No need for a lengthy intro. Let’s get right to it.
March Madness’ 3 best games of Day 2
1. (7) Michigan State 74, (10) Davidson 73 (West)
The best game of Friday was largely decided by a second half stretch where Michigan State held Davidson scoreless for six minutes and went on a 16-3 run to snag a 67-59 lead. The Spartans then held off a furious late rally by the Wildcats — aided by a handful of questionable whistles — to hang onto a 74-73 win.
Joey Hauser, who has had a wildly disappointing 2021-22 season to date, was the star of stars for Sparty. He hit his first eight shots of the game, buried four triples, and finished with a career-high 27 points.
The Spartans get their shot at being the team that ends Coach K’s career when they face Duke in the second round on Sunday. Tom Izzo is just 3-12 all-time against Mike Krzyzewski, but is 2-3 against him in the NCAA tournament. Most recently, Michigan State stunned Zion Williamson and the top-seeded Blue Devils in the Elite Eight of the 2019 Big Dance.
2. (10) Miami 68, (7) USC 66 (Midwest)
It wasn’t exactly a work of art, but Miami-USC was the type of competitive, back-and-forth affair that the late afternoon window desperately needed. Although for the first half of the contest, it didn’t appear as though “competitive” was going to be a suitable way to describe the action.
USC played about as poorly as it could in the game’s opening half, making just eight shots and turning the ball over an astounding 12 times. They were lucky to head into the locker room trailing by only 11.
After the break, the Trojans showed the world their A game. They scored 17 of the second half’s first 19 points and shot a scorching 85.7 percent from the field over that stretch. That run set the stage for a vacillating finish to the game, one which would leave USC head coach Andy Enfield openly criticizing the officiating afterward.
A clutch three and a driving layup from USC’s Drew Peterson knotted the score at 66, but left Miami with the ball and 14 seconds to win the game. On the other end, Charlie Moore — who began playing college basketball at some point during the first Bush administration — drove to the basket and drew an iffy foul call on the Trojans’ Ethan Anderson.
Moore sunk both free-throws to put Miami ahead by two, but the drama didn’t end until Peterson had finished channeling his inner Gordon Heyward on the final shot attempt of the game.
After the game, Enfield didn’t hold back on the officiating.
“I thought Drew got fouled on the possession before when he tied the game, they hit his arm, and if you’re going to call it at one end you should call it at the other end,” Enfield said. “The call was made and, unfortunately, we were one possession short.
“I did think the out-of-bounds call at 2:05 was the wrong call and they gave the ball to Miami. They hit it out off the free-throw miss, it was a one-point game it should have been our ball. It was the wrong call. It was very clear, everybody saw it. I don’t know how you miss that call in a crucial part of the game in the NCAA Tournament. It went out on (Sam) Waardenburg, and it wasn’t even close.
“So, when you’re talking about a one-possession game, it’s very disappointing to lose like that.”
The win was Miami’s first in the NCAA tournament since 2016. They’ll face second-seeded Auburn on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
3. (4) Illinois 54, (13) Chattanooga 53 (South)
I was looking for any excuse not to put this game on the list, but alas, the evening session simply did not deliver at a high enough level.
As much as I’d love for the description of this game to be “Illinois survives upset scare from scrappy Chattanooga via thrilling finish,” the more apt description of the action from this one would be “basketball game resembles flag football game played by 6-year-olds where every play has to be a pass.”
If you watched any portion of this one, you know exactly what I’m talking about. At one point I thought the number of passes inexplicably thrown away with zero players in the general area of the ball were going to outnumber the amount of made field goals. Even the simplest pass was an adventure.
With both teams actively trying to give the game to the other in the final moments, Illinois emerged as the team slightly less eager to begin its offseason.
Not all close games featuring a potential Cinderella and an exciting finish are great games. There’s never been a better example of that than Illinois vs. Chattanooga. Still, it was entertaining in its own way and just barely edges out Iowa State-LSU for the final spot on this list.
3 NCAA tournament teams that won it the best
It’s wild to think that most people have sort of forgotten about a Final Four team from last year that spent most of this season ranked in the top 15 ... but ... most people have sort of forgotten about a Final Four team from last year that spent most of this season ranked in the top 15.
Houston raced out to a 34-16 lead over UAB Friday night, and then kept the trendy upset pick at bay for the remainder of the evening. The Cougars, who don’t have a single starter back from last year’s Final Four squad, have now won 10 of their last 11, with nine of those victories coming by double digits.
2. Texas Tech
Friday’s largest margin of victory came for the Red Raiders, who exploded for 97 points in a 35-point dismantling of 14th-seeded Montana State. Texas Tech shot 66.7 percent from the field, including 12-of-20 from behind the three-point line. The shooting performance was tied for the fourth-best in the history of the NCAA tournament’s first round.
The 97 points were also the most by a Texas Tech team in March Madness, surpassing the 92 the Red Raiders scored in a second round win over North Carolina back in 1996.
TCU’s first NCAA tournament win in 35 years couldn’t have been much more impressive. The ninth-seeded Horned Frogs pulled the (very) mild upset of Seton Hall by outscoring the Pirates 40-14 in the paint on their way to a thoroughly dominant 69-42 win.
The last time TCU won a game in the Big Dance, current head coach Jamie Dixon was a senior guard on the squad. This is just the Horned Frogs third appearance in the tournament since 1988.
The 3 Biggest Disappointments of Friday’s first round action at the NCAA tournament
When you’re best-seeded team to lose on a given day, you’re probably going to find yourself occupying this spot. When you lose said game by 14, well, it’s sort of a no-brainer.
Facing a Notre Dame team that only plays seven players and which was taking the floor for the second time in three days, sixth-seeded Alabama looked like the squad that might be suffering from sore legs. The Crimson Tide never found their footing in a 78-64 loss where the Irish seemed to be in control for nearly the entirety of the second half.
The tone for the game was set early when junior point guard Jahvon Quinerly suffered what appeared to be a significant left knee injury. He did not return, and Alabama never seemed to find a way to cope with his absence. The Tide, which ended its season with four consecutive losses, had two scoring droughts that lasted longer than three minutes.
2. Loyola Chicago
There will be no flood of Sister Jean memes for the remainder of the month. Not this year. That’s because Loyola Chicago gave one of the worst shooting performances of the tournament thus far, going a woeful 15-of-56 (26.8%) from the floor in a 54-41 loss to Ohio State that was downright difficult to watch.
Every time Loyola launched a three-pointer, the voice of announcer Kevin Harlan sounded increasingly desperate, not excited, about the prospects of a Rambler shot from the outside finding something other than iron. It wasn’t much better in the paint for Loyola, which went an astounding 4-for-18 on layups.
The 10th-seeded Ramblers actually entered the game a slight favorite over 7th-seeded Ohio State, which is now a win away from its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2013.
We’re going with the team that actually won this game only because it feels unfair to pick the 13-seed that led the 4 for 99.5% of the evening and fell by a single point, even though I think any other 13-seed in the field probably takes out Illinois Friday night.
An 8-point favorite, Illinois led 13-seed Chattanooga for all of 26.7 seconds on Friday night, and yet the Illini are still moving on to the second round. You’d love to say Brad Underwood’s team prevailed because of clutch play or sheer will or some other positive attribute, but the biggest contributing factor Illinois winning was its opponent seeming to be diametrically opposed to putting the game away.
One team would throw the ball out-of-bounds because a teammate wasn’t looking, and then the other would respond a possession later by throwing the ball three rows into the stands. It was an evenly matched “battle” for all the wrong reasons.
I’ll say two nice things about Illinois because I’ve been pretty hard on Brad Underwood’s team so far in the wrap:
1. Before Friday, Illinois had lost 14 consecutive NCAA tournament games where they trailed at halftime. The last time the Illini had come-from-behind for a victory in the Big Dance was all the way back in 1993 when they overcame a halftime deficit to beat Long Beach State.
2. Illinois has now won seven straight NCAA tournament games against teams seeded 13th or worse. Their last loss in such a situation came in 1997 when they lost to 14th-seeded ... Chattanooga ... in the second round.
5 Day 2 Cheers
1. The Big 12
Every predictive metric in the world has said that the Big 12 was the best conference in college basketball this season. Through one round of NCAA tournament play, the league has made its automated friends look awfully intelligent.
Six Big 12 teams have taken the floor so far in the Big Dance. Six Big 12 teams have won, and six Big 12 teams have covered. Two of those six teams — 9th-seeded TCU and 11th-seeded Iowa State — were underdogs.
If that weren’t enough, the Big 12 teams outscored their opponents by a total of 138 points, the widest scoring margin by any conference in any round in tournament history.
Perhaps Oklahoma deserved one of those final two spots in the field of 68.
2. The ACC
The ACC is putting quite the bow on what many believed to be the conference’s weakest season in recent memory so far.
The league is 5-1 through the first round of the 2022 NCAA tournament, with 11-seed Virginia Tech’s 81-73 loss to Texas serving as the conference’s only setback.
—Duke had no problem with Cal State Fullerton on Friday.
—Notre Dame outlasted Rutgers in double overtime in the First Four on Wednesday and then took down 6-seed Alabama on Friday.
—North Carolina set the tournament record for margin of victory in an 8/9 game when it beat Marquette by 32 on Thursday.
—And Miami notched a mild upset of 7th-seeded USC with its 68-66 win Friday afternoon.
3. Marcus Carr’s halfcourt buzzer-beater
Safe bet that you’ll be seeing this on “One Shining Moment.”
The shot of the tournament so far definitely seemed to be a turning point for Texas, which went from 1-point down before it happened to out-scoring Virginia Tech by six in the second half and running off to an 81-73 win.
4. Texas’ locker room celebration
I’m not sure of the reason, but it seems like we’re seeing fewer videos of locker room celebrations during this NCAA tournament than any other in recent memory.
The cure for that? Chris Beard storming in like a Bushwhacker before getting doused with water by the Longhorn players.
5. Ridiculous blocks
Friday was a better day for dunks than Thursday was, but it was really a better day for absurd blocks.
First up is LSU’s Eric Gains, who seemed to hang in the air for a solid three minutes just waiting to send this layup attempt to the damn moon.
A few minutes later, we also got TCU’s Emanuel Miller setting the tone for the rest of the night against Seton Hall with this absurd swat.
Bad night to be a basketball.
BONUS CHEER: First Four success continuing
Notre Dame’s win over Alabama continued the trend of at-large teams who start their tournaments in the First Four going on to have success in the main draw.
The First Four became a thing in 2011. In every year but one (2019) since then, at least one team has gone from Dayton to win at least one game in the tournament’s main draw. Overall, First Four teams have now produced a total of 20 wins in the main draw. Notre Dame is a win away from becoming the sixth team to go from Dayton to the Sweet 16.
5 Day 2 Jeers
1. Duke fans
This is an, at best, D+ paint job all the way around.
Not sure the Tobias Fünke vibes could be stronger.
Shockingly, this wasn’t even the worst look in the row.
This is why Coach K is retiring. He told me. You did this. Congratulations.
2. The 13-seed tease
All four 13-seeds in the field — South Dakota State, Chattanooga, Vermont and Akron — pushed their respective 4-seeds to the brink before ultimately falling. It was an extremely strong crop of 13-seeds, and you get the sense if they could have mixed and matched their opponents, we could have had one or two upsets.
At least we’ve still got the Peacocks.
3. Joe Biden’s bracket
Someone should have let the President know that a 15-seed has never won the men’s tournament and a 13-seed has never won the women’s tournament.
Both the men’s and women’s Blue Hen teams were defeated in the first round on Friday.
Gotta be on track for the lowest point total of any Presidential bracket ever. So embarrassing.
4. Zero perfect brackets
Friday began with just 182 perfect brackets remaining out the of 17.3 million that were filled out on ESPN.com. The last unblemished bracket remaining went down when Iowa State took down LSU a little after 10 p.m. on the East Coast.
Typically, we at least make it to the second round with a handful of perfect brackets out there, and the last man or woman standing is still there once we arrive at the Sweet 16. Not in 2022. The networks didn’t even get to run their “little Jacob Taylor from Cleveland picked Saint Peter’s because Peter is the name of his best friend at school, now he has the only perfect tournament bracket in America” features.
5. Offense, or lack thereof
Ten teams on Friday scored 60 points or fewer. Three games featured both teams scoring under 60. Only three teams scored more than 80 points, and all three of those games were over in the first half.
Not the most thrilling day of action from an offensive standpoint.
All Day-2 Team
Jabari Smith, Auburn
The potential No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft led the Tigers past Jacksonville State by scoring 20 points, snagging 14 rebounds, and handing out four assists. He became the only Auburn player other than Charles Barkley to score at least 20 points and grab at least 10 rebounds in his NCAA tournament debut.
Cormac Ryan, Notre Dame
What better time to notch your new career high than your first NCAA tournament game? That’s precisely what Notre Dame junior Cormac Ryan did on Friday, drilling 7-of-9 three-pointers on his way to a 29-point performance in the Irish’s 78-64 upset of Alabama.
Johnny Davis, Wisconsin
The Badger star scored a game-high 25 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and made all the plays necessary at the end of the game to put away pesky Colgate for a 67-60 Wisconsin dub.
Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State
Hunter hit every big shot late in Iowa State’s win over LSU, and became just the second player in NCAA tournament history to make seven three-pointers and record five steals. The other? Stephen Curry.
Joey Hauser, Michigan State
Hauser picked the perfect time to break out of a season-long slump, hitting his first eight shots and scoring a career-high 27 points. Michigan State needed each one of them in their 74-73 win over Davidson.
3 Best Day 2 Dunks
1. Jabari Smith, Auburn
In my expert opinion, I believe this young man has a chance to make a living playing basketball one day.
2. Mylik Wilson, Texas Tech
The fact that this didn’t count kept it from having a shot to be No. 1, but it had to be on the list.
3. Coleman Hawkins, Illinois
This is not a spectacular dunk by any stretch of the imagination, but it makes the list because I’m fascinated by how little the net moves. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that on an alley-oop before.
3 Best Day 2 Images
1. She knows what time it is
Unfortunately, her Trojans are no longer part of the madness.
2. “I’m not really feeling anything, so I’m just going to go ahead and eat another.” —Scrappy Moc
Scrappy Moc 30 minutes later:
3. Paolo Banchero gets vertical (and sort of horizontal)
The freshman star finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in his March Madness debut.
5 Notable Quotes From Day 2
1. “They’ve got the best spinach salad I’ve ever had in my life at our hotel. I was telling my daughter before the game, ‘we gotta stay here so I can get one more of these salads.’” —Texas head coach Chris Beard on his inspiration to lead the Longhorns into the second round of the tournament
2. “We obviously didn’t play our best today and almost 100 percent of that has to do with Texas Tech. It felt like they were guarding me. I couldn’t see even see my play card. They make every catch hard. They contest not only every shot, they contest every pass, and they made it really difficult for us.” —Montana State head coach Danny Sprinkle on his team’s 35-point loss to Texas Tech
3. “We have No. 10 and you don’t.” —Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl pointing to star freshman Jabari Smith as the reason people should believe the Tigers can play deep into March
4. “We’re throwing the ball away. We’re throwing the ball to the other team. We look like we’ve never played basketball before.” —USC head coach Andy Enfield at halftime of USC’s 68-66 loss to Miami
5. “When I get home tomorrow I will discuss things with my agent. I’ll be honest: If I’m not here next year, if Shaheen Holloway is here, that would be the happiest thing that ever happened to me.” —Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard responding to rumors that he might be leaving to take the head coaching job at Maryland