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The Best and Worst from Day 3 of March Madness

The reigning national champions are dancing no more, but the Peacocks still are.

Murray St v Saint Peter’s Photo by Jamie Sabau/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

A one-seed went down, and with it went the hopes of college basketball’s first repeat national champion in 15 years. Two other top seeds were pushed to the brink. A trendy Final Four pick was bounced by a team many thought didn’t even belong in the field. And, of course, a team nicknamed the Peacocks became just the third 15-seed ever to win multiple games in an NCAA tournament.

Let’s get to it.

March Madness’ 3 best games of Day 3

1. (1) Gonzaga 82, (9) Memphis 78 (West)

You know how you have certain books that you’ll recommend to friends who don’t necessarily love reading? Well this was the type of game that you recommend to your friends who don’t necessarily love college basketball.

A breakneck pace, future pros all over the court, a raucous (mostly pro-Gonzaga) crowd, the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed being pushed to the brink; This one had about everything you could ask for from a second round game.

It was clear from the outset that Memphis’ length and athleticism was going to bother Gonzaga. Just how much so wasn’t fully apparent until the Tigers were carrying a 10-point advantage with them into the locker room at halftime.

In the second 20 minutes, Gonzaga did what great teams do when they’re threatened: They played their greatest hits. Mark Few emphasized getting the ball to star big man Drew Timme more, and Timme responded by scoring 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. The Bulldogs also upped their pace, getting easy bucket after easy bucket in transition while also wearing down a Memphis team that very clearly wasn’t as built for playing this type of game as the ‘Zags were.

Thanks in large part to some woeful free-throw shooting by Gonzaga (13-of-24 at the line after going 16 for 30 in the first round against Georgia State), Memphis never fully went away. The Tigers got within two on Lester Quinones’ triple with 32 seconds to play, but four straight free-throws by Andrew Nembhard — Gonzaga’s lone consistently reliable free-throw shooter — put the game on ice.

The Zags are now off to the Sweet 16 for the seventh consecutive tournament, the longest active streak in college basketball and tied for the third longest all-time. They’ll get fourth-seeded Arkansas on Thursday.

2. (8) North Carolina 93, (1) Baylor 86 (OT) (East)

Where do you even start here?

This game had Shakespearian levels of depth, and peeling away all the layers would take far more time than we have here. So let’s just hit five major things you need to know about one of the wildest second round tournament games in history.

1) North Carolina nearly tied the record for the largest blown lead in NCAA tournament history.

The Tar Heels led Baylor by a whopping 25 points with just over 10 minutes to play, then watched as that lead completely evaporated before the regulation clock struck zero. Had UNC not prevailed in overtime, they would have gone down in history alongside Iona as the only teams in March Madness history to lose a game they once led by 25.

2) Brady Manek got tossed.

North Carolina was up by 25 when Brady Manek was ejected from the game for throwing an elbow that was deemed a flagrant 2 foul.

You can judge for yourself.

Manek was UNC’s leading scorer at the time with 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. The Tar Heel unraveling began the moment lumberjack-looking stretch four hit the showers, as Baylor instantly went on a 20-4 run to get right back in the game.

It should be stated that Manek’s flagrant 2 does not mean that he has to sit out UNC’s Sweet 16 game against UCLA.

3) It was one of the worst-officiated games of all-time.

If there’s anyone in your life who rocks Carolina blue, you’re likely sick of hearing about how the refs tried to hand the game to Baylor in the second half. While the Bears’ furious rally in the game’s final 10 minutes was certainly aided by some seemingly absurd whistles and non-whistles, the stripes also made some egregious calls against Scott Drew’s team near the end of regulation and in overtime as well.

There are far too many specifics to get into here, but it felt like every call that could possibly be screwed up by this officiating crew (and even some that felt impossible to screw up) was screwed up by this officiating crew. If any one of them works another game in this tournament, it will be a travesty.

4) Scott Drew couldn’t bear to watch the final shot of regulation.

After James Akinjo’s old fashioned three-point-play tied the score at 80 with 15 seconds to go, North Carolina’s R.J. Davis had one final shot to settle things in regulation. The shot came up well short, but Baylor head coach Scott Drew never saw it. He was just waiting to hear the right type of roar.

That’s a terrific March Madness right there that might have been an all-time March Madness moment had Baylor gone on to prevail in overtime.

5) Dontrez Styles’ three changed everything.

Heading into overtime, pretty much every basketball fan in the world thought North Carolina had blown its shot at advancing to the Sweet 16. As much momentum as there can possibly be was in the corner of Baylor, which had already appeared to be the stronger side heading into the afternoon.

On the first possession of the extra period, freshman guard Dontrez Styles, who entered the game averaging just 1.9 ppg for the season, buried a no hesitation three from the left corner to put the Heels back on top. Styles had been just 2-for-14 from three on the season before the shot.

While R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot made all the necessary big plays for the remainder of the overtime, Styles was the man who was there at the time when UNC was most in need of someone to step up and re-assert control.

3. (1) Kansas 79, (9) Creighton 72 (Midwest)

For a while, it looked as though Saturday afternoon’s two standalone games might give us back-to-back bouncings of No. 1 seeds.

The second would have been even more surprising than the first, as Creighton would be taking on mighty Kansas without the services of starting point guard Ryan Nemhard, the Big East Freshman of the Year, as well as 7-foot center Ryan Kalkbrenner. Nemhard was lost for the season in late February, while Kalkbrenner injured his knee late in overtime of Creighton’s 72-69 win over San Diego State on Thursday.

Against all odds, the Bluejays went (nearly) blow for blow with Kansas for 40 minutes on Saturday.

The game’s decisive moment came in the final minute. With Creighton in possession of the ball and trailing by one, an errant pass by Trey Alexander went off the hands of Alex O’Connell and right into the bread basket of Kansas star Ochai Agbaji, who took it the other way for an easy dunk.

The Bluejays wouldn’t score on any of their final three possessions.

With the win, Kansas tied Kentucky for the all-time lead in both total wins and 30-win seasons. The Jayhawks can move ahead of the Wildcats in the former category with a Sweet 16 win over Providence on Friday.

3 teams that won it the best

1. Providence

Despite being the Midwest Region’s 4-seed, just 20.8 percent of the 17.3 million people who filled out brackets on ESPN.com believed Providence would play to form and advance past the tournament’s opening weekend.

Not only are the Friars marching on, but they’re doing so after wins over South Dakota State and Richmond that came by a combined 37 points.

Doing the heaviest lifting in that total was PC’s 79-51 trouncing of the Spiders on Saturday. Ed Cooley’s team shot over 50 percent from both behind the three-point line and inside it, had five different players score in double figures, and limited Richmond to a dismal 1-of-22 from three.

The 28-point margin of victory was the largest ever by a Providence team in an NCAA tournament game, and sends the Friars to their first Sweet 16 appearance in 25 years.

2. Michigan

The major talk surrounding Michigan in the days between Selection Sunday and the start of first round play on Thursday was how a team with a 17-14 overall record managed to not just make the field of 68, but avoid playing in the First Four.

It isn’t the major talk surrounding the Wolverines anymore.

Michigan trailed by five at halftime and for a healthy chunk of the second half before a decisive 14-5 run spearheaded by Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks. Brooks scored four points in the game’s final minute, including a gorgeous running hook shot just before the shot clock buzzer that felt like the biggest bucket of the game.

The Wolverines are now headed to the Sweet 16 for the fifth-consecutive tournament, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Gonzaga, and tied for the fifth-longest streak ever.

3. UCLA

Despite the fact that they were facing a Saint Mary’s team that looked much stronger in their Thursday night win over Indiana than UCLA did in its narrow triumph over Akron, the Bruins rolled to a 72-56 victory that never really felt in jeopardy after the closing moments of the first half.

Four of UCLA’s five starters scored in double figures, and the only starter who failed to hit that mark (Cody Riley), scored nine. The Bruins shot 56.5 percent from the field as a team, and after a bit of a slow start, never seemed to be truly threatened by one of the better Saint Mary’s teams ever fielded by longtime head coach Randy Bennett.

Now we get UCLA vs. North Carolina in the NCAA tournament for just the third time ever, and the first time since 1989. The Bruins bettered the Tar Heels in the 1968 national title game, while UNC won a second round game between the two storied programs in ‘89.

The 3 Biggest Disappointments

1. Baylor

On one hand, you nearly pulled off the (co-)biggest comeback in the history of the NCAA tournament. On the other, you dug yourself a 25-point hole and would up being the first No. 1 seed to get bounced.

Florida’s status as college basketball’s most recent back-to-back national champion (2006, 2007) will stay in tact for at least one year.

2. Richmond

It feels wrong to bag on Richmond after a magical two weeks where the Spiders won the A-10 tournament as a 6-seed and then stunned trendy Final Four pick Iowa in the first round of the Big Dance, but they were awful on Saturday.

Richmond went 1-of-22 from three and was within striking distance of Providence for all of about 30 seconds. Defensively, the Spiders allowed a less than stellar shooting team to connect on more than 50 percent of their three-point attempts for just the second time this season.

Fun fact: Fran McCaffery busted every blood vessel in his face watching this game.

3. Murray State

Murray State fans waiting for their game in Indianapolis on Thursday night certainly appeared to be rooting awfully hard for Saint Peter’s. Well, they got what they wanted, and now they’ll be mentioned in the same breath as Florida and San Diego State, and the topic of the conversation won’t be a particularly pleasant one — at least not for fans of the Gators, Aztecs, and now Racers.

Speaking of ...

5 Day 3 Cheers

1. Saint Peter’s

For just the third time in March Madness history, a 15-seed is crashing the Sweet 16. With its 70-60 win over Murray State, Saint Peter’s joined the 2013 Florida Gulf Coast and 2021 Oral Roberts as the only little guys to achieve the feat.

Two days after shocking Kentucky in overtime, the Peacocks took down another single-digit seed from the Commonwealth as they ended Murray State’s 21-game winning streak.

To be honest, pretty much from start to finish on Saturday, Saint Peter’s looked like the team that had the lengthy winning streak and national ranking next to its name. The Peacocks got a double-double from senior big man KC Ndefo and 13 points off the bench from budding international sex symbol Doug Edert to control a game where they never trailed.

Saint Peter’s is the first team from New Jersey to reach the Sweet 16 since Seton Hall made it to the second weekend back in 2000. The point guard on that team? Current Peacocks head coach Shaheen Holloway.

They’ll now face either Texas or Purdue to try and go where no 15-seed has ever been before: A regional final.

2. Juwan Howard’s empathy

As Tennessee and Michigan shook hands following the Wolverines’ 76-68 victory, it was very apparent that the Volunteers’ Kennedy Chandler was having a hard time coming to terms with his team’s upset loss. The star freshman did all he could to get UT into the Sweet 16, scoring 19 points and dishing out nine assists.

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard, who experienced his fair share of heartbreak in the NCAA tournament, made it a point to console Chandler.

“Kennedy is a special, special player, one of the best point guards in college basketball, in my opinion,” Howard said of Chandler before the game. “The way he’s able to make immediate impact right out of high school into the college level, that’s impressive. He’s always known as a playmaker, a guy that can get downhill and can make plays for others. But no one talked about his shooting, and you’ve just seen how he’s worked on it and that’s one of his strengths.

It’s not hard to see why Howard’s players speak so glowingly of him.

3. Drew Timme’s self-censoring ... and then lack of self-censoring

With his team trailing by 10 and staring the end of its season directly in the face, Gonzaga star Drew Timme reportedly lit into his teammates with a fiery halftime speech. Whatever he said worked, as the Zags roared back to take down Memphis, 82-78.

So what exactly did Timme say? Hearing him try and describe the speech without being able to use the actual words that he said was one of Saturday’s greatest joys.

I believe the transcript of the first part of that statement is: “I said I don’t give ... a flying F ... what happens at the end of the game whether we win or lose, we’re not going out as no ... uh ... soft guys.”

It was an admirable effort. Of course when you drop “shit” multiple times about 45 seconds later, it sort of defeats the purpose.

Tremendous night for March mustaches.

4. The standalone games

I’ll never understand the layout of the tournament’s first Saturday and Sunday. I mean I’m sure the explanation is rooted in something related to ratings and money, but it still defies basic logic from a fan perspective.

After being flooded with games at all hours for the previous 48 hours, we get just two games back-to-back for the first five hours of the day. No games going on at the same time. Even the first half of the third game is alone on an island. And then BAM, we’ve got six games hurled at us during the evening session.

There’s no reason to have second round games wrapping up after midnight on the East Coast. It’s an easy fix, and it blows my mind that it hasn’t happened yet.

BUT, the layout is far more tolerable when the standalone games are as entertaining as North Carolina-Baylor and Kansas-Creighton were. Thank you to all four basketball programs. You’re all March heroes to me.

5. Eric Musselman

For the first time since the Arkansas glory days of the mid-’90s, the Razorbacks are headed to back-to-back Sweet 16s. This thanks to a gritty, if not aesthetically pleasing, 53-48 win over 12-seed New Mexico State.

That stat mentioned initially also doesn’t account for the fact that from 1997 up until last year, the program went to the second weekend of the tournament a grand total of zero times.

He kept his shirt on for this one.

Not sure if the same will be true if the Hogs take down No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga Thursday night.

5 Day 3 Jeers

1. Tennessee

Despite decrying their status as a 3-seed, the public made Tennessee one of the trendiest Final Four picks in the field of 68 at the beginning of this week. It wasn’t hard to understand why. The Volunteers were coming off an extremely impressive run to the SEC tournament title, and entered the Big Dance having won seven straight and 12 of their last 13.

Against Michigan, Tennessee appeared to be less physical, less prepared, and less willing to embrace the urgency of the moment. The performance was an especially tough look for head coach Rick Barnes, who, despite a ton of regular season success in Knoxville, has been ousted in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in nine of his last 10 appearances, and who has led a team to the Sweet 16 just one time since 2008.

2. Leaky Black’s ill-advised pass

There were no fewer than 7,167 moments from North Carolina-Baylor that could have found their way on this list. The Tar Heels blew a 25-point lead with just 10 minutes to play, Baylor’s decision-making in overtime left a ton to be desired, and you’ve likely heard all about the officiating. But the moment that stood out to be came in the waning moments of overtime, just when it seemed like some sort of order was finally going to take hold.

It seemed like, for the first time in about two hours, that the action in Fort Worth had finally eased to a nice, calm stall. North Carolina had stretched its lead to six, and with less than a minute to play, it seemed to go without saying that the Tar Heels would use as much clock as possible and either force Baylor to foul or try and deliver a knockout punch just before the shot clock horn echoed.

Leaky Black had a different idea.

The reverse angle shows just how close this rocket came to actually going over (or maybe breaking) the backboard.

Thankfully for UNC, this ill-advised decision didn’t allow Baylor to, for the 75th time, get right back into the game when it seemed like the Heels had victory well-in-hand.

3. The SEC

There was talk by some going into this week that the SEC was so strong this season that it could wind up producing three Final Four teams. Instead, 2-seed Kentucky and 6-seeds Alabama and LSU were all bounced after round one, and 3-seed Tennessee bit the dust on Saturday. Only 4-seed Arkansas (which is through to the Sweet 16) and 2-seed Auburn (which faces 10-seed Miami in the second round on Sunday) are left standing.

So allow us to revisit a pre-tournament quote from Kentucky head coach John Calipari.

Yikes.

4. Friar Dom and the Richmond Spider

Two of America’s creepiest mascots in the same motherf—-ing place at the same motherf—-ing time? We done messed up now.

Nightmare fuel.

5. The late Pete Gillen

Oh no, Rex.

Pete Gillen, for those unaware, is not only alive and well, but he is currently a college basketball analyst for CBS.

All Day-3 Team

Hunter Dickinson, Michigan

Michigan’s man in the middle is the biggest reason the Wolverines are dancing to the Sweet 16 for the fifth consecutive tournament. Dickinson dominated Tennessee to the tune of 27 points and 11 rebounds. He knocked down eight of his 13 field goal attempts overall, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.

Dickinson’s 48 points through two rounds of the NCAA tournament are the most by a Michigan player since current head coach Juwan Howard poured in 62 over the first two games of the 1994 Big Dance.

R.J. Davis, North Carolina

Brady Manek carried the Heels early, but after his ejection, it was Davis who carried Carolina across the finish line. Despite playing with an injured thumb, Davis poured in 30 points and dished out six assists. He became just the second player in UNC history to score at least 30 points in an NCAA tournament game against a No. 1 seed.

Drew Timme, Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s star helped saved the day for the No. 1 overall seed, scoring 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half of the team’s 82-78 win over Memphis. He added 14 rebounds and four assists for good measure.

Remy Martin, Kansas

There’s been talk all season long that the “Bad Remy Martin” could be what winds up ending Kansas’ season. Well, the “Good Remy Martin” is the biggest reason the Jayhawks are still chasing the national title. Martin was spectacular in KU’s win over Creighton, coming off the bench to score 20 points, grab seven rebounds, and dish out four assists.

Arthur Kaluma, Creighton

Kaluma did everything he could to get the Bluejays past Kansas, scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The freshman forward is one of the biggest reasons why the future looks so bright in Omaha.

3 Best Day 3 Dunks

1. Trae Hannibal, Murray State

Once again, not a great crop of dunks from the Thursday/Saturday squads, but this from Hannibal was the best of the slams.

2. Johnny McCants, New Mexico State

Hammer time.

3. Arthur Kaluma, Creighton

Alex O’Connell and Kaluma combined to do this like 13 times Saturday afternoon. Ok, maybe just twice, but it felt like more.

3 Best Day 3 Images

1. Dancin’ Peacocks

The kings of the state of Kentucky are dancing into the Sweet 16.

Murray St v Saint Peter’s Photo by Jamie Sabau/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

2. Extasy and anger

One team from California had more fun than the other Saturday night.

Saint Mary’s v UCLA Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

3. Lookin’ for a Spider

Jacob Gilyard and Justin Minaya: Two athletic young men.

Richmond v Providence Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

5 Notable Quotes From Day 3

1. “I got guys from New Jersey and New York City. You think we’re scared of anything? You think we’re worried about guys trying to muscle us and tough us out? We do that. That’s who we are.” —Saint Peter’s head coach Shaheen Holloway

2. “All year we’ve just been hearing different things about us, how we’re a soft team, how we don’t like to fight. Today, I think we really showed that we can fight. To persevere in a moment like that and just come together, I’m just so proud of everyone.” —North Carolina forward Armando Bacot

3. “I can tell you from experience whether you lose on the first day, the second day, like we did today, or you lose in the semifinals, it’s the same feeling. People can say whatever they want to say about — you don’t every take getting here for granted. I mean, it is so hard to get here. So you don’t take that for granted, but is it frustrating? Yeah. I’ve been frustrated a lot in my career, but I’m also very thankful that I’ve been able to be here.” —Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes

4. “I said I don’t give ... a flying F ... what happens at the end of the game whether we win or lose, we’re not going out as no ... uh ... soft guys.” —Gonzaga’s Drew Timme paraphrasing what he said to his teammates at halftime

5. “The Drew Timme effect came into play.” —Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway on what changed from the first half to the second in his team’s loss to Gonzaga

Full Sunday schedule for 2022 men’s NCAA tournament

Last day of the first weekend. Can’t hold anything back now.