NCAA Men’s Tournament: Another Upset for Loyola-Chicago
Clayton Custer’s jumper glanced off the front of the rim, floated up high to kiss the backboard and then seemed to hang in the air forever.
When it finally fell through the net with 3.6 seconds remaining, Loyola-Chicago, the No. 11 seed in the South Region, had a 63-62 victory over No. 3 seed Tennessee on Saturday in Dallas and its first trip to the round of 16 in the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament since 1985.
The victory over Tennessee was the second consecutive upset Loyola pulled off with a basket in the final seconds. The Ramblers (30-5) defeated sixth-seeded Miami as time expired on Thursday, becoming one of the tournament’s social-media darlings as their 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, cheered them on.
On Saturday, they held off a furious comeback by Tennessee, which trailed by 9 points with 3 minutes 25 seconds remaining. But the Volunteers connected on four of their next five field goal attempts and took a 1-point lead with 21 seconds left.
Loyola-Chicago was not the only team with a buzzer-beater.
Michigan’s Jordan Poole buried a 3-pointer as time expired to send the Wolverines, a No. 3 seed, into the round of 16 over No. 6 Houston, 64-63, in Wichita, Kan.
After a nip-and-tuck second half, Houston’s Devin Davis had a chance for two free throws with four seconds remaining. They would have put the game essentially out of reach, but he missed both. On the ensuing full-court inbounds play, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman found Poole in time to get the winning shot off.
Earlier Saturday, it was fitting that after the overall No. 1 seed, Virginia, collapsed in a flaming heap of tears and bricks late Friday night, the first team to take the court was Villanova.
Seen before the tournament as perhaps the Cavaliers’ top challenger for a national title — the No. 1-seeded Wildcats were the second most popular pick to win it all among those who filled out brackets, according to ESPN — Villanova had the unenviable task of having to avoid repeating Virginia’s mistakes.
After all, this N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament has already shown that anything — anything — can happen. Virginia did not just have a bad day. The Cavaliers were exploited by an aggressive and hot-shooting Maryland-Baltimore County team that capitalized on Virginia’s few perceived vulnerabilities. One could only think that Villanova had to look closely at itself a couple of times before taking the court on Saturday.
In the end, the Wildcats were fine against ninth-seeded Alabama, winning handily, 81-58, and advancing to the round of 16 out of the East Region.
They had gone into halftime ahead by 5 but started the second half by going 8 of 11 from 3-point range, blowing open the game. They also mitigated the explosive potential of Tide guard Collin Sexton, who finished with more turnovers (five) than assists (three).
The key for Villanova, the nation’s top-scoring team, will be its defense, as it was when the team won the national title in 2016. There have been concerns about its size, its interior physicality and its ability to defend against 3-point attempts. It has quietly answered some of those questions, holding opponents to an average of just 66 points on 30 percent 3-point shooting in the last seven games (all wins).
In that sense, the Wildcats appear better balanced than the offensively challenged Cavaliers, whose pace and discipline on offense came back to bite them, particularly when they were facing a second-half deficit. They were fifth in the nation in 3-point attempts, and if those shots do not fall on a given day, it can haunt them.
But Villanova passed the first test on Saturday: It became the first No. 1 seed to reach the second weekend so far. And that, in this tournament, should not be taken lightly.
Was there any team (outside Maryland) that was happier than Kentucky to see Virginia fall?
The fifth-seeded Wildcats now have a much less daunting path to the Final Four, with both the Cavaliers and fourth-seeded Arizona already out of the South Region.
Kentucky had been expected to face Arizona on Saturday in a battle of blue-blood programs. Instead, No. 13 seed Buffalo, which ousted Arizona in the first round, met Kentucky to try to keep an improbable run going.
But Buffalo ran into a team that was too long, quick and athletic. And the Wildcats even made a few 3-pointers. They did not need any in their first-round victory over Davidson, the first time since 1988 Kentucky had won a game without making a 3.
After taking a 9-point lead at halftime, Kentucky went quiet early in the second half, scoring just 6 points in the first five minutes and allowing Buffalo to trim the deficit. But the Bulls got no closer than 4 points. The shots that they had dropped in against Arizona were nowhere to be seen against Kentucky’s perimeter length. Buffalo went 7 of 31 from 3-point range as its season ended.
No. 6 seed Florida had two open looks for a game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds against No. 3 Texas Tech. But both shots fell short, and the Red Raiders advanced, 69-66.
And No. 5 seed Ohio State rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to take a lead against No. 4 Gonzaga. But led by the freshman Zach Norvell Jr. (28 points), Gonzaga made plays down the stretch to advance, 90-84.
11 Loyola-Chicago 63, 3 Tennessee 62
Another N.C.A.A. tournament prayer answered for Loyola-Chicago, and the Ramblers are set to take Sister Jean to the round of 16.
Clayton Custer’s jumper took a friendly bounce off the rim and in with 3.6 seconds left, and Loyola beat Tennessee in Dallas.
Custer’s winner came two days after Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer for Loyola against Miami, surely to the delight of Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the 98-year-old nun, team chaplain and top booster watching from her wheelchair.
“The only thing I can say: Glory to God for that one,” Custer said. “The ball bounced on the rim, and I got a good bounce.”
The Ramblers (30-5), who won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, broke the program record for wins set by the 1963 N.C.A.A. championship team. Loyola will play Cincinnati or Nevada in the regional semifinals Thursday in Atlanta.
Aundre Jackson led Loyola with 16 points, and Custer had 10. Schofield scored 14 for Tennessee.
1 Kansas 83, 8 Seton Hall 79
Malik Newman scored 28 points, Udoka Azubuike stood toe-to-toe with Seton Hall’s bruising Angel Delgado, and Kansas held off the plucky Pirates in Wichita, Kan., and advanced to their third consecutive round of 16.
Svi Mykhailiuk added 16 points, and Lagerald Vick had 13 for the Jayhawks (29-7), who converted on every crucial play down the stretch to advance to the semifinals of the Midwest region. They will meet Auburn or Clemson on Friday in Omaha.
Delgado finished with 24 points and 23 rebounds in a virtuoso effort for the Pirates (22-11). Khadeen Carrington had 28 points, many of them on 3-pointers in the closing minutes, and Myles Powell added 14.
The score was 71-66 with 53 seconds left when Devonte Graham made two free throws for Kansas. Carrington kept pouring in shots for Seton Hall, but the Jayhawks kept making foul shots to seal the victory.
1 Villanova 81, 9 Alabama 58
Mikal Bridges hit five 3-pointers on his way to a total of 23 points for Villanova in a victory over Alabama in Pittsburgh, helping the Wildcats put the field on notice that they are the team to beat.
Villanova (32-4) is in the round of 16 for the first time since it won the 2016 national championship. The Wildcats will play Marshall or West Virginia on Friday in Boston.
“My good vibes are coming from how this team’s playing, how unselfishly they play,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said.
After a tense first half, the Wildcats hit their first six 3-pointers in the second half and gave the Crimson Tide (20-16) a thrashing that ranked among the most dominant under Wright.
2 Duke 87, 7 Rhode Island 62
Marvin Bagley III, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, poured in 22 points to go with 9 rebounds, and Duke overwhelmed Rhode Island in Pittsburgh, earning the program’s 26th trip to the round of 16.
And the rest of the field might need to start worrying about the Blue Devils (28-7), who will play Michigan State or Syracuse in the Midwest Regional semifinal in Omaha on Friday. Duke shot 57 percent (29 of 51) from the floor, finished with 20 assists and never let the Rams (26-8) back into the game after a 23-5 burst midway through the first half.
E. C. Matthews led Rhode Island with 21 points, but the Rams looked confounded at times by Duke’s much-improved zone defense. That was a weakness for the Blue Devils during a brief swoon in late January, but they are no longer treating defense like a chore they have to complete before getting the ball back.
The victory was the 1,098th of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career, breaking a tie with the Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt for the most wins by a basketball coach in N.C.A.A. history.
5 Kentucky 95, 13 Buffalo 75
Kentucky put an end to any upset talk on its watch, getting 27 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in a pull-away victory over scrappy veteran Buffalo in Boise, Idaho.
Gilgeous-Alexander went 10 for 12 and made both of his 3-point attempts, helping send Kentucky (26-10) to the round of 16 for a second straight season.
“We are inexperienced and all that stuff,” Kentucky Coach John Calipari said. “But I’ve got good players.”
The Wildcats, with an all-freshman starting lineup, trailed only once, by 2-0.
Bulls Coach Nate Oats, speaking of Gilgeous-Alexander, said: “We didn’t have an answer for him. He was a major problem for us defensively.”
4 Gonzaga 90, 5 Ohio State 84
Zach Norvell Jr. had 28 points, Rui Hachimura added 25, and Gonzaga headed back into the round of 16 with a victory over Ohio State in Boise.
The confident freshman Norvell made 6 of 11 from beyond the arc to lead Gonzaga (32-4) into the final 16 for a fourth straight season.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a big early lead, withstood a second-half Ohio State charge and made big plays down the stretch, earning a spot in the West Region semifinals on Thursday against Xavier or Florida State.
Keita Bates-Diop had 28 points and Kam Williams 19 for Ohio State (25-9).
3 Texas Tech 69, 6 Florida 66
Keenan Evans keeps making big plays, extending Texas Tech’s season — and his time with the second-year coach Chris Beard. They will have another game to play, with the Red Raiders headed to the round of 16 for the first time since 2005.
Evans scored 22 points and hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with two and a half minutes left as Texas Tech defeated Florida in Dallas.
The freshman Zhaire Smith had 18 points and was on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Evans with 29 seconds left that earned the Red Raiders (26-10) a trip to Boston for a matchup against Purdue or Butler on Friday.
Florida (21-13) fell short of the round of 16 for the first time in its last six tournament appearances