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Most Amazing Moments from the Round of 32

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2014

Most Amazing Moments from the Round of 32

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Most of us refer to it as the second round of the NCAA tournament.

    There are play-in games, first-round games and second-round games in the first week of NCAA tournament competition.

    That's old school. It's also wrong.

    What we saw over the weekend was technically the third round. It is also referred to as the round of 32.

    Whatever it's official name, college basketball fans were treated to a higher level of the game than they might have expected.

    The highlight of the weekend came in the sensational game between Kentucky and Wichita State. The super freshmen of Kentucky ended previously undefeated Wichita State's season. UK coach John Calipari said it was the equivalent of an Elite Eight game because of the game's high quality and drama.

    Here's a look at the most memorable and amazing moments from the round of 32.

Epic Kentucky-Wichita State Game

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    This was a game of college basketball's royalty vs. an upstart bunch that was trying to become the sport's first undefeated champions since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.

    Kentucky may have eight national championships to its credit, but the Wildcats started five freshmen and were decided underdogs against the talented and explosive Wichita State. The Shockers came into the game with a 35-0 record.

    The Wildcats had had highs and lows this season, and consistency was not their forte. Head coach John Calipari knew that his team would have to raise its level of play if it wanted to compete with Wichita State for 40 minutes.

    He got his message across. Twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison combined for 39 points and played like seniors instead of freshmen. Julius Randle scored 13 points and asserted himself when the game was on the line.

    The two sides went back and forth in the second half, and Kentucky had a 78-76 lead in the final seconds. Wichita State, led by Cleanthony Early (31 points), Ron Baker (20 points) and Fred VanVleet (six assists), had one last chance to send it to overtime or win it with a three-pointer.

    Tekele Cotton inbounded the ball to VanVleet with 3.2 seconds left. VanVleet took two dribbles, got a clean look at the basket and launched the ball from the top of the key. The ball bounded off the rim (3:00 mark), and Kentucky had its win, and basketball had a game for the ages.

Injured Iowa State Roars Back vs. North Carolina

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    It looked quite gloomy for Iowa State as the Cyclones prepared for their closing stretch against North Carolina. Iowa State, playing without injured star Georges Niang, trailed the Tar Heels by eight points with 4:23 remaining.

    However, the Cyclones ripped off an 8-0 run on three pointers by Naz Long and Monte Morris along with a two-point shot by Melvin Ejim that tied the score. North Carolina's Leslie McDonald responded with a three-pointer that gave the Tar Heels an 81-78 lead, but Long was undaunted and matched that shot.

    That's when DeAndre Kane took over. He gave the Cyclones a two-point lead when he made a driving layup with 28 seconds to go, while James Michael McAdoo tied it up with two free throws. 

    Kane was undaunted. He closed out North Carolina as he drove to the hoop and fired up a shot over 6'7" Jackson Simmons, and Iowa State had it's unlikely 85-83 victory.

    “(Hoiberg) drew up a play over there,” Kane told Travis Hines of the Ames (Iowa) Tribune, “and he told me isolation, was a stagger (screen) away to get the defense distracted.

    “I made a crazy shot.”

Stanford Upsets Kansas

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Kansas Jayhawks did not have star freshman center Joel Embiid, and that weakened Bill Self's team significantly. Stanford had won big games before and, coming from the Pac-12, was clearly not a Cinderella team.

    Still, the Jayhawks were a No. 2 seed, and the Cardinal was a 10th seed. Kansas appeared to be the better team and by most accounts the tougher team. But Stanford and forward Josh Huestis (six points, eight rebounds) just would not let it happen.

    "I really think we were the tougher team tonight, and that shows in the score," Huestis told Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News. "We were really aggressive from the tip; we didn't let them bully us around."

    Kansas almost came all the way back as Conner Frankamp hit two huge three-pointers. The ball was back in Frankamp's hands with a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, and he launched another shot. The ball banked off the backboard and Stanford came away with its 60-57 victory.

    Stanford will meet 11th-seeded Dayton in the Sweet 16.

Florida Puts Power on Display

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    Scottie Wilbekin (L) and Patric Young
    Scottie Wilbekin (L) and Patric YoungJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    The Florida Gators are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That was a given when the NCAA tournament draw was announced last week.

    The Gators advanced safely to the Sweet 16 with a 61-45 victory over Pittsburgh, but the Gators have yet to play their best game.

    That's bad news for the rest of the field.

    While Billy Donovan's Gators were not at their best because their offense was not functioning smoothly against the Panthers—they made 25-of-58 from the field and just 5-of-20 from beyond the arc—their defense was dominating.

    The Gators shut down the Panthers, contesting every dribble, pass and shot. Center Patric Young was a powerful force, blocking four shots, altering at least five more and collecting seven rebounds. By the end of the game, Pittsburgh had been beaten down.

    In addition to playing forceful defense from start to finish, the Gators also played with poise and discipline. They were whistled for seven personal fouls in the game, and no Florida player had more than two fouls.

Michigan Takes Apart Texas with Surgical Precision

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Michigan would not have won the Big Ten regular-season title if John Beilein did not have a skilled and tough team.

    However, the Wolverines suffered a major blow in December when they lost big man Mitch McGary to a back injury that required surgery. The Wolverines have to overcome a major obstacle if they are going to win without him.

    They survived a potential minefield against Texas in the round of 32 without any trouble. Even though the Longhorns had two big and powerful front-line players in Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes, Michigan neutralized those two players and beat the Longhorns 79-65.

    Credit forward Jordan Morgan for an outstanding job against the Texas big men. He scored 15 points and hauled down 10 rebounds and never backed down (1:46 mark) in his battle.

    The decisive victory was achieved with surgical precision. Michigan shot the ball well from beyond the arc as the Wolverines made 14-of-28 shots, but they also made every correct decision with the ball. Head coach John Beilein's team was credited with 16 assists and turned the ball over just four times.

    That's the kind of sharp play that is needed to get Michigan back to the Final Four for the second year in a row.

Arizona Runs Gonzaga Ragged

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    The Arizona Wildcats may have been the least respected of the No. 1 seeds when the tournament draw was announced last week.

    That opinion is changing dramatically after head coach Sean Miller's team overwhelmed Gonzaga 84-61 in the round of 32.

    It started with defense as the Wildcats contested every pass and shot the Zags attempted. Arizona forced 21 turnovers, and 15 of them came on steals. Add in Arizona's size, speed and overall skill, and the game quickly became a blowout. Nobody was better for Arizona than Aaron Gordon, who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists.

    Count Gonzaga head coach Mark Few among those who were thoroughly impressed by the Arizona performance.

    ''That Arizona team we saw tonight was as good a team as we have faced, that I can remember,'' Few told the assembled media (CBS Sports) after the game. ''It was just too much for us tonight.''

Surging Baylor Destroys Creighton

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    It's difficult to find a team that has been more impressive through the first two rounds of the tournament than the sixth-seeded Baylor Bears.

    They whipped Nebraska 74-60 in their first game and then came through with an 85-55 destruction of third-seeded Creighton in the round of 32.

    This performance is surprising on its face, and when you consider that Baylor started the Big 12 season by losing eight of its first 10 games, it's fairly shocking.

    Baylor coach Scott Drew took an understated approach, saying his team was "pretty good."

    Brady Heslip scored 17 points to lead the way, but he was one of five Bears who reached double figures in this game. Baylor shot a head-shaking 64 percent from the field in this game.

    They were just as good on defense, limiting Creighton star Doug McDermott to 15 points and two rebounds in his final game.

    Baylor moves on to the Sweet 16 and a matchup with Wisconsin in its next game. At some point, the Bears may have to face reality and go home after getting beaten by a better team. However, they may be the most improved team in the nation, and they are going to be very tough to beat.

Cleanthony Cleans Up

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    It's going to be difficult for any game to exceed the Kentucky-Wichita State game in terms of quality or excitement.

    We brought you the details of that game earlier in the piece and gave Cleanthony Early a brief mention.

    However, the Wichita State senior forward deserves a lot more than that. The 6'8", 219-pounder was spectacular on the biggest stage, and he upped his stock dramatically for his future professional basketball endeavors.

    Anthony scored 31 points as he connected on 12-of-17 shots, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. He also had seven rebounds, a block and a steal in 39 minutes. He was especially effective down the stretch, as he made seven of his last nine shots.

    Anthony's most spectacular play was his dunk (0:47 mark) after taking a pass from Fred VanVleet in the closing seconds of the first half over Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein. That play demonstrated Anthony's timing and explosiveness, and it was one of the top highlights of this memorable game.

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