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NCAA Tournament 2016: The Best and worst of Saturday's madness

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Not all tournament days can be loaded with monster upsets and crazy finishes. That doesn't mean Saturday wasn't cool.

Following up one of the most exciting, insane and entertaining days in the history of the NCAA Tournament put Saturday in an unenviable position right out of the gate. The day managed to give us a fierce game between two rivals, a double-digit seed advancing and ... well, not all that much else. But it tried.

The field of teams chasing the national championship has now dwindled to 24. Here's a look at all the things that got us to that number on Saturday.

THREE BEST SATURDAY GAMES

1. (5) Indiana 73, (4) Kentucky 67 (East)

Playing for the first time since the 2012 Sweet Sixteen, border rivals Indiana and Kentucky played easily the most intense game from the first day of second-round action. The Hoosiers utilized a timely 12-2 run after the under-8 timeout to secure their third trip to the Sweet Sixteen in the last five years, and send UK packing before the tournament's second weekend for the first time in the John Calipari era.

Despite being able to lay claim to arguably the best backcourt in college basketball, Kentucky's issues in the post finally caught up with them on Saturday. Indiana freshman Thomas Bryant was a force in the paint, scoring a team-high 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and sealing the game with a pair of free throws in the final 11 seconds. The Wildcat frontcourt of Alex Poythress and Skal Labissiere could manage only a combined 10 points and 11 rebounds in response.

Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray combined for 43 points, but did so on 17-for-38 shooting. Murray misfired on eight of his nine attempts from beyond the arc in what will more than likely be his final college game. The guards also finished with the same number of turnovers (seven) as assists, but it's hard to shoulder them with too much of the blame since no other Kentucky player scored more than seven points.

The competitive game immediately raised questions about why these two rivals haven't met in the regular season since 2011, when their annual series was ended abruptly for reasons that are still somewhat unclear. Calipari said after the game that he would be open to resuming the rivalry series, but only if the game was played on a neutral court in Indianapolis.

Coach Cal went into a bit more detail before the game on Friday.

"I understand they need home games and that's what they want," Calipari said. "There is no issue with me. We've got our schedule. They've got theirs. It hasn't hurt us, and it hasn't hurt them."

Regardless of what led Indiana and Kentucky to this place, Saturday was a clear indication of what everybody already knew: the series needs to resume. College basketball needs its powerhouse programs squaring off as often as it can happen, especially when those powerhouse programs just so happen to be longstanding border rivals.

This is a sweet win for Indiana, but despite Saturday's rivalry implications, every Hoosier fan alive would tell you that the next one would be even sweeter. IU hasn't played in a regional final since 2002, a fact that Tom Crean has been kept keenly aware of. Going from having perhaps the hottest seat in college basketball in early December to winning a Big Ten title and knocking off top-seeded North Carolina to crash the Elite Eight would be one of the better turnaround stories the sport has seen in recent years.

2. (4) Duke 71, (12) Yale 64 (West)

Duke led by 23 at halftime and by as many as 27 in the opening half, but a furious Yale rally, which whittled that lead all the way down to three in the final minute, provided some of the most fun that Saturday had to offer.

It also revealed a flaw that may prove to be fatal for the defending national champions.

Despite having two of the best talents left in the tournament in Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen, the Blue Devils have an incredibly thin bench and no true point guard. The issues that come along with that ugly combination were on full display during Yale's rally, as the Bulldogs forced Duke into eight turnovers in the game's final 17 minutes.

Mike Krzyzewski seems to be oddly at peace with the whole thing.

"Our house is on a cliff, and we hope it doesn't rain," Krzyzewski said after the game. "That's who we've been. And so I really have an appreciation for that."

The Sweet Sixteen rain could be coming in the form of a top-seeded Oregon team that loves to trap and ranks in the nation's top 50 when it comes to turnover percentage. The Ducks will have to get by Saint Joseph's on Sunday first.

3. (1) Virginia 77, (9) Butler 69 (Midwest)

Virginia received a stiff test from Chris Holtmann's Butler Bulldogs, but answered the bell with its highest scoring half of the season to avoid heartbreak on opening weekend. The Cavaliers connected on 19 of their 26 field goal attempts (73.0 percent) in the game's final 20 minutes, dropping a whopping 54 points on a Bulldog team that still refused to back down.

Butler led 25-23 at halftime, but Virginia exploded out of the gate in the second half, hitting 12 of 13 shots during a stretch that seemed destined to put the Bulldogs away. Andrew Chrabascz wouldn't let that happen though. The junior forward hit clutch shot after clutch shot on his way to a game-high 25 points that allowed Butler to hang around until the game's final minute.

UVA's offense simply crushed Butler with its efficiency. Of the seven shots the Cavaliers missed in the second half, three were put back in off of offensive rebounds.

The difference between this Virginia team and the ones which disappointed in the tournament the past two seasons has always been that this group has had the offense necessary to win a game in March when its opponent shoots an uncharacteristically high percentage from deep. That's exactly what happened Saturday night, and the fact that the Hoos had to win a game with offense this early in the tournament could be just the mental boost they need to get over the hump and into the Final Four in 2016.

Michigan State losing to Middle Tennessee didn't hurt either.

THREE TEAMS THAT WON IT THE BEST

1. Gonzaga

Everyone knew the Zags had the potential to be a dangerous team if they won the West Coast Conference Tournament and assured themselves a spot in the Big Dance. I'm not sure we thought they could be "blows out a No. 3 seed by 23 points" dangerous, but here we are.

This was supposed to be the year that doubting Gonzaga finally paid dividends. The 2015-16 Bulldogs didn't have the right guards, didn't have enough toughness, didn't have enough leadership, didn't have their starting center and didn't have the résumé to finish their season in any tournament greater than the NIT.

Naturally, the Zags are right back in the Sweet Sixteen, might be favored in the next round to make their second consecutive regional final and could have their best shot yet at finally breaking through and reaching the Final Four for the first time in program history.

The odd thing about this Gonzaga team, and the characteristic that most believe has been at the heart of their (relative) struggles this season, is its lack of star power at the guard position. The only reason it's strange is because the Bulldogs' lone attachments to its former mid-major status is that it's still a program whose success has mostly been governed by its backcourt. There was Dan Dickau and then Blake Stepp and then Adam Morrison and then Derek Raivio and then Jeremy Pargo and then Matt Bouldin and then Kevin Pangos and then ... well that's the question that has been asked throughout Spokane since November.

While most of the pressure to have an in-season star turn at the guard position has been thrown in the direction of freshman Josh Perkins, it's been Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan who has looked like the missing piece to the March puzzle in recent weeks. The senior, who was dismissed from Vandy in January of 2014 after violating the school's academic policy, has been known mostly for his on-ball defense since he arrived at Gonzaga, but has showed a completely different side of himself since the start of the West Coast Conference Tournament.

McClellan, who hadn't scored in double figures in three consecutive games all season, dropped 26 on Portland in the WCC quarterfinals, 15 on BYU a night later and then 20 on Saint Mary's in the championship game. He shot better than 50 percent (7-for-13) from beyond the arc, but perhaps more importantly, connected on all 18 of his free throw attempts.

That magic has carried over into the Big Dance. After a bit of an uneven performance in the win over Seton Hall, McClellan may have been the best player on the court Saturday night. He scored a game-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, and frustrated Utah's guards all night with the type of on-ball defense that made him the West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Gonzaga already had undeniable star power in Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, but with McClellan and the rest of the Bulldog backcourt now upping its game to a level that seemed unthinkable just a couple of months ago, Mark Few suddenly has a legitimate Final Four contender.

2. Miami

Despite facing an 11th-seeded Wichita State team that began its tournament run in Dayton because it was one of the final four teams to receive an at-large bid, Miami found itself as an underdog in Las Vegas heading into Saturday. They appeared to be well aware of that fact, and not overly pleased by it, right out of the gate.

Led by the play of point guard Angel Rodriguez, the Hurricanes built a 21-point lead that proved to be too tall a mountain to climb for the inevitable Wichita State rally that came in the second half.

Rodriguez, who has a bit of a reputation for his extremely high peaks and extremely low valleys, scored a game-high 28 points and made the two biggest plays of the game in the second half. With Wichita State in the midst of a 22-4 run, Rodriguez threw a dangerous halfcourt alley-oop pass to Sheldon McClellan that completely changed the tide of the game.

Minutes later, he broke the hearts of Shocker fans again by ending a stellar Wichita State defensive possession with a (for anybody else) wild floater attempt that banked in and extended the Miami lead to four.

Everyone has heard the clichés about guard play in March, but there's a reason why they exist. Miami's guards are right up there with the best of the 24 teams still chasing a national title, and that's an extreme cause for optimism for The U.

3. North Carolina

Facing a dangerous second-round opponent led by one of the best players in college basketball, North Carolina did what national title contenders are supposed to do: wore their opponents down and then stomped on their throats when the opportunity presented itself.

Roy Williams did what great coaches are supposed to do on Saturday and went away from his original game plan when the action on the court indicated that a change was necessary. With Providence's Ben Bentil proving to be too much to handle on the perimeter for Carolina bigs Kennedy Meeks and Joel James, Williams went small. Brice Johnson held down the center position against the undersized Friars, which allowed Nate Britt, Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson to all exist on the floor at the same time. UNC instantly became a quicker, more athletic team capable of adequately defending Providence's pick-and-roll heavy offense.

Johnson finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds as North Carolina won its 29th consecutive NCAA Tournament game played in its home state. The Tar Heels are 33-1 all-time in such situations, with their lone loss coming back in 1979.

3 BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

1. Utah

When you're on the wrong end of the only real upset on a day, and when that upset comes in an 82-59 game where the final score doesn't really indicate just how one-sided the contest was, yeah, you're going to earn the top spot here.

It was a rough final game for Utah seniors Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge and Dakarai Tucker, who combined to score just 15 points on 5-of-19 shooting. The trio shouldered the brunt of the blame for a team that showed no ability to keep pace with Gonzaga once star big man Jakob Poeltl got into foul trouble.

The Utes trailed just 31-25 in the first half when Poeltl went to the bench with his second foul at the 6:38 mark. The Zags promptly went on a 13-4 run that essentially put the game away.

Saturday's instance of showcasing an inability to cope with adversity was just the latest, and now last, in what had already been an alarming trend for the Utes. Utah entered the tournament with just a 2-7 record when trailing at halftime, they had been humiliated in a 31-point loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, and lost their last six games before Saturday by an average of 18.8 ppg.

2. Kentucky

It feels a touch unfair to put the Wildcats here, but they were the on the receiving end of the only other "upset" according to seeding from yesterday, so ...

Also, you know, they were the preseason No. 1 team in the coaches' poll, so losing in the tournament's opening weekend warrants at least some association with disappointment.

3. Arkansas-Little Rock

The Trojans weren't able to duplicate the magic they caught against Purdue, and never put up a much of a fight in their 17-point loss to Iowa State. Also, I couldn't put Utah in here twice.

THE ALL-DAY THREE TEAM

Kris Dunn, Providence

In his final college game, the All-American delivered a game-high 29 points despite playing just 27 minutes because of foul trouble

Angel Rodriguez, Miami

The senior made big play after big play for the Hurricanes, finishing with 28 points and five assists.

Georges Niang, Iowa State

The big man wrapped up a stellar opening weekend to his final NCAA Tournament by dropping 28 points, six rebounds and three assists on Little Rock.

Grayson Allen, Duke

The man everybody loves to hate delivered 29 points and yet another questionable trip in Duke's win over Yale.

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

The ACC Player of the Year was at the center of a lethal ... offensive? ... attack from Virginia, scoring 22 points to go with five assists and five rebounds.

3 SATURDAY JEERS

1. The lack of multiple games to start the day

I get that there's a method to the madness of the day three television setup (which has back-to-back single games on from 12:30-5:30 p.m. ET before flooding viewers with six games at night), but the risk inherent in the setup was on full display Saturday.

That first halftime on Saturday is always a brutal reality check. No one knows what they're talking about and there's nowhere else to go. It's especially difficult to stomach if there's little hope that the lone game being played is going to deliver a competitive second half, which was the case (at halftime) for both Miami/Wichita State and Duke/Yale.

Get ready, because the schedule will be the same on Sunday.

2. The Providence Friar

You will not be missed, you creepy, creepy son of a bitch.

Also, go eat Aaron Rodgers for mistakenly believing that Providence's mascot is a Panther.

So close.

3. The Pac-12

If Oregon were to lose to Saint Joseph's on Saturday, then there will be some real, and some very legitimate, talks about whether or not the Pac-12's performance in the 2016 NCAA Tournament is the worst we've seen from any conference ever.

West Coast bias from the Selection Committee? Let's start that rumor.

BONUS JEER: The lack of competitive games

We realize that not all March Madness days can be replete with overtime thrillers and halfcourt buzzer-beaters, but damn, give us a little something. You can't just flood us with a full course meal one day and throw us three mozzarella sticks from Applebee's and a glass of water the next.

We've had a taste of that good life. Now we need more.

3 SATURDAY CHEERS

1. The North Carolina bench celebration

Eat, big fella. Eat it all.

Celebration of the tournament so far, in your humble narrator's opinion.

2. Kris Dunn

Everybody's All-American stunned the college basketball world last spring when he passed on the opportunity to be a likely lottery pick in favor of returning to Providence for one more season under Ed Cooley. His college career had been riddled with injuries, and there was no guarantee, even with his return, that the Friars were going to make the NCAA Tournament. Those factors combined make Dunn's decision to return one of the most surprising in recent memory.

Dunn said returning to school and wrapping up his degree was him important to him, and that he felt like he owed it to Providence, regardless of how the season went for the Friars. That's not something college basketball fans hear much anymore.

2015-16 has felt like a bonus year for all of us when it comes to watching Dunn do his thing, and it's been a privilege. I'm glad it ended in the NCAA Tournament against a worthy adversary.

3. Baby Uncle Anthony

Wayne Selden's uncle already had admirers, but now he has imitators.

Glorious.

BONUS CHEER: Tom Crean buying souvenirs for himself before leaving Des Moines

If you buy these things before you win then you risk having a constant reminder of a bad time forever sitting in your dresser drawer. This is a savvy veteran move.

In all seriousness, could Crean not have gotten IU to hook him up with these a couple days later for free? Was that not an option. This is so hilarious and weird, a combination fitting for the man in the middle of the act.

THREE BEST SATURDAY DUNKS

1. Wanye Selden, Kansas

Speaking of Selden ...

2. Kris Dunn, Providence

Ten percent dunk, 90 percent bench reaction.

3. Sheldon McClellan, Miami

We already showed it you earlier, so you're just going to have to scroll back up. I'm not gonna feed you anymore, baby bird.

THREE BEST SATURDAY IMAGES

1. Virginia bench

That feeling when you realize you have the offense to go all the way this year.


Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

2. Crying Kentucky Sax Girl

The piccolo is so 2015.

3. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet forever


Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images

3 NOTABLE SATURDAY QUOTES

1. "I mean, I do wonder -- if we didn't look so much alike or look similar to each other, would we get the same comparisons? I do wonder that. I was arguing with the team last night that we didn't look so much alike other than being a point guard with similar hair and the same skin tone. So I do wonder if I was super dark-skinned or super bright, if we would still get those similarities." -- Wichita State's Fred VanVleet on being constantly compared to Angel Rodriguez of Miami

2. "I don't want to stop coaching this team. So that's what I'm most thankful for, that I get to keep coaching them another week." -- Indiana coach Tom Crean

3. "I think I was in Africa then. I didn't know anything about basketball, period." -- Iowa's Peter Jok on his memories from Iowa's 1999 Sweet 16 run

FULL SUNDAY SCHEDULE

Almost there. Finish strong, bro.

Second Round Games

Sunday, March 20 (Noon-Midnight ET)

Tip (ET)

Network

Site

Game

Play-by-Play/Analyst//Reporter

12:10 p.m.

CBS

Brooklyn I

Villanova vs. Iowa

Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel//Allie LaForce

After conc. I

CBS

Brooklyn  II

Notre Dame vs. Stephen F. Austin

Lundquist/Spanarkel// LaForce

5:15 p.m.

CBS

Oklahoma City I

Oklahoma vs. VCU

Carter Blackburn/Mike Gminski//Jaime Maggio

6:10 p.m.

TNT

St. Louis I

Syracuse vs. Middle Tennessee

Brian Anderson/Steve Smith//Dana Jacobson

7:10 p.m.

TBS

Spokane I

Maryland vs. Hawai'i

Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Ros Gold-Onwude

After conc. I

truTV

Oklahoma City II

Texas A&M vs. Northern Iowa

Blackburn/Gminski//Maggio

After conc. I

TNT

St. Louis II

Wisconsin vs. Xavier

Anderson/Smith//Jacobson

After conc. I

TBS

Spokane II

Oregon vs. St. Joseph's

Dedes/Gottlieb//Gold-Onwude

* * *

Watch No. 11 Northern Iowa stun No. 6 Texas with this amazing buzzer beater from half court

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