It’s finally time to take a breather and prepare our minds, bodies and souls for the tournament’s regional semifinals and finals.
But before we do that, let’s relive all the magic and madness of the final day of the 2022 NCAA tournament’s opening weekend.
March Madness’ 3 best games of Day 4
1. (1) Arizona 85, (9) TCU 80 (OT) (South)
With a three-day void staring all of us directly in the face, it was nice of the basketball gods to make the final game of the first week of the NCAA tournament one of its best and most exciting. Unless you were hoping for a blowout so you could catch up on a little sleep, but if that’s the case, you probably aren’t built for this weekend anyway.
After looking vulnerable all night, Arizona was able to escape into the second weekend of the Big Dance thanks to some heroics from its star and a highly questionable non-call in the waning moments of regulation.
After blowing a nine-point lead with less than eight minutes to play, Arizona suddenly found itself down by three with less than 20 seconds to go. Bennedict Mathurin, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, decided he wasn’t going to let the Wildcats be the second No. 1 seed knocked out of the Big Dance.
Of course this still left TCU with plenty of time to try and pull off the upset in regulation.
The Horned Frogs put the ball in the hands of point guard Mike Miles, who was swarmed by Arizona’s Dalen Terry and Christian Koloko. Miles appeared to be bumped by Terry near midcourt, but no whistle was blown. Instead, the loose ball was picked up by Terry, who raced towards the Arizona basket with the intention of sending the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 in the most dramatic fashion possible. He wound up coming a split second short.
The entire sequence was nuts.
My favorite part: Dalen Terry celebrating the late dunk by himself. He might still think he won the game. pic.twitter.com/IFvX30rtt3— Reese Waters (@reesewaters) March 21, 2022
While Terry ran around the court celebrating after the dunk, there’s no question that the ball was still in his hands when the game clock hit zero.
But what about that bump near midcourt?
After the game, TCU head coach Jamie Dixon took a diplomatic approach.
“I mean, I think everybody’s seen it and is talking about it,” Dixon said. “We’re gonna handle it the right way. That’s what we discussed. … We’ll defer to — we’ve got the best officials in the country working these games.”
Miles did the same when asked about the no-call ... at least at first. After dancing around the issue for a bit, he finally said matter-of-factly: “It was a foul. They didn’t call it.”
The two teams traded blows in overtime before Arizona big man Christian Koloko finally delivered the knockout punch.
I’m not sure we’ll see a better “putting an exclamation point on a victory” moment this month.
Koloko, who finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds, as 12-of-13 from the field on a night when the rest of his teammates were 19-of-55, including 5-of-27 on three-pointers.
2. (2) Duke 85, (7) Michigan State 76 (West)
This was the classic “don’t look at the final score, you had to have been watching to truly appreciate it” March Madness contest.
The Michigan State leading 70-65 and Coach K’s career appearing to be on life support, Duke found a way to play perhaps its five best minutes of the season in the season’s most crucial spot. The Blue Devils ended the game on a 20-6 run, which included an 8-0 run, and forced the Spartans into missing seven of their final nine shots.
With the contest hanging in the balance, it was sophomore guard Jeremy Roach — not Duke stars Paolo Banchero or Trevor Keels or Wendell Moore Jr. — who delivered the game’s biggest shot.
“The last five minutes, I think they made every shot,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said after the game.
He wasn’t wrong. Duke connected on all five of its field goal attempts in the game’s final five minutes, only misfiring at the free-throw line.
“Look, I’m 75,” Krzyzewski said afterwards. “To have moments like that, you’ve got to be kidding me. Really, how damn lucky can you be to be in that? And I want to share it. I don’t want to sit down and say, ‘You guys enjoy it.’ I want to be in the party a little bit. That’s the enjoyment I’ve got, I’ve had for 47 years. Today was one of the really good days.”
3. (3) Texas Tech 59, (11) Notre Dame 53 (West)
There was no clearcut choice for No. 3 here, but we’ll go with Texas Tech’s vaunted defense beating out Notre Dame’s vaunted three-point shooting.
Trailing by three with 1:56 to play, Texas Tech ended the game on a 10-1 run to make it back to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four tournaments. The Red Raiders advanced despite making just one of their final 11 field goal attempts, and that was an exclamation point dunk from Kevin McCullar with 15 seconds left.
“This is a March game. I’m so excited right now I can’t put it into words,” McCullar said. “It came down to defense. We knew we needed to get stops against a really good Notre Dame team. That’s what we ended up doing. And we hit some big free throws.”
The narrow loss kept Notre Dame from reaching the NCAA tournament’s second weekend for the first time since 2016.
“We hung in there and had our chances,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey, whose team’s run began in the First Four. “They made a few more plays and they are really gifted. They are a great defensive team. We emptied the tank physically, not only today, but starting Wednesday night, and they kind of emptied it emotionally. We’ve got a lot of tears in there.”
3 teams that won it the best
The Hurricanes didn’t just upset second-seeded Auburn on Sunday, they torched the Tigers.
The Miami backcourt trio of Charlie Moore, Kameron McGusty, and Isaiah Wong hit 22-of-44 shots to finish with a combined 56 points in The U’s dominant 79-61 win. The Hurricanes had 10 steals, scored 17 points off of 13 Auburn turnovers, and had 17 assists against just four turnovers themselves.
Miami also forced potential No. 1 NBA draft pick Jabari Smith into perhaps his worst performance of the season. The freshman star was just 3-of-16 from the field and finished with 10 points. It was the first time anyone had kept Smith under 15 points since Feb. 12.
Eventually, we’re all going to start respecting the Cougars.
Despite losing all five starters from last year’s Final Four team, Kelvin Sampson has Houston back in the Sweet 16 after beating trendy upset pick UAB by 14 and fourth-seeded Illinois by 15.
“We got a brand-new bunch,” Sampson said, dried off and fully dressed. “But the culture never changes. Because they’re great kids and they’re high-character kids, they buy in. It’s never about them. Our program is always about we and us, and that’s what happens when you have great kids.”
The win over Illinois also put to bed the notion that the Cougars are only capable of advancing in the tournament when there’s bracket chaos. The win over the Illini was the program’s first over a single-digit seed since the 1984 Final Four, when Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were rocking the scarlet and white.
Cases could be made for Villanova, Duke, Texas Tech or Iowa State here, but we’ll go with Purdue, who I think knocked off the best opponent who played the best game of any of the winners listed here.
It was a cathartic victory for the Boilermakers, who had been knocked out of the tournament by Texas head coach Chris Beard twice in the last six years. In 2016, Beard and Arkansas-Little Rock rallied from a 13-point hole to stun Purdue in the first round. Two years later, after Beard had made the move to Texas Tech, he and the Red Raiders upset the second-seeded Boilermakers in the Sweet 16.
Second Team All-American Jaden Ivey played hero in this one, hitting a monster shot every time it seemed like Texas was in position to let Beard break Purdue’s heart again.
He finished with 18 points, while big man Trevion Williams came off the bench to lead the Boilermakers with 22.
The other big story of the game was Purdue using its superior size to dominate the Longhorns at the free-throw line. The Boilermakers outscored Texas at the stripe, 33-7, and attempted 46 free-throws to UT’s 12.
The 3 Biggest Disappointments
On Jan. 24, Auburn reached No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in program history. The Tigers then went 4-5 in non-home games over the rest of the season, with their lone victories coming against Missouri by 1, Georgia by 2, Mississippi State in overtime, and 15-seed Jacksonville State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
To quote the great Hamilton Porter: “Maybe the shock of (their) first (No. 1 ranking) was just too much for (them).”
Auburn’s late season swoon certainly didn’t keep the Tiger players from at least speaking confidently going into their second round matchup.
Auburn’s guards said they have the best transition team in the country. When informed that Miami statistically has the best transition team in the country, Auburn’s Zep Jasper replied, “They in the ACC. We in the SEC.” CRAZY TIMES— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) March 19, 2022
Fast break points in Sunday night’s game:
That’s a tough look.
Auburn wasn’t the only top 3 seed from a power conference to lay an absolute egg on Sunday.
With a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line, Wisconsin was held to season lows in points (49), field goal percentage (29.8%), three-pointers made (2), and three-point shooting percentage (9.1%). National Player of the Year candidate Johnny Davis was just 4-of-16 from the field, and matched a season-high with four turnovers.
The most painful part of the evening for Wisconsin has to be that Iowa State wasn’t all that much better on offense. The Cyclones scored just 54 points, turned the ball over 14 times, and were 3-of-14 from three. If Bucky plays just a solidly below average game, as opposed to arguably its worst game of the season, its marching into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017.
If you read Friday’s recap, you’re well-versed on how I felt about the way Illinois played in its 54-53 win over Chattanooga. The Illini weren’t really any better on Sunday, and against a much better opponent, they got sent packing with a 15-point loss.
It was the second straight second round dud from Illinois, which still hasn’t made a Sweet 16 appearance since its run to the national championship game all the way back in 2005.
5 Day 4 Cheers
This is more of a first weekend cheer than a Sunday cheer, but whatever.
Statistically, the first weekend was the fifth “most mad” in the history of the expanded tournament. It almost ranked second.
The sum of all of the seeds playing in the Sweet 16 this year is 85. Only four tournaments (1986, 1990, 1999, and 2021) have had a higher number, led by last year's 94 mark.— College B-Ball Ref (@collegebb_ref) March 21, 2022
If TCU won, 2022's 93 would be second only to 2021.
The first two rounds provided us with a Sweet 16 that has a nice combination of Cinderellas still dancing and high-profile matchups between top dogs who survived the chaos. You can’t ask for much more.
2. Overtime games
The 2022 NCAA tournament is just two overtime games away from setting the record for most extra periods in March Madness.
Most overtime games in a single tournament:— David Worlock (@DavidWorlock) March 21, 2022
7- 1995, 1997, 2014
6- 1975, 2006, 2008, 2021, 2022
This first weekend was phenomenal. Here’s hoping the next two are just as strong.
3. Shirtless Kelvin Sampson
One of the coolest things about March Madness is seeing sides of coaches and players and administrators that seem so out of character because they don’t fit the profile of the people we see the other 11 months of the year.
Kelvin Sampson taking his shirt off and going nuts with his Houston players in the locker room certainly fits that description.
It’s like hearing your dad make a PG-13 joke in your presence for the first time.
Awesome. Completely awesome.
4. The Iowa State turnaround
Iowa State went 2-22 last season and failed to win a single game in the Big 12. It was the lowest win total for the program since it went 2-15 in 1925, and its first winless run in conference play since 1937.
Just 12 months later, the Cylcones are in the Sweet 16.
And it’s not like this type of remarkable turnaround was viewed as a possibility going into the season. In October, Iowa State wasn’t just picked to finish last in the Big 12, it was unanimously picked to finish last in the Big 12.
First-year head coach TJ Otzelberger deserves all the praise he’s getting right now.
5. Dancing Larranaga
It had been far too long, old friend.
5 Day 4 Jeers
1. The technical foul call on RJ Melendez
Houston controlled the action against Illinois for most of the afternoon on Sunday, ultimately rolling into the Sweet 16 with a 68-53 victory. There was, however, a stretch of time about midway though the second half where it looked like the Illini might be able to right their second round wrongs of a year ago.
With a little under 9 minutes to play and Illinois trailing by six, Illini guard RJ Melendez broke away for an uncontested cram that made the score 46-42. The game’s momentum was suddenly fully on the side of the 4-seed ... for all of 0.5 seconds.
This was called a technical foul. pic.twitter.com/Fuj8kjGTXR— Heat Check CBB (@HeatCheckCBB) March 20, 2022
1) Melendez’s momentum is such that if he lets go of the rim the moment he lets go of the ball, he runs the risk of serious injury.
2) Even if his body wasn’t in a risky position, whistling a T for holding onto the rim for that length of time is still incredibly, incredibly soft.
After the game, Melendez was still stunned.
“I didn’t get an explanation from the ref,” he said. “I’ve been doing that since high school so I don’t know what the problem was. I tried asking him what I did, but he didn’t want to talk about it”
One person that official, Brian O’Connell, did talk to was Illinois head coach Brad Underwood. According to Underwood, O’Connell admitted that he knew he made a mistake.
“Yeah, it’s deflating,” Underwood said after the game about the tech. “You make a play, it changes the momentum of the game. And to have that called in the moment? I can’t wait to see it. He told me he shouldn’t ever have called it, but in the moment he calls it. Maybe it’s personal, I don’t know. When a kid has a full head of steam going 100 miles an hour, and we all talk about safety and well-being of student-athletes, come on. And then to kill momentum like that? Horrible.”
There’s one clear solution here that solves all of this: Fire the “hanging on the rim technical” into the sun forever where it should have been for the last 20 years.
2. The SEC
Yes, the SEC is in the jeers section for the second time in week one. It’s warranted.
The league’s coaches spent a solid chunk of time after Selection Sunday talking about how the league could send three teams to the Final Four and how it could have sent four if the bracket had been set up differently. Instead, it’s sending as many teams to the tournament’s second weekend (1) as the MAAC, West Coast Conference and AAC.
Its regular season champion losing by 18 to a 10-seed from the ACC was the cherry on top of a very, very bad weekend for the league.
3. The Big 10
While the SEC may have had the worst week of any major conference, no league had a worse Sunday than the Big 10.
Purdue managed to hold off Texas and move into a second weekend matchup against 15-seed darling Saint Peter’s, but Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State all went down.
The league has sent a whopping 18 teams to the NCAA tournament over the last season. Only three of them have advanced past the first two rounds.
I also don’t think I need to remind anyone that the 1999-2000 Michigan State Spartans are the last Big 10 team to win it all.
With Wisconsin and Illinois losing on Sunday, four of the five Associated Press First Team All-Americans are now already out of the NCAA tournament. Only Ochai Agbaji of Kansas will see the second weekend.
All four of the losses featuring All-Americans — Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky), Keegan Murray (Iowa), Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) and Johnny Davis (Wisconsin) — came against worse-seeded teams. All but one of them (Cockburn and Illinois) came against a double-digit seed.
5. The lack of a true buzzer-beater
Yeah, we’re getting greedy here.
The first weekend of the 2022 tournament was phenomenal. The only thing it was missing was the moment perhaps most synonymous with March Madness. There were some incredibly clutch late-game shots, but no true buzzer-beaters.
Hopefully, those are coming with the brighter lights of the next two weekends.
All Day-4 Team
Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona
The Pac-12 Player of the Year saved the day for Arizona, hitting a huge game-tying three in the closing seconds of regulation and finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
Christian Koloko, Arizona
As good as Mathurin was down the stretch, it was Koloko who kept the Wildcats within striking distance of TCU. The big man was 12-of-13 from the field, scored 28 points, snagged 12 rebounds, and put the game away with a monster put-back dunk in the final moments of overtime.
Gabe Kalscheur, Iowa State
Kalscheur dropped 22 points for the Cyclones on Sunday, but with Iowa State scoring 54 and Wisconsin 49, it felt more like he dropped 66. Making the performance even more impressive is that fact that Kalscheur had failed to reach double figures in scoring in nine of his last 11 games. He went 1-for-7 from field (1-for-6 from three) and had as many fouls (4) and turnovers (4) as points (4) in Iowa State’s first round win over LSU.
Kameron McGusty, Miami
All of Miami’s guards were tremendous in the team’s 18-point win over Auburn, but McGusty was the biggest standout. He finished the game with 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Marcus Carr, Texas
Carr did everything he could to keep the Longhorns’ season alive, knocking down 4-of-8 shots from beyond the arc, scoring a game-high 23 points, and dishing out a game-high seven assists.
3 Best Day 4 Dunks
It’s official: The Friday/Sunday crop of teams are much, much better at dunking than the Thursday/Saturday squads.
1. Isaiah Wong, Miami
This would be impressive if it happened against any defender. The fact that it came against Jabari Smith made it doubly (triply?) so.
ISAIAH WONG my goodness, sir. pic.twitter.com/VcVZVXsK3N— Cooper Watson (@coopertwatson) March 21, 2022
Asked to describe the dunk after the game, Wong said: “I had an open lane and I was imagining dunking it and I came in, got my two steps in, and I was in the air and saw a big man try to jump with me and I was like `Ooh, I hope he jumps with me,’ and he he did and I dunked it and it felt like an amazing experience when I did that.”
2. Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona
Young man had himself quite a night, and he kept Arizona’s national title dreams alive in the process.
OMG BEN MATHURIN JUST BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN pic.twitter.com/e3bUzotPgw— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 21, 2022
3. Jaden Ivey, Purdue
Same exact statement as above, just replace “Arizona” with “Purdue.”
JADEN IVEY WITH THE— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 21, 2022
And Mom is fired up! pic.twitter.com/z9J9JxAy4t
3 Best Day 4 Images
1. Dalen Terry’s near game-winner
An image that would be impossible for Arizona fans to look at from now through eternity had the Wildcats not wound up prevailing in overtime.
2. You bi--h, f—k you
Mike Krzyzewski will end his career 13-3 against Tom Izzo after getting a degree of revenge on the Michigan State head coach for the Spartans knocking out the top overall seed Blue Devils in the Elite Eight in 2019.
3. Devan Cambridge
Man dunked on three players, including one of his teammates.
5 Notable Quotes From Day 4
1. “I was tuned into the games before us and I listened to Charles Barkley tell the CBS crew that if Auburn won, he would take off his shirt. And I thought to myself, ‘Man, no one wants to see that Charles.’” —Miami head coach Jim Larranaga
2. “You guys were terrific, man. I’m so — I’m really proud to be your coach.It had nothing to do with coaching in those last four or five minutes. It all had to do with heart and togetherness. They followed their hearts and God bless them — we’re in the Sweet 16.” —Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski
3. “Really never liked Wisconsin, to be honest. I mean I have family from there, but I’m a Minnesota-raised man.” —Iowa State guard Gabe Kalscheur
4. “I’d say dream big dreams and don’t ever give up on your dreams because there’s a certain time in my life when I was winning at certain levels and I thought I was the next John Wooden. And I was the only one in the room that thought that.” —Texas Tech head coach Mark Adams on what he would tell 1979 Texas Tech graduate Mark Adams about making the Sweet 16 in 2022
5. “Gotta keep getting here, gotta keep growing. You keep getting here, you get here enough, you get here consistently, and it will happen.” —Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann on being 0-3 with the Buckeyes in the second round
Full Sweet 16 schedule for 2022 men’s NCAA tournament
Everyone take a deep breath, get a few nice nights of sleep, and we’ll all meet back here on Thursday.