Jr. into foul trouble, limiting his time on the floor. All of that helped the Terps bounce back and advance.
Up next: vs. Alabama (Saturday, 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
Original seed: No. 9 (Midwest)
First-round result: Defeated Iowa (No. 8), 83-75 (Thursday)
Where was this Auburn team for the past two months? Entering the NCAA tournament, Bruce Pearl’s squad had amassed a 4-9 record in its past 13 games. It was viewed as a team that somehow got tossed a lifeboat from the selection committee and probably wouldn’t last long. But Pearl’s trend of winning NCAA tournament games continued. This is the ninth time in Pearl’s past 11 NCAA tournament appearances in which he advanced to the second round.
So how do you explain the resurgence? Well, the Tigers have the pieces to compete with the best teams in America. Johni Broome (19 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks) & Co. overwhelmed Iowa with their energy and defense. But this is also an Auburn team with six losses decided by three points or less — or via overtime. Pearl’s squad has played in some tight situations this season. This time, the result ended in its favor.
Up next: vs. Houston (Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS)
Penn State Nittany Lions
Original seed: No. 10 (Midwest)
First-round result: Defeated Texas A&M (No. 7), 76-59 (Thursday)
One of the most widespread Selection Sunday reactions centered on a Texas A&M squad that received a 7-seed from the selection committee after finishing second in the SEC. Penn State had been an afterthought that finished strong in the Big Ten’s regular season and barely earned an invite. Jalen Pickett didn’t care about the conversation. The Penn State star finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists in the 76-59 shutdown of the Aggies. Andrew Funk had a season-high 27 points for the Nittany Lions, who are 9-2 in their past 11 games — a stretch that includes wins over Illinois (twice), Northwestern (twice), Maryland, Indiana and, now, Texas A&M. This is a good example of a team that failed to impress for most of the season (14-11, 5-9 in Big Ten play on Feb. 11) but finished strong to enter the NCAA tournament with bracket-breaking intentions.
Up next: vs. Texas (Sunday, 7:45 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 11 (Midwest)
First-round result: Defeated Iowa State (No. 6), 59-41 (Friday)
Entering the season, Jeff Capel hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in his first four years at Pitt. In fact, he hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament as a head coach since the 2008-09 season at Oklahoma. How long ago was that? Blake Griffin was a sophomore on that team.
But Capel responded to the pressure this season by finishing third in the ACC and securing an NCAA tournament berth. Pitt squeezed by Mississippi State, 60-59, in the First Four, before thumping Iowa State in one of its worst games (34% clip from the field). Still, Capel’s squad has advanced. That’s what matters.
Up next: vs. Xavier (Sunday, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 13 (South)
First-round result: Defeated Virginia (No. 4), 68-67 (Thursday)
Don’t call Furman’s win a fluke that happened only because Kihei Clark threw a misguided pass that was intercepted and subsequently converted into a JP Pegues game-winning 3 in the final seconds of the 68-67 win.
Nah, Bob Richey switched his team to a zone look as it outscored Virginia, which had a double-digit lead, 30-17 in the last 11 minutes of the game. The Paladins also made 50% of their shots during that stretch. And now 6-foot-7 Jalen Slawson, who continued to lead his team when top scorer Mike Bothwell fouled out in the second half, can help Furman extend this magical story with another win and the program’s second trip to the Sweet 16. It all seems possible for the Southern Conference’s automatic bid.
Up next: vs. San Diego State (Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
Original seed: No. 15 (South)
First-round result: Defeated Arizona (No. 2), 59-55 (Thursday)
What. On. Earth. Just. Happened! Saint Peter’s, please welcome the newest member of the “15 Seeds That Destroy Brackets Club.” Princeton just achieved and shattered dreams in a 59-55 win over the 2-seed Wildcats. Whoa. Welcome to March.
Tosan Evbuomwan (15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) led Princeton to the upset after the Tigers were down by double digits against the Pac-12 tournament champs with 11 minutes to play. Head coach Mitch Henderson was strategic in the way he slowed the game down and disrupted the rhythm of Arizona’s high-powered offense. How do you measure this? Well, Arizona finished 3-for-16 from the 3-point line.
So maybe it was a cold night for a team that made 38% of its 3-pointers — a top-20 mark nationally — this season. But the determination of a Princeton team that’s sub-100 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom led to the biggest upset we’ve seen since … last year.
Up next: vs. Missouri (Saturday, 6:10 p.m. ET, TNT)
Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
Original seed: No. 16 (East)
First-round result: Defeated Purdue (No. 1), 63-58 (Friday)
Don’t try to figure this out. Don’t search for anything that predicted this. Nothing predicted this. Prior to its 63-58 win over Purdue — just the second time a 16-seed has won a game in men’s NCAA tournament history — FDU was 298th on KenPom. 298th. This is a team that had 12 — 12! — losses to sub-200 KenPom teams. This is a team that shouldn’t even be in the tournament.
And then, the most amazing upset in NCAA history happened. (Sorry, UMBC.) Zach Edey finished 7-for-11 with 21 points. But Tobin Anderson strategized to limit the projected Wooden Award winner’s touches by sending every person who had ever attended FDU at the 7-foot-4 star. The rest of Purdue’s team finished 12-for-42. The gamble worked, and now Sean Moore (19 points) and the Knights will be legends forever.
Up next: vs. Florida Atlantic (Sunday, 7:45 p.m. ET, truTV)
Source: Read Full Article