March Madness Sunday roundup: Blue bloodbath continues, No. 1 Stanford stunned, FDU's dance concludes
Blue bloods, avert your eyes.
This has been an NCAA men's tournament to forget for several of college basketball's traditional powers. Count Kentucky among them after Sunday's 75-69 loss to Kansas State. With the loss, Kentucky joined Kansas and Duke in failing to advance to the Sweet 16. North Carolina, meanwhile, didn't even make the tournament after starting the season as the nation's No. 1 team.
Between them, the four programs have a combined 23 national championships. That's a lot of basketball royalty sitting on the couch. Their collective absence is a rare occurrence.
From 1980-2020 at least one of those four teams advanced to the Sweet 16 every season. Seeing two or more in the tournament's second weekend was not unexpected. But now the Sweet 16 is missing all four programs for the second time in three seasons. It also happened in 2021. Is this the start of a trend?
That's probably going too far. Just last year, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas all advanced to the Final Four with Kansas beating North Carolina for the national championship. But the consistency of days past might be harder to come by in an ever-evolving college basketball landscape that includes the relatively new elements of name, image and likeness, and the transfer portal.
Those elements should favor the established powers, but they also raise the specter of increased volatility. North Carolina and Duke are also undergoing significant coaching transitions with the recent retirements of Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski.
The Sweet 16 isn't void of traditional powers. UCLA advanced to the Sweet 16. Michigan State did too. Meanwhile UConn is back in the second-weekend mix for the first time since winning the 2014 national title thanks to a Sunday win over Saint Mary's. In fact, it's the only program with a national championship since 2000 to secure a Sweet 16 berth. Baylor, the 2021 champion, lost Sunday.
Basketball's blue bloods likely aren't going anywhere. Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina remain name brands with established backing, fan bases and recruiting pull. But more upstarts in the late stages of the NCAA tournament appears to be a trend that's here to stay. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on your perspective.
No. 1 Stanford stunned
Stanford entered NCAA play as a women's Final Four favorite. It exited Sunday short of the Sweet 16 after a shocking 54-49 second-round loss to Ole Miss. Mississippi scored the game's opening bucket against the Cardinal, and it never trailed.
The Ole Miss defense flustered Stanford all game en route to forcing 21 Cardinal turnovers. It built a 29-20 halftime lead and carried a 42-35 edge into the fourth quarter. Second-team All-American Cameron Brink — fresh off missing Stanford's first-round game with illness — scored eight points in the final quarter to help lead the Cardinal back to a 49-49 tie in the game's final minute.
But Stanford turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions in the game's final 24 seconds, allowing Ole Miss to ice the game with five unanswered free throws. Ole Miss advances to face the winner of Monday's Texas-Louisville game in the Sweet 16. Stanford leaves its home floor stunned after a 29-win season ended without a trip to the NCAA tournament's second weekend.
Brink tallied 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks in the loss. But six Stanford players committed multiple turnovers while Ole Miss won the rebounding battle, 44-39. Angel Baker led Ole Miss with 13 points and four rebounds while Ayanna Thompson scored nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. Ole Miss shot just 29.7% from the field, but its 5-of-11 clip (45.5%) from 3-point distance proved enough to propel the victory.
Gonzaga extends Sweet 16 streak to 8
While the men's bracket is missing some traditional powers, one of the most reliable programs of the past two decades carries on. No. 3 seed Gonzaga beat No. 6 seed TCU, 84-81 to advance to its eighth straight Sweet 16. The streak is the longest in the country by a long shot. Houston is next up with its fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance after a win over Auburn on Saturday.
Gonzaga's streak trails only North Carolina (1985-93) and Duke (1998-2006) in men's history. Both programs reached the Sweet 16 nine straight times. Each of their runs included a national championship, the one item still missing from Gonzaga's résumé. Can the Bulldogs clear that hurdle this year?
If they do, they'll lean heavily on Drew Timme along the way. The senior forward led Monday's effort with 28 points alongside eight rebounds and three assists. The scoring effort also put him in rarified air. It was Timme's ninth tournament game with 20 or more points, tying him atop the all-time list with Bill Bradley, Elvin Hayes, Danny Manning, Glen Rice and Corliss Williamson — a pretty good list.
Up next for Gonzaga is No. 2 seed UCLA in Las Vegas.
Fairleigh Dickinson bows out
For roughly 48 hours, Fairleigh Dickinson was the toast of college basketball.
And rightfully so. It just pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history. It did so without a player standing taller than 6-feet-7 against a top-seeded Purdue team featuring 7-4 All-American Zach Edey. And it was in the tournament to begin with only on a technicality after failing to win its own conference tournament. What a story.
The tale didn't last long. The 16th-seeded Knights put up a valiant fight against No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic on Sunday in a game it led by as many as five points in the second half. But FAU rallied for a 78-70 win to write its own bit of NCAA history. Friday's first-round win over Memphis was the program's first in the tournament. Sunday's was its second, making next weekend's trip its first to the Sweet 16. Congrats, Owls.
Just because FDU is gone, doesn't mean it's forgotten. Just ask UMBC, previously the only No. 16 to beat a No. 1 seed courtesy of a 2018 win over Virginia. FDU may not have made a run for the ages like No. 15 Saint Peter's last season. But its win over Purdue is indelible and one that will be applauded outside of West Lafayette for years to come.
Caitlin Clark, take a bow
Caitlin Clark and Iowa came close to a repeat of last season’s stunning second-round exit Sunday. But the national player of the year contender pulled it out and successfully led the No. 2 Hawkeyes into the Sweet 16 for the third time in five years. They beat No. 10 Georgia 74-66 on Sunday afternoon in Iowa City.
Clark put up 22 points and 12 assists in the win and either scored or assisted on all but two of Iowa’s points in the second half. She even hit a wild logo 3-pointer in the opening minutes despite having 27 seconds left on the shot clock.
𝗥𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲 🎯🎯🎯@CaitlinClark22 x #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/mDYKmNAyzP
— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) March 19, 2023
Though Clark’s scoring output wasn’t what it usually was, and it was one of Iowa’s lowest scoring games of the season, the Hawkeyes still found a way to get past a very tough Georgia defense.
They also shut down the Lady Bulldogs’ offense completely in the final two minutes of the game, which is what finally pushed them to the win. The Hawkeyes haven’t been to a Final Four since 1993. Sunday's game showed how Iowa can get there even without Clark completely taking over.
Four of Iowa’s five starters scored in double figures, and Monika Czinano had 20 points and nine rebounds to go with Clark’s 22. And if they get forward Hannah Stuelke back in Seattle — she missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury — there’s no reason why Iowa can’t mount a meaningful run and get to the Final Four for the first time in three decades.
Virginia Tech reaches first Sweet 16 since 1999
For the first time in more than two decades, Virginia Tech is headed to the Sweet 16. The Hokies rolled past No. 9 South Dakota State 72-60 on Sunday, pushing top seed Virginia Tech to its first Sweet 16 since 1999.
The Hokies led the entire way Sunday in Blacksburg and took a 23-point lead into the locker room at halftime. They held South Dakota State scoreless for the last seven minutes of the first quarter. Guard Georgia Amoore dropped a team-high 21 points and shot 7-of-19 from behind the arc. The win marked the 29th of the season for Virginia Tech, which set a school record.
Virginia Tech will head to the Seattle 3 region for a Sweet 16 matchup with either No. 4 Tennessee or No. 12 Toledo. The Lady Vols knocked out Virginia Tech from the tournament the last time the Hokies reached the Sweet 16, which was the school’s deepest tournament run to date.
This year’s team is incredibly well-rounded and hasn’t lost since late January.
“It would not surprise me if they went on and played in a Final Four and advanced,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said, via The Associated Press. “They shoot the ball really well. They shoot it like that tonight, and they’re going to beat a lot of teams. They’re good enough defensively. They are so good in their spacing and so good in their execution. They’re a really good team. Nothing would surprise me with how far they’d go.”