The first round of the NCAA Tournament was more than most people could’ve ever wished for.
The second round has started off pretty hot as well!
Let’s recap all of the action from Saturday’s second-round matchups.
(5) San Diego State vs. (13) Furman
Final: San Diego State 75, Furman 52
Three years ago, San Diego State was destined for a No. 2 seed in the canceled 2020 NCAA Tournament. The Aztecs were 30-2 on the season and had a top 15 offense and defense. That was the first three years of the Brian Dutcher era in San Diego.
Now, let’s fast forward three more years later to 2023. The Aztecs are not a 2-seed. They don’t have a 30-2 record. But what they do have is two NCAA Tournament wins and a birth to the Sweet Sixteen. The first bit of success in the tournament has come for Dutcher in his sixth season. The play on Saturday showed just how good SDSU can be, dominating in all facets of the game.
The Aztecs shot better than the Paladins from the field, from beyond the arc, and from the line. SDSU had 17 more rebounds, had 10 more assists, two more steals, three more blocks and easily won this second-round matchup. Micah Parrish gave a big boost off the bench for the Aztecs, scoring 16 points. “We’ve had production off the bench all year,” Dutcher said postgame. “At times our bench is stronger than our starting unit. It’s been a key to our success.“
(4) Tennessee vs. (5) Duke
Final: Tennessee 65, Duke 52
Back in 1988, the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons met in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. This was in the era of the “Bad Boy“ Pistons, featuring Detroit legends like Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn and Isiah Thomas. These Piston teams weren’t going to beat you off of talent and outplay you, and they knew that. They were going to beat you by getting in your head through toughness and physicality. Battered and bruised were the Bulls after a five-game series with the Bad Boys, where the Detroit squad won.
35 years later, America witnessed what felt like a reincarnation of that Bad Boys team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Uros Plavsic was Laimbeer, Jonas Aidoo was Mahorn, and Santiago Vescovi was Thomas. The ‘Bad Boy Vols’ came out tough, physical and were ready to batter and bruise this young Duke team like how their predecessor did to that young Bulls squad in ‘88.
Leading 27-21 at halftime, the Vols were proving to be too much for the Blue Devils. Tennessee went on a 14-2 run in the last eight minutes of the first half. From the start, Duke freshman Kyle Filipowski was getting the worst of it.
In the second half, it was much of the same. Tennessee continued with the intense physicality, and it seemed like Filipowski was the only Blue Devil willing to take on the task of fighting back. The Vols caught fire from 3-point range, highlighted by Vescovi and Olivier Nkamhoua. The much older squad in orange was too much for the young guys in blue. Tennessee forced Duke into 15 turnovers and won by 13 points. Blue Devils were held to their lowest-ever point total in March Madness. Nkamhoua finished the game with 27 points, leading all scorers. One of the most unreliable teams in the entire tournament will make a Sweet Sixteen birth after all. The fans in Knoxville are ecstatic.
(1) Kansas vs. (8) Arkansas
Final: Arkansas 72, Kansas 71
For 25 years, the Arkansas men’s basketball program had not made it to a Sweet Sixteen. From 1996 to 2021, Arkansas only ever saw the second round at most. In more than half of those years, 13 to be exact, the Razorbacks didn’t even make it to the big dance. That was a drought Hogs fans surely did not expect after making six Sweet Sixteens between 1990-96, including two Final Fours and a National Championship in 1994.
Eric Musselman, a short, skinny, and bursting-with-passion type of coach got hired in 2019 with the goal to bring the Razorbacks back to national prominence. Now in 2023, Musselman has taken his program to three straight Sweet Sixteens, and two straight Elite Eights. This year’s play-in game was the toughest challenge yet.
Just a week ago, people were genuinely discussing if the Kansas Jayhawks should be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas had over 15 quadrant 1 victories to its name, a Big 12 regular season title, a first-team All-American, and the best coach in college basketball. While not No. 1 overall, the Jayhawks still landed a 1-seed. They now become the second No. 1 seed to get bounced in the 2023 big dance.
Kansas had to play without their lead man once again. It was announced early on Saturday that Bill Self would not be available for the Jayhawks’ game against Arkansas. Self was hospitalized last weekend with a heart issue and received stints to treat blocked arteries. Norm Roberts was interim once again, and this time he and his team failed to come out on top. Having the best coach in the sport does wonders for the team, and surely Kansas wishes their leader was there today.
Kansas at one point in the second half held a 12-point lead. With 16:01 left in the game though, Davonte Davis of Arkansas would score 21 of the Hogs next 30 points to boost them into the epic comeback. Ricky Council IV scored 21 points in the game, multiple of which were very clutch free throws.
After the game, Musselman stayed true to the course and went shirtless, as he does after major victories.
(7) Missouri vs. (15) Princeton
Final: Princeton 78, Missouri 63
For three straight seasons, we have a 15-seed going to the Sweet 16. Oral Roberts did it in 2021. Saint Peter’s did it in 2022. The Princeton Tigers are your sweet story of 2023.
This game wasn’t even close. Princeton had a lead in the second half as big as 21. Missouri rates as one of the best offenses in all of college basketball. The Tigers are currently ranked eighth at kenpom.com. Princeton has the 95th-best ranked defense on the same sight. On Saturday, the Tigers from New Jersey held the Tigers from Missouri to their fifth-lowest point total in the entire season.
Deandre Gholston led Missouri with 19 points. Noah Carter and Kobe Brown were the only other double-digit scorers for Mizzou with 14 and 12 points respectively.
Ryan Langborg, who had only eight points in the win over Arizona, led all scorers with 22 points on Saturday. His Princeton teammate Blake Peters had 17 points off the bench, going 5-8 from 3-point land and sinking both free throws he attempted. The New Jersey squad awaits the results of Sunday’s matchup between 3-seed Baylor and 6-seed Creighton. Last year’s Saint Peter’s squad is the first and only 15-seed to ever make it to the Elite Eight. We will see if Princeton can continue to wear the glass slipper in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
(1) Houston vs. (9) Auburn
Final: Houston 81, Auburn 64
Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the Cougars’ win against Northern Kentucky on Thursday night that Marcus Sasser reaggravated his left groin injury and that fellow guard Jamal Shead was dealing with a knee injury as well. On Saturday, the only thing holding the two-star players back from more playing time was the number of fouls next to their names on the stat sheet. Both Sasser and Shead had four fouls to their name toward the end of the game. Sasser wound up still playing 31 minutes and scoring 22 points, but he couldn’t do it all alone. Tramon Mark heard his name being called up, and scored 28 points for the Cougars to help finish a dominant second half.
The halftime score showed Auburn taking advantage of being in their home state. The Tigers were up 41-31 after the first 20 minutes of action and looked to be on their way to another Sweet 16 birth under Bruce Pearl. The tide completely changed during the second 20 minutes.
Second-half scoring: Houston 50, Auburn 23. Oof.
Houston once the clock hit zero had bested Auburn in field goal %, 3-point %, free throw % (by 30%), rebounds, steals, and blocks. It was complete domination in the second half and showed why Houston was given a No. 1 seed. With Texas and Xavier looking vulnerable, and Kansas being eliminated from the West, Houston’s path to a Final Four is getting that much easier.
(2) Texas vs. (10) Penn State
Final: Texas 71, Penn State 66
In their first-round game on Thursday, Sir’Jabari Rice had the best game of any Longhorn. For this tournament’s purposes, we could say it was the Sir’Jabari Rice game. But on Saturday, even though Rice sank the final two free throws to ice the game, Texas’ game against No. 10-seeded Penn State will be remembered by one name.
The Dylan Disu game.
What happened on Saturday night was something that the 6’9 senior from Pflugerville, TX will never forget. Scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a tight second-round game, single-handedly winning the game for your team? That’s the stuff of dreams right there. Disu had only scored more than 20 once this season. He saved his best performance for the right time. Disu scored 10 of his 28 points in the final 4:34. Want to know the best part? He grabbed his 10th and final rebound of the game off Penn State’s Andrew Funk’s last-second heave from deep. That’s two double-doubles in a row now for the big man. He’s providing fantastic stuff for the Longhorns as they look to make the Final Four.
Disu received some big praise from Longhorn and NBA legend Kevin Durant. Durant gave the star of the night a huge shoutout on Twitter.
(2) UCLA vs. (7) Northwestern
Final: UCLA 68, Northwestern 63
A late scare blossomed during Saturday night’s showdown between UCLA and Northwestern. Bruins’ guard David Singleton went down with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. It was confirmed after the game Singleton did not suffer anything serious and could possibly play in the Bruins Sweet 16 matchup. “I knew it wasn’t that bad,” said Singleton postgame. “It was just hurting in the moment. I’m fine.” The Bruins are already missing star wing Jaylen Clark. Having Singleton back would help the otherwise thin lineup.
UCLA held a game-high 14-point lead at one point. Though, unlike the 1-seed in the West Region, the Bruins still came out with the win despite it getting close at the end (sorry, Kansas). All-American Jaime Jaquez Jr. led all scorers with 24 points, shooting 11/19 from the field. His sidekick, Bruins’ point guard Tyger Campbell, scored 12 points with all 12 coming from the free throw line, going a perfect 12/12 from the line. Boo Buie, Chase Audige and Matthew Nicholson combined for 51 of the Wildcats’ 63 points. No other member of the team scored above four points. Nicholson went a perfect 7/7 from the field.
(1) Alabama vs. (8) Maryland
Final: Alabama 73, Maryland 51
In the first-round matchup against TAMU-CC, Alabama’s star freshman Brandon Miller scored zero, zip, zilch. In Saturday’s game against 8-seed Maryland, Miller was second only to teammate Jahvon Quinerly in scoring for the night. Miller had 19 points, and Quinerly logged 22. Charles Bediako had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and was the only other Alabama player to score in double-digits.
Jahmir Young, who came home to play for Maryland this season after being a star at Charlotte for three years, at the end of the game was filled with emotions on the bench. Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks as the final seconds faded away on Maryland’s tournament life. Young was the Terps’ best player all season and poured his heart out for his hometown university. He finished with 12 points for Maryland in the second-round matchup.
The big story is becoming even bigger every single day Alabama plays on national television. That story is about Miller’s involvement in the shooting and killing of Jamea Harris. If Alabama reaches the Final Four, which it’s on pace to do, it will be the biggest story in the entire sport. It is a matter of wrongdoings leading to the death of a 23-year-old mother. The Crimson Tide will face San Diego State in the Sweet 16. Miller and co. will be faced against one of the best defensive teams in the country.
“From Our Haus to Yours!”