San Diego State and Miami take down the final 1-seeds while Creighton and Texas make emphatic statements en route to the Elite Eight.
The Sweet 16 has come and gone and the men’s NCAA Tournament field has been tripped to eight teams, many of which have stunned the nation in the process.
For the first time in March Madness history, the Elite Eight won’t feature a single 1-seed. Over the first weekend, Purdue fell in the first round to 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson while Kansas was bounced in the second round by Arkansas. On Friday, Alabama and Houston were bounced as well. San Diego State came back from a 9-point deficit to stun No. 1 overall seed Alabama and Miami dominated Houston in an emphatic offensive performance. Let’s dive into Friday’s action.
San Diego State rolls Alabama out of the tournament
The Aztecs became the first team in the history of the Mountain West to advance to the Elite Eight with their 71-64 victory over Alabama.
The Crimson Tide entered the NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed but showed some vulnerabilities — particularly with turnovers and inconsistent 3-point shooting — late in the regular season. San Diego State was equipped to exploit those weaknesses and did so with a strong defensive game plan.
Brian Dutcher’s squad succeeded in disrupting Alabama’s shooting (3-of-27 from three) and forced the Tide into 14 turnovers. Most importantly, San Diego State threw multiple defenders at Brandon Miller, limiting the projected top-5 pick to a measly nine points on 3-of-19 shooting.
“I think our shot-making could have been better,” Miller told reporters postgame. “Our shot choices could have been better, but it’s just that San Diego’s a good group of guys. They’re vets, so they have a lot of experience. I feel like they came out and played hard.”
Matt Bradley, San Diego State’s leading scorer, struggled as well with just six points, but Darrion Trammell was there to pick up the slack. The Seattle U transfer has a game-high 21 points and sparked the game-changing run in the second half that put the Aztecs ahead for good.
Texas toasts Xavier
With Houston falling to Miami, the Longhorns remain the lone representative from the Lone Star State. But fear not, thou who weareth the ten-gallon hat — they looked more than ready to carry the torch last night.
Texas thumped Xavier, 83-71, in a contest that was never close. Super senior Marcus Carr defined the first half, scoring 15 of his 18 points and nailing several ridiculous shots.
He wasn’t the only one — Timmy Allen sunk just his third triple of the season as the first-half buzzer sounded, extending Texas’ lead to 17.
After the intermission, Carr let his backcourt mate Tyrese Hunter take the wheel. In his best offensive performance since early January, the 6-0 guard showed impressive burst attacking the basket and knocked down three perimeter jumpers. Behind Hunter, Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice, the Longhorns shredded the Musketeers’ defense, combining for 53 points. Good luck beating Texas when its guard corps clicks like that.
But as impressive as its offense was, its defense might’ve been even better. Xavier entered the contest as the eight best offense in the country, but it wilted against Texas’ discipline and physicality. The Longhorns harassed their opponent all night with sound ball screen defense and aggressive pressure. For instance, just look at Xavier’s turnovers compared (12) to its assists (12). The Musketeers assist on 64.1 percent of their made field goals (the sixth highest rate nationally). That number dipped to 42.8 percent against Texas.
Rodney Terry probably won’t have that interim tag for much longer.
Trimming the Ivy
Well, Princeton, it was fun.
The Tigers’ Cinderella run ended last night as Creighton pulled away late in an 86-75 win. Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman buoyed the Bluejays with scorching 3-point shooting, hitting eight of their 14 attempts from long distance. However, Ryan Nembhard made their lives much easier — the floor leader consistently created open looks for his teammates, picking apart Princteon’s zone and dishing out eight dimes.
And, of course, Ryan Kalkbrenner was brilliant. The Tigers struggled containing the 7-footer, who scored 22 points on a hyper-efficient 9-of-12 from the floor.
Nevertheless, it’s tough to criticize Princeton’s effort. Tournament hero Ryan Langborg again chipped in big-time shots. The 6-4 guard screamed off of pin-downs, draining triples from well beyond the arc. Then, there’s Tosan Evbuomwan. One of the game’s most unique players put on another show. The point chipped in 24 points, nine assists and six boards. He also flashed his exceptional handle on more than one occasion.
Should Evbuomwan enter the transfer portal, he’ll have no shortage of suitors. Hopefully, academics won’t be too big of an issue.
Miami dismisses top-seeded Houston with ease
For the second consecutive year, Miami is dancing its way into the Elite Eight, an accomplishment the Hurricanes had never accomplished prior to last season.
Friday’s performance was arguably the biggest win in recent Miami program history.
Houston entered the evening as one of two remaining 1-seeds in the tournament at 33-3. Miami punched early and never looked back, though. After the Cougars pulled ahead 23-22 with nine minutes to play in the first half, they were outscored by 15 points the rest of the way.
The main flurry came midway through the second half. As soon as Houston gathered its composure, Miami responded with a 16-2 scoring run to go up 70-53 with less than 10 minutes to go. Nijel Pack pocketed a trio of 3-pointers in a span of 130 seconds while Jordan Miller and Wooga Poplar added triples themselves to put the game out of reach.
Pack earned a smooch from coach Jim Larranaga in the postgame after a masterful Sweet 16 performance, dropping 26 points on 7-of-10 3-point shooting against one of the country’s premier defenses.