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There are two No. 1 seeds left in this tournament, two No. 2 seeds, two No. 3 seeds and 10 other teams looking for an upset.
Sunday was almost unbelievably a day of blowouts and a day of unprecedented competition in the NCAA tournament. Texas A&M smashed North Carolina, Clemson trucked Auburn and things got out of hand between West Virginia and Marshall…but Purdue squeaked out a win over a team eight seeds lower, Syracuse took down a squad eight seeds better, and another No. 1 seed fell before reaching the Sweet 16.
But when it came down to it, the game the whole country had its eye on was UMBC and Kansas State. The Retrievers played another fine contest, but they stalled out on offense in a 50-43 loss that hardly felt like one.
These are the winners and losers from Day 4 of the NCAA tournament.
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Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
In the final game of the first weekend, “Press Virginia” blew out in-state rival Marshall to advance to its fifth Sweet 16 of the Bob Huggins era.
Early in the year, this was thought to be perhaps Huggins’ best team in Morgantown. With their typical pressure defense and offensive rebounding, combined with a senior guard and a strong rotation, the Mountaineers were ranked No. 2 in early January.
The Big 12 race—including three losses to Kansas—sucked some of the air out of all that hype and had some questioning whether West Virginia’s style was sustainable over the long haul. The Mountaineers are plagued by unreliable shooting, and the thinking is that it’s a result of the frenetic energy created by West Virginia itself.
But when it works? Man, it makes people look bad, and Marshall found out the hard way.
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Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Tom Izzo is universally considered one of the greatest coaches of his generation, and he has a lot of hardware to demonstrate why.
But if you’ve never taken a look at Izzo’s record against some of the other best coaches of his generation, hoo boy are you in for a surprise.
Against Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim, Izzo is a combined 4-23 after getting run by Boeheim’s Syracuse team on Sunday.
It’s such a large sample size that it seems like it couldn’t be a fluke, and yet it feels pretty fluky, does it not? This is a guy who has won 574 games, been to seven Final Fours and won a national championship, and yet he just cannot seem to beat these three coaches.
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So, Purdue loses 7’2″ center Isaac Haas to a broken elbow, and then it turns out it has another Isaac Haas, except his name is Matt Haarms and he’s an inch taller.
They look alike, they’re close to the same size and their names even sound the same.
The main difference is, Haas is a senior and Haarms is a redshirt freshman. Coming into the game, Haarms was averaging 4.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 16.6 minutes per contest. He hit those numbers with five minutes left in the first half against Butler, competently filling in for Haas and ensuring the Boilermakers looked pretty much like they had all season in the 76-73 win.
Haarms spent most of the first half at the free-throw line, drawing a series of fouls on a Butler frontcourt that was already overmatched. He finished with seven points, six rebounds and two blocks, and Purdue didn’t miss a beat.
“I’m so excited right now,” he said after the game. “I’m so happy. The journey’s only beginning for us.”
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Paul Sancya/Associated Press
With Haas out, Haarms played a critical role in the Boilermakers’ second-round win over Butler.
Performing less impressively, however, was whatever Haarms was using to keep his hair out of his face.
Within seconds of each play’s end, Haarms was running his fingers through his hair like an Abercrombie model on a beach somewhere, trying to get some long strands of bangs to stay on top of his head.
The effort was futile. Haarms’ hair would not stay up. It wouldn’t stay anywhere. Even the broadcast crew was having a laugh about it.
So a trip to the barber may be in order before the Sweet 16. Either that or some extra-hold gel.
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
When Billy Kennedy announced he had Parkinson’s disease right before the 2011-12 season, his first at Texas A&M, it was difficult to imagine he’d still be with the Aggies seven years later, and even more difficult to imagine he’d have them where they are.
Kennedy’s first four seasons in College Station weren’t inspiring. At the end of 2015, he was 26-28 in SEC play and needed a big year in 2015-16 to keep his job.
Well, the Aggies made the Sweet 16 that year, and after another rough season in 2016-17, they got a No. 7 seed in this tournament and smashed North Carolina in the second round 86-65.
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Denis Poroy/Associated Press
There are losses, there are heartbreaking losses, and then there is what happened to Auburn on Sunday—a loss so severe and so waterlogged with humiliation that it could hardly qualify as a heartbreak.
Clemson beat Auburn 84-53, demolishing Auburn on the glass 50-32. It also held the SEC school to 17-of-66 shooting. Auburn tried to shoot itself out of this ordeal from the three-point line but went 7-of-32 from there.
Other than Horace Spencer, nobody in Clemson’s starting five played worth a pile of beans, and he only went 3-of-6 from the field. The other four went 9-of-41. You’d think maybe somebody on the Auburn bench would have come up with something of an effort—a shot of energy—but the reserves were 5-of-19.
Auburn hadn’t been to second round in 15 years, and it might want to forget reaching it.
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Yes, Kansas State was a No. 9 seed, which means it was supposed to beat 16th-seeded UMBC, and most people won’t give the Wildcats any extra credit for doing so.
But this was an unexpected and unprecedented situation. A No. 9 seed had ever been in the psychological position of switching from underdog mode to Goliath mode overnight, and Wildcats coach Bruce Weber was concerned enough about it that after UMBC’s win over Virginia, he called the players in for an extra meeting, just to get their minds right, per George Willis of the New York Post.
It’s safe to say a lot of coaches would not have done that, but Weber knows his team as well as anybody, and the Wildcats won the game, so who’s laughing now?
Kansas State is in the Sweet 16 for just the second time this century, and the first time since 2010.
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Auburn wasn’t the only high seed to get drilled on Sunday. North Carolina, winner of last year’s tournament, had one of its most dreadful shooting performances of the season, going 26-of-78 from the field and 6-of-31 from the three-point line.
This qualifies as a turd of a performance for UNC, although this is not even close to the same team that won the title last year. Five of North Carolina’s top seven players are gone from that team, making this something of a rebuilding year, if such a thing exists at North Carolina.
Still, it was difficult to see a win like this coming from Texas A&M.
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Denis Poroy/Associated Press
The NCAA tournament is great and all, but there are some times when you need to get some stuff done, and it’s nice to have a little bit of a breather so you can, oh, run to the grocery store, half-watch a game on a treadmill and get some cleaning done.
This was a good day for all that, relatively speaking, because three of the games were utter blowouts.
Raise your hand if you stayed up for the end of West Virginia-Marshall.
None of this is to say there wasn’t anything to see on Sunday. UMBC gave Kansas State a game the whole way, and Purdue, Syracuse, Nevada and Florida State all won close games.
But in reality, these weren’t the types of contests you plan your day around. And more specifically, they’re the kind of finishes you’re fine catching in highlight-form on your B/R app rather than recording on the DVR for later.
As David Kenyon stated in his breakdown at the end of the night’s slate, there were plenty of upsets that gave this tournament the kind of historic feel we need to rally behind overachieving lower seeds. But there was also plenty of time for relaxing, which the weekend-shoppers of the world can be thankful for.
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There will be just two No. 1 seeds in the Sweet 16 this year. Those are Kansas, which faces fifth-seeded Clemson, and Villanova, which plays another fifth seed, West Virginia.
You already know what happened to Virginia, but No. 1 seed Xavier’s loss to ninth-seeded Florida State was one of the biggest upsets of the second round. This is especially true when you consider the Seminoles didn’t even shoot particularly well on Sunday, hitting 43.6 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from the three-point line in a 75-70 win.
No. 1 seeds have by far the most national titles when compared to other seeds, but with two of the four already gone, this could be a good year for a lower seed to even the count a little.