After one of the wildest opening rounds in NCAA Tournament history, favorites held serve on Sunday as the field marched on toward the Sweet Sixteen.
The Cinderella runs of Middle Tennessee State, Hawaii and Stephen F. Austin came to an end on Sunday. The Blue Raiders, Warriors and Lumberjacks joined a second round graveyard that holds the postseason graves of upstarts like Yale, Little Rock and Wichita State. On the other side of the coin, three more ACC schools punched their tickets to the Sweet Sixteen. The Atlantic Coast can now call nearly half of the bracket its own; seven different conference teams are still dancing after the tournament's first week.
The Wildcats kicked off Sunday's action by exorcising the postseason demons that had haunted head coach Jay Wright's program in recent seasons. Wright's team punched its first trip to the Sweet Sixteen since 2009 by routing Iowa. Villanova led by as many as 25 points in the first half to roll a Hawkeye team that had been ranked a high as fourth in the nation this winter. Josh Hart led all scorers with 19 points in the win.
The Lumberjacks choked down one of the postseason's toughest defeats when they blew a five-point lead in the final 1:36 to sixth-seeded Notre Dame. The Irish held March Madness star Thomas Walkup and Stephen F. Austin without a field goal in the final three minutes to secure their spot in the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight season. Forward Rex Pflueger pulled down an offensive rebound and then scored the game-winning layup with 1.7 seconds left to eliminate the bracket-busting Lumberjacks in Sunday's closest game.
VCU rallied from an early 14-point deficit to take a 67-66 lead with 7:16 to play, but the Rams ultimately had no answer for Buddy Hield and the more athletic Sooners. Hield scored a game-high 36 points — including 11 in the final five minutes — as Oklahoma advanced to its second-straight Sweet Sixteen.
The clock struck midnight for Middle Tennessee. Two days after becoming just the eighth 15-seed in tournament history to win its first round game, the Blue Raiders bowed out of the big dance after suffering a 25-point loss to Syracuse. The Orange turned a four-point game into a blowout in the second half, outscoring their opponent 44-23 behind a zone defense that held MTSU to just 29.7 percent shooting in the game.
Hawaii fans came out in numbers to support the underdog Warriors, but their support wasn't enough to carry the Mountain West underdogs to a spot in the Sweet Sixteen. Hawaii gave Maryland all it could handle and led with 11 minutes to play, but an 18-2 Terrapin run closed the door on Stefan Jankovic and the Warriors' postseason run. The underdogs struggled to contain the Terps' athletic frontcourt. Maryland's starting big men made more than 59 percent of their shots as they advanced to a matchup against top-seeded Kansas next week.
Our updated bracket can be found here.
Sunday's final scores
No. 2 Villanova 87, No. 7 Iowa 68
No. 6 Notre Dame 76, No. 14 Stephen F. Austin 75
No. 2 Oklahoma 85, No. 10 VCU 81
No. 10 Syracuse 75, No. 15 Middle Tennessee 50
No. 5 Maryland 73, No. 13 Hawai'i 60
No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 Northern Iowa, 7:45 p.m. (truTV)
No. 2 Xavier vs. No. 7 Wisconsin, 8:40 p.m. (TNT)
Still to come (all times Eastern)
No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 8 St. Joseph's, 9:40 p.m. (TBS)