John Amis/Associated Press
After a few days off, March Madness is back with the start of the Sweet 16 Thursday.
The 2018 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament began with 68 teams but only eight will remain after this round, with the real contenders finally starting to separate themselves. The Cinderella stories were fun, but everyone left has shown they can compete with the big boys.
Of course, with plenty of surprise teams still in the field, there was plenty of excitement to start the second week of competition.
Here are the latest results from the NCAA tournament along with an updated bracket.
South Region: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago def. No. 7 Nevada, 69-68
West Region: No. 3 Michigan def. No. 7 Texas A&M, 99-72
South Region: No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State; 9:37 p.m. ET
West Region: No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State; 10:07 p.m. ET
Loyola-Chicago 69, Nevada 68
Loyola-Chicago has come through with big shots late all tournament, and this game was no different.
The team didn’t need a go-ahead basket in the final seconds like the first two rounds, but Marques Townes helped secure the win with a three-pointer to go up four points with 6.3 seconds left.
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
MARQUES TOWNES WITH THE BIG TIME 👌 #MarchMadness #Sweet16 https://t.co/9LMUnm6Z2v
The junior finished with a team-high 18 points in the victory.
Loyola seemed overmatched in the opening minutes but was able to go into halftime with the lead thanks in part to its patience offensively:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
BEAUTIFUL BALL MOVEMENT 20-4 run by Loyola Chicago to end the first half! #MarchMadness https://t.co/A6qXYHdskX
Brian Hamilton of The Fieldhouse discussed the change in momentum:
Brian Hamilton @_Brian_Hamilton
Loyola leads. What a turnaround defensively-slash-what a meltdown offensively by Nevada.
A 20-8 Wolfpack lead turned into a 28-24 deficit at the half without much better shooting from the underdogs.
The Ramblers didn’t slow down in the second half, impressively making their first 13 shots after intermission to gain a comfortable advantage. They seemed to easily penetrate into the lane and finish layups with little resistance.
However, Nevada wouldn’t go away, and for the third game in a row, it fought back after trailing at halftime.
The Mountain West squad picked up its defense, forcing Loyola into bad shots and turnovers. The players used their athleticism on the other end to attack the basket and get easy looks at the rim.
However, the No. 11 seed made the big shots down the stretch to secure the win.
Caleb Martin did everything he could to keep Nevada alive, scoring 21 while his twin brother Cody Martin finished with 16. The duo also performed well on the defensive end with a combined six steals and four blocks.
Outside of 19 points from Jordan Caroline, however, there wasn’t a lot of help elsewhere on the roster.
The Ramblers also made it tough to catch up while shooting 55.8 percent from the floor, keeping the miracle run alive with a trip to the Elite Eight.
The squad will face the winner of Kentucky and Kansas State on Saturday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Michigan 99, Texas A&M 72
Texas A&M had no chance Thursday against a team that seemingly couldn’t miss.
Michigan put on an offensive exhibition in the Sweet 16, getting great performances from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (24 points, seven assists), Moritz Wagner (21 points) and Charles Matthews (18 points).
The team was unstoppable at the start of the game, going up 52-28 at halftime thanks to some ridiculous shooting from three-point range. The Wolverines shot 10-of-16 from deep in the first half with seven different players with at least made three.
Sam Vecenie of The Athletic summed it up well:
Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie
This is an avalanche from Michigan.
The defensive effort also helped, with 10 forced turnovers often leading to easy baskets on the other end.
Texas A&M performed much better in the second half, with big men Robert Williams and Tyler Davis finally getting going. Davis totaled 24 points and eight rebounds while Williams ended his game, and possibly his college career, with 12 points and three blocks.
However, Michigan wisely slowed things down in the second half while remaining just as efficient from the field. There was even time for some showboating on the fast break:
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
MICHIGAN IS ROLLING!!! 🔥🔥🔥 #MarchMadness https://t.co/mfeqCxmlko
The squad made 61.9 percent of its shots during the game, including 58.3 percent from three-point range, and for good measure, 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Adding in the all-around effort from players such as Zavier Simpson, who totaled 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals, this team was too tough to beat.
It was enough for the third Elite Eight appearance in the last six years for Michigan. It will take on the winner of Gonzaga and Florida State.