Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
It will be difficult—nay, impossible—to top the madness which transpired late Friday night when a No. 1 seed (Virginia Cavaliers) lost to a No. 16 seed (UMBC Retrievers) for the first time in men’s NCAA tournament history.
But the Big Dance must go on!
The action continues in earnest Saturday with eight second-round games, ranging from blue-blood programs and surefire lottery picks to Cinderellas hoping to etch their place in history alongside UMBC.
Most Likely Upsets
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago over No. 3 Tennessee
Tennessee was one of the few teams that actually looked dominant Thursday, smothering Wright State for a 73-47 victory. If you were hesitant to buy stock in this team because of preseason expectations or because of the long history of early flame-outs by Rick Barnes in the tournament, that game may have caused you to reconsider the Volunteers’ potential.
But Loyola-Chicago isn’t going to just kowtow to Tennessee’s will.
The Ramblers are the real deal. They have only lost one game since Jan. 4, and the vast majority of those games helped prepare them for this moment. The Missouri Valley Conference was a methodical, defensive-minded league. Save for Loyola, it was remarkably balanced from top to bottom, so every night was a battle in a slow-paced game.
Obviously, that served the Ramblers well in the opener against Miami (Fla.), as they just kept things within striking distance before they finally took the lead on a Donte Ingram three-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining. Sister Jean and Co. just might have another miracle up their sleeves.
No. 8 Seton Hall over No. 1 Kansas
It’s not a real upset unless the teams are separated by more than three seed lines. So even though Florida, Houston and Ohio State could knock off Texas Tech, Michigan and Gonzaga, respectively, those aren’t viable candidates for this list.
From the remaining options, this one could be a major bracket buster.
Kansas did not look great in its opener against Penn. The final score (76-60) seems fine, but the Jayhawks were down by double digits early in what was just a four-point game with 12 minutes remaining. And this team is no stranger to dud performances; it lost by 18 to Oklahoma State and by 16 to Baylor, neither of which made the NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks also lost a home game to Oklahoma State as well as an effective home game (in Kansas City) against Washington, which also failed to reach the Big Dance.
So, yeah, Seton Hall could mess around and eliminate Kansas. The Pirates rarely commit fouls, and Kansas is one of the worst teams at drawing them, so the Jayhawks may only make a couple of trips to the free-throw line. Seton Hall should also win the battle on the glass, particularly when it is on offense.
Can Kansas make enough three-pointers to avoid the upset?
Biggest Stars in Action
Marvin Bagley III, Duke
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
We lost a lot of good men on Thursday. Deandre Ayton, Trae Young, Jaylen Adams and Mike Daum all would have been good candidates for one of these spots. Alas, they all exited stage left in the first round. But there’s plenty of star power remaining, beginning with Duke. Everyone in this starting lineup is a possible first-round draft pick this June, but Bagley is the only one in the running for the No. 1 overall pick.
Bagley didn’t destroy Iona quite as mercilessly as he could have, but he still finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds. This man thrives in tournaments, too. Between the PK80 and the ACC tournament, Bagley averaged 26.8 points and 15.0 rebounds. And Rhode Island’s Andre Berry and Cyril Langevine likely won’t be enough to slow him down.
Collin Sexton, Alabama
Sexton’s magical March continued with 25 points and six assists in the opening win over Virginia Tech. He has now scored at least 21 points in five straight games and is averaging 25.4 points and 4.4 assists in the calendar’s most wonderful month.
This was always a strong possibility for Sexton. After all, this is the same dude who put up 40 against Minnesota in a game where Alabama played 3-on-5 for 11 minutes. But he suffered an abdominal injury in January and wasn’t himself for about six weeks. He sure does look healthy now, and he is ready for the second-round battle against the next stars on our list.
Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Only one team had two players named among the 15 finalists for the 2018 Wooden Award earlier this month, and only one team has multiple players ranked in the top 10 of the KenPom.com Player of the Year standings. Brunson and Bridges have been incredible all year long, pacing what has been one of the favorites to win the national championship since the preseason.
Villanova legitimately goes eight deep with high efficiency, but sometimes all the Wildcats need is this dynamic duo. In the Big East championship game against Providence, Brunson had 31, Bridges had 25, no teammate scored more than seven, and they still won. As long as these two keep showing up, Villanova should continue marching through the tournament.
Game Most Likely to Produce a Buzzer-Beater
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 6 Florida
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
For this spot, we typically look for teams that played a lot of nail-biters. The more overtimes, the better. And at least from that perspective, there’s cause for belief in a buzzer-beater, as both the Gators and the Red Raiders played a pair of OT games this season.
This also looks like it should be the closest of the eight games, separated by a bucket in a slow-paced game played in the low 60s.
This is primarily a vote of confidence in clutch players, though.
Whether it’s Keenan Evans for Texas Tech or Chris Chiozza for Florida—who had the running game-winner against Wisconsin in last year’s Sweet 16—this feels like the type of game that could come down to a few hero-ball moments.
1 Player You Should Be Rooting For
Rob Gray Jr., Houston
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
With an honorable mention to Rhode Island’s Daron “Fatts” Russell, Gray is the one guy that everyone is going to be talking about on Saturday.
He was already one of the most electric scorers in the country before the NCAA tournament began. He scored at least 30 points in three of his final seven games, with at least 17 in all of those contests. But he’s also a great distributor, averaging better than four assists per game.
And he was a superstar in Houston’s first-round win over San Diego State. Gray scored 39 of the Cougars’ 67 points, including a pair of clutch buckets in the final 45 seconds.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear, though: What Gray has on his head is a top knot, not a bun. The latter is long hair that is pulled up, a la Joakim Noah. Gray—like Kyle Guy last year—has a top knot. Please adjust your commentary accordingly.
Prop Bet of the Day
James Crisp/Associated Press
Number of times we are reminded that the SEC went 4-0 on Thursday.
It was a huge year for the Southeastern Conference, which sent a record eight teams to the Big Dance, all as No. 9 seeds or better. And through the first 24 hours, it has been a fantastic ride for the league. Alabama beat Virginia Tech, Tennessee smashed Wright State, Kentucky escaped against Davidson, and Florida took care of business against St. Bonaventure.
Those four teams are spaced well both throughout the day and throughout the country, too. The SEC has one early-afternoon game in Pittsburgh; one late afternoon game in Boise, Idaho; one early evening game in Wichita, Kan.; and one late game in Dallas. That’s four different announcing crews who will want to have their commentary on the subject. We’ll set the over/under at 11.5.
Day 3’s Games
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 9 Alabama, 12:10 p.m. ET on CBS
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Rhode Island, 2:40 p.m. ET on CBS
No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Buffalo, 5:15 p.m. ET on CBS
No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, 6:10 p.m. ET on TNT
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Seton Hall, 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Gonzaga, 7:45 p.m. ET on CBS
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 6 Florida, 8:40 p.m. ET on TNT
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Houston, 9:40 p.m. ET on TBS