NCAA Tournament 2014: Winners and Losers of Day 4
What a Round of 64 that was.
It didn't seem like Thursday could be beaten, but Friday surely did make it a close call. From Mercer's stunning upset of Duke to the ejection of Nebraska head coach Tim Miles, there was non-stop drama from Raleigh to San Diego.
March Madness is in full swing, and there is no telling what will happen next. Here are the winners and losers from a dynamic and unpredictable Day 4:
Winner: Coach K's Sportsmanship
It was a terrible day for Mike Krzyzewski. He became the sixth coach in NCAA history with five losses to double-digit seeds, and Duke became the only team in NCAA tournament history to lose five games to double-digit seeds as a top-three seed.
But Coach K didn't let the bitter disappointment of Duke's loss to No. 14 Mercer stop him from showing off his sportsmanship.
After the loss, one of the greatest college coaches of all time came to the Mercer locker room to personally congratulate the players. According to Nicole Auerbach of USA Today Sports, Krzyzewski told them, "If we got beaten, at least we got beaten by a hell of a basketball team."
That's a classy move from a divisive coach.
Loser: Jabari Parker
This was not how freshmen Jabari Parker had envisioned his first—and likely last—NCAA tournament.
In Duke's shocking loss to Mercer, the ACC Freshmen of the Year was only 4-of-14 from the field and finished with a total of 14 points, well below his usual output.
Jabari is a projected top-three NBA draft pick this year if he decides to go pro, but he told ESPN's Andy Katz that his college career felt "incomplete" after this early exit. Only time will tell if he decides to get his guaranteed money in the NBA, or if he comes back to try and lead Duke to a title next season.
Winner: The Nae Nae Dance
Mercer shocked the world when it upset Duke 78-71 in the first game of Day 4. It was Jakob Collum's 20 points and Daniel Coursey's 17 that led the small school from Macon, Georgia to the round of 32.
But it was senior Kevin Canevari, who had zero points and one assist, who was the star of the celebration.
With his teammates surrounding him, Canevari broke into the Nae Nae, a dance created by the Atlanta group We Are Toonz. His moves quickly went viral, and the entire nation came down with Mercer fever.
Losers: Officials in Gonzaga-Oklahoma State Ga,e
It's always a bad sign when the officials take over the game, and that's certainly what happened in the Gonzaga-Oklahoma State showdown.
Overall, the refs called 61 fouls and five players fouled out of the game. According to the Associated Press, the final three and a half minutes of the game took 24 minutes in real-time.
Gonzaga came away with the win, 85-77. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart had a great game, becoming the first player in NCAA Tournament history to record 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a game. But Smart was frustrated with the officials throughout the game, and ultimately ended his college career without an NCAA tournament win.
Steward Mandel of Sports Illustrated reported that Smart expressed his frustration with the officials after the game. “Every call went against us, no matter what,” he told reporters. “… The fouls are a momentum-changer. It’s a Debbie Downer for you.”
Winner: Jarnell Stokes
Jarnell Stokes of Tennessee is having himself quite an NCAA tournament.
On Friday, Stokes scored a career-high 26 points and had 14 rebounds to lead his team over Massachusetts, 86-67. It was Tennessee's biggest margin of victory in the Big Dance seven years.
Stokes' 14 rebounds also tied a Tennessee record in NCAA tournament play. Twenty of his points came in the second half as his team ran away with the victory.
Loser: Providence Down the Stretch
North Carolina made it to the third round, but just barely. After trailing for most of the game, Providence surged in the second half, and at one point seemed to have control of the game.
But the Friars couldn't stop Marcus Paige in the final minutes of the game, and Bryce Cotton, who had a game-high 36 points, fumbled away a rebound in the last seconds, robbing his team of a chance for a last-second upset.
After his team's close escape, UNC coach Roy Williams told the press, "We feel very fortunate, to say the least."
Winner: Free Throws
Free throws are always important, but in game after game on Friday, they played a crucial part in deciding second-round winners.
A day after N.C. State's historically bad free-throw shooting night cost them a trip to the third round, free throws made a huge difference in the overly officiated Gonzaga-Oklahoma State game.
After struggling with free throws all year long, UNC was able to hit them at the end of its game against Providence to squeak by with a victory. VCU's free-throw struggles doomed the team at the end of its game against Stephen F. Austin. No. 10 Stanford's late free throws helped seal its upset win over No. 7 New Mexico.
The shot has been so prominent this tournament that the New York Times even devoted a feature to it.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Nebraska in its game against Baylor.
The Cornhuskers lost 74-60 to an inspired Bears team, falling to 0-7 all-time in the NCAA tournament. The historic football school's late-season surge made them one of the best stories this college basketball season, but the Nebraska players just couldn't muster up that magic in the Big Dance.
Even Big Ten Coach of the Year Tim Miles lost his cool. With 11 minutes left, Miles was ejected from the game after his second technical foul.
Winner: Undefeated Teams
Did I say teams? Make that team. Wichita State was undefeated during the regular season, and following a long layoff after their conference title, they easily moved to 35-0 with a 64-37 dismantling of Cal Poly.
The Shockers defense dominated from start to finish, holding Cal Poly to 12 made field goals in the entire game.
Many experts were concerned about Wichita State's difficult Midwest Region, with Louisville, Kansas and Duke all lurking. But both Louisville and Kansas looked vulnerable in their first games, and Duke will obviously no longer be a problem.
So far, so good for Wichita State.
Loser: Kansas Turnovers
No. 2 Kansas eventually got by No. 15 Eastern Kentucky 80-69, but the Jayhawks certainly didn't make it easy.
The two teams were tied at halftime, primarily thanks to Eastern Kentucky scoring 17 points off 13 Kansas turnovers. The Jayhawks cleaned things up in the second half, though, and they'll have to keep it that way if they want to stay alive.
Kansas was also 0-for-7 from the three-point line, but Andrew Wiggins and his dominance in the paint kept the Jayhawks marching.
Winner: The Sports Illustrated Cover Boy
Doug McDermott certainly does know how to live up to the hype.
In a game that was closer than it should have been, McDermott's 30 points and 12 rebounds helped No. 3 Creighton pull away from No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette 76-66.
After his appearance on the Sports Illustrated cover before the tournament began, McDermott and Creighton were certainly feeling the pressure of the spotlight. After all, McDermott returned for his senior year just to make another run with this team.
After the game, he told reporters "This is what I came back for," via the Associated Press.
Loser: Pre-Game Technical Fouls
This is, without a doubt, the silliest rule I have ever heard of.
During the warmups for the Kansas State-Kentucky game, Kansas State walk-on Brian Rohleder was going through normal warm-up drills when he casually dunked the ball. No big deal, right?
Well, apparently it was, at least by ridiculous NCAA standards. Dunking before the game is against the rules, and it resulted in a technical foul.
So before the game even began, Kentucky freshmen Andrew Harrison started the game at the free-throw line and put his team up by one point.
Kentucky ended up winning fairly easily, 56-49, so the one point didn't really come into play. But still, that's one of the many rules that needs to be changed.
Winner: Four-Point Plays
Stephen F. Austin came into the NCAA tournament on a 28-game winning streak, but in the closing minutes of its game against No. 5 VCU, it looked like that was about to come to an end.
Then a March miracle happened.
Down four with only only 3.6 seconds left, Desmond Haymon launched a three-pointer from the corner. Not only did he make the shot, but he was fouled by JeQuan Lewis as the clock ran out. He made the free throw, and SFA pushed VCU to overtime.
The luck of the Lumberjacks continued in OT, and they came away with a shocking 77-75 win.
Loser: Georges Niang's Foot
No. 3 Iowa State had a good win on Friday, taking out a motivated North Carolina Central team 93-75. But they didn't come away from the victory unscathed.
That's because Georges Niang, their star player who scored 24 points in the second-round game, broke his foot in the second half and is done for the season.
Iowa State faces North Carolina next, and the Cyclones will be at a big disadvantage without one of their best players.
Winners: Pesky No. 16s
The No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament are now 120-0 against No. 16 seeds, but the underdogs certainly came to play on Friday.
Weber State quickly got off to an eight-point lead over Arizona, and even after the No. 1 seed came back to go up by 21 in the second half, Weber State kept pressing and cut the lead to single digits in the closing minutes.
Fellow No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina really put a scare into the tournament by leading No. 1 Virginia 35-30 at the half. The game was tied at 47 before the Cavaliers finally pulled away for good around the nine-minute mark.
One of these years we will see a No. 16 shock the world. Until then, we just have to enjoy it when they come to play.
Loser: Your Bracket
How's your bracket doing? Likely it's not doing very well after Thursday and Friday's insanity.
Before the games on Friday were even complete it had already been announced that there were no perfect brackets left in the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge (there goes that retirement plan!), and no perfect brackets left in the ESPN's Tournament Challenge.
In fact, at the end of Day 4's action, there is only one perfect bracket known on the Internet, and it belongs to a guy named Brad.
The rest of us can tear up our brackets and watch the remainder of the tournament simply for the fun of it. What a novel idea.
The final team into the round of 32—or the third round, as the NCAA now requires us to call it—was UCLA.
The Bruins have had quite a great March so far. They are 6-1 and came into the tournament after a somewhat surprising run to the Pac-12 tournament championship.
UCLA faced a Tulsa team that was on an 11-game winning streak, but the Bruins quickly stopped that momentum. They led by five at the half and dominated the second half to win convincingly, 76-59. The way the Bruins are playing right now, nobody wants to face them.
They face the surprising Lumberjacks from Stephen F. Austin on Sunday. As a No. 4 seed, UCLA will be heavily favored in that matchup. But, as we've learned time and again this tournament, that doesn't count for much.