After an exhilarating start to the second weekend of the men’s NCAA Tournament – a No. 12 seed reaching the Elite Eight and a No. 15 nearly doing the same – the second day of the Sweet 16 delivered another heart-pumping day of March Madness.
UCLA stole the show in the third game of the day, as the No. 11 seeded Bruins pulled off a huge upset of No. 2 Alabama in an overtime thriller, sending coach Mick Cronin to his first Elite Eight. Southern California joined its rival in the next round after dispatching fellow Pac-12 school Oregon. With Oregon State’s upset of Loyola Chicago on Saturday, the Pac-12 now has three schools in the Elite Eight.
In the first game, top overall seed Gonzaga flexed its dominance in a blowout of Creighton to advance to the Elite Eight – the program’s second in a row and fifth overall. In the second, Michigan showed its supporting cast can step up in routing Florida State. The Wolverines are still showing they’re worthy of a No. 1 seed without Isaiah Livers.
A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s slate of Sweet 16 games:
UCLA. The Bruins (21-9) played with resiliency in a 88-78 overtime win over No. 2 Alabama, hardly looking the part as a No. 11 seed. Cronin’s squad gritted out this win with top player Johnny Juzang on the bench fouled out and kept punching in OT following a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by the Tide. Jaime Jaquez Jr. was the team’s backbone in the win, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. Jules Bernard was also a spark on offense, finishing with 17.
Southern California. The Trojans (25-7) put the game out of reach early and didn’t take their foot off the gas in an 82-68 rout between the two Pac-12 teams. Isaiah White’s 22 points carried USC offensively and the team collectively shot a blistering 10-for-17 from 3-point range (59%). Meanwhile, 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley showed how he can change the game in multiple facets – finishing with 10 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
Michigan. The Wolverines (23-4) have been counted out this tournament because second-leading scorer Livers is out. But they’ve established a new identity, while driving off the success of a dominant season, to silence critics. Now, they’re on the cusp of a Final Four berth. They looked especially strong in a 76-58 win over Florida State, pulling away late in the second half behind the major boosts of role players Brandon Johns Jr. (14 points, six rebounds) and Chaundee Brown (12 points).
Gonzaga. The Bulldogs (29-0) put on yet another offensive clinic in an 83-65 drubbing of Creighton. This victory showed how the scoring can come from multiple sources as Andrew Nembhard had a stellar stat line with 17 points and eight assists. The go-to force for the ‘Zags lately has been Drew Timme (22 points, six rebounds) and the Bluejays had no answer for the big man.
BRACKETS:Men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament results and schedule
Alabama. The Crimson Tide (26-7) choked at the free-throw line. SEC player of the year Herbert Jones had a chance to give the Crimson Tide the lead when he was fouled with six seconds to go, but he missed both free throws at the end of regulation. ‘Bama shot 11-for-25 from the free-throw line (44%) as a team. Even worse, coach Nate Oats’ team didn’t capitalize off a thrilling buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Alex Reese that forced overtime, looking lethargic and uninspired in the extra frame as UCLA hustled its way to the Elite Eight.
Oregon. The Ducks (21-7) completely dismantled No. 2 Iowa in the second round but were struck with a terrible matchup against Pac-12 foe USC. The Trojans had already beaten Oregon by 14 in the regular season (Feb. 22), and coach Dana Altman’s team didn’t fare much better in this one. They shot 5-for-21 from 3-point range and had no answer for a dynamic Trojans offense. Eugene Omoruyi did his best to rally Oregon with 28 points and 10 rebounds.
Creighton. The Bluejays (22-9) had their breakthrough season by finally getting to the Sweet 16 after years of Round of 32 walls. But they had a tall task – perhaps the tallest – in trying to knock off the tournament favorite in Gonzaga. While the ‘Jays have the ability to match the ‘Zags from the perimeter, they couldn’t manage the same in the frontcourt. Veteran guard Marcus Zegarowski (19 points) led the way again but Creighton just didn’t have enough weapons to match the top overall seed.
Florida State. The Seminoles (18-7) just didn’t have enough weapons to compete with Michigan and despite carving into the deficit midway through the first half, the Wolverines’ counter-punch was too much for FSU to handle. Malik Osborne led the ‘Noles with 12 points in the loss. Coach Leonard Hamilton had an ACC title team last season (with NBA lottery picks Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams) that would’ve competed for a championship, but the firepower on this roster was absent.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.