It was a pretty ho-hum day in the NCAA Tournament. A 1-seed got pushed to the brink. A 2-seed was eliminated by a buzzer beating, falling away three-pointer. A Cinderella story ended on a last second putback. And a 12-point lead was erased in 34 seconds, that resulted in a double-overtime thriller.
You know, same old, same old.
Northern Iowa is headed to the Sweet Six...OH NO!
The 11th-seeded Northern Iowa Panthers have seemed like a team of destiny over the last two weeks. They won the Missouri Valley Championship on a buzzer beater. They defeated Texas on Friday night in the first round on a half-court buzzer beater. And then, today, they outplayed the 3-seed, Texas A&M for the first 39 minutes, 26 seconds of tonight's game. UNI led by 12 and Panther fans all over were looking up flights to Anaheim for the Sweet Sixteen.
And then they turned the ball over and the Aggies got an easy bucket. And then it happened again. And again. And again. Before anyone wearing purple and yellow could even realize it, Texas A&M had gone on a 14-2 run in the final 34 seconds and tied the game at 71, forcing an overtime. It would have been easy for UNI to lay down in misery but they answered the call. UNI and A&M went back and forth and one overtime wouldn't be enough.
In the second overtime, Danuel House and the Aggies proved to be too much and came away with a miraculous 92-88 victory. One of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history sends the devastated Panthers home and the Aggies to the West Regional semifinal to take on the 2nd-seeded Oklahoma Sooners, who also won a thriller on Sunday, beating VCU, 85-81.
Oregon and the Pac-12 live on to fight another day
The West Region's 1-seed, the Oregon Ducks, represented the Pac-12's last hope. A conference that sent seven teams to the tournament found themselves in danger of having zero teams in the tournament by the end of the first weekend.
In the closing minutes of Oregon's second round contest with St. Joseph's, it appeared that danger was becoming a reality. The Hawks led the Ducks, 58-51, with less than five minutes remaining. Oregon could be the only 1-seed in this year's tournament to not make the Sweet Sixteen.
But, behind huge shots from Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey and some clutch defense, the Ducks were able to fend off St. Joe's, clinching their fourth Sweet Sixteen in program history, and becoming the only Pac-12 team to accomplish the feat this season. They'll face the Duke Blue Devils in a West Regional semifinal on Thursday.
The ACC and Pac-12 seem to be having opposite weekends
As I mentioned, the Pac-12 had seven teams in the NCAA Tournament. So did the ACC. The Pac-12 has one team remaining and six have been eliminated. The ACC, on the other hand, have only one conference member eliminated.
That's right, the ACC has an unprecedented SIX teams in this year's Sweet Sixteen. Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Miami all clinched their spot on Saturday. On Sunday, the 10th-seeded Syracuse Orange demolished the 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, 75-50, leaving everyone wondering how in the world Middle Tennessee State defeated tournament-favorite Michigan State on Friday.
In the ACC's other opportunity on Sunday, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish outlasted Stephen F. Austin, 76-75 in a wild, back-and-forth affair. SFA star, Thomas Walkup, seemed to have an answer for every Irish bucket, as he finished with 21 points. But, in a crazy finish, Irish guard, Rex Pflueger, was able to tip-in an errant Zach Auguste layup with just one second remaining to put the Fighting Irish in the Sweet Sixteen.
Our favorite Badgers did it again
This year's Wisconsin Badgers are vastly different than the past two year's teams that the people of Tucson are all-too-familiar with. But, Wisconsin proved they still have some March magic in them tonight, when they defeated the East Region's 2nd-seed, and Sean Miller's old school, the Xavier Musketeers, 66-63. Badger guard, Bronson Koenig, hit six three-pointers, none bigger than a falling away, corner three at the buzzer to finish Xavier's season and send Wisconsin back to the Sweet Sixteen.
Villanova demolished Iowa. Maryland beat Hawaii. We're officially down to 16 teams. These last four days have been a whirlwind. But I can't wait for Thursday.