Most Amazing Moments from the Sweet 16

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2014

Most Amazing Moments from the Sweet 16

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    Mark Humphrey

    The first weekend of the NCAA tournament often sees an underdog or two rise up and win their first two games and advance to the Sweet 16.

    That's when reality usually takes hold. A double-digit seed goes up against a top seed or a No. 2, and they get hit hard and lose their footing.

    But every once in a while, a double-digit seed survives. That's the case this year for the Dayton Flyers. The 11th-seeded Flyers may have had a fortunate draw because they faced 10th-seeded Stanford in the Sweet 16, but they took advantage and beat the Cardinal by 10 points.

    On the other end of the spectrum, top-seeded Florida survived a tough game with UCLA and continues its march toward a possible championship.

    Here are the memorable moments from the Sweet 16.

Michigan Takes Charge and Eliminates Vols

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Michigan had dominated Tennessee for 29 minutes, building a 60-45 lead, and was seemingly on the way to an easy victory.

    However, Tennessee decided enough was enough and mounted a furious rally. With Michigan leading 72-71 in the final 10 seconds, Caris LeVert stepped on the line and turned the ball over to the Vols. That's when Michigan's Jordan Morgan came up with the key play of the game.

    He knew that Tennessee would try to get the ball to power forward Jarnell Stokes and that he would take the ball to the hole once he got it.

    Morgan set his feet and held his ground as Stokes barreled toward the rim. Once contact was made, Morgan hit the floor and the whistle was blown. Stokes was called for charging, and Michigan had the ball back.

    The call was highly controversial and it could have gone in Tennessee's direction. Stokes thought that Morgan had fouled him, but he recognized that the Michigan forward made a heads-up play.

    “No, no, I don’t think I fouled him,” Stokes told the Detroit Free Press. “But it was a smart play for him to try to take the charge. He pretty much anticipated it.”

    That play allowed Michigan to survive and advance to the Elite Eight.

Wilbekin Leadership Ruins UCLA Upset Bid

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    Florida came into its Sweet 16 game having won 28 games in a row, and that kind of streak would intimidate a lot of opponents.

    UCLA was not one of them. The Bruins had an answer for nearly every Florida flurry, and the Bruins were giving nearly as good as they were getting for the majority of the game. But the Gators are not classic bullies. Punch them in the mouth, and they punch back.

    Senior guard Scottie Wilbekin is the team's leader, and while he may struggle from time to time in the first half, he is usually at his best when the game reaches the stretch run. He wants the ball when the game is on the line, and he almost always makes big plays.

    That was the case against the Bruins. Wilbekin delivered the crucial points when he hit a three-pointer with 6:12 remaining and a layup on the following possession to stretch a five-point lead to 10.

    While UCLA would come at the Gators again, Wilbekin's flurry told his teammates that he would be there for them when it mattered, and they proceeded to close out UCLA.

Dayton Depth Makes the Difference

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    Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    The Dayton Flyers are an unusual bunch, and not just because they have survived three opponents as a No. 11 seed.

    Head coach Archie Miller may not have the talent among his starters to survive against the more elite teams in the tournament, but the Flyers play ferocious team defense, and they come at opponents in waves.

    Instead of playing five starters and three players off the bench like many teams do, Miller uses a 12-man rotation that keeps all of his players fresh.

    That helps star guard Jordan Sibert come through when the game is on the line. Sibert scored a game-high 18 points in the Flyers' 82-72 win over Stanford, and he got help from freshman Kendall Pollard against the Cardinal.

    Stanford appeared to lack the energy to stay with Dayton down the stretch. Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins acknowledged that his team could not match Dayton's effort down the stretch.

    "They were relentless," Dawkins told reporters after the game. "That's the best way I can put it."

Spartans Survive Brutal Battle with Cavaliers

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    Seth Wenig

    Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo had coached against Virginia coach Tony Bennett's father many times when Dick Bennett led the Wisconsin Badgers in the 1990s. Those Michigan State-Wisconsin battles were always brutal, defensive affairs in which the first team to reach 50 points usually won the game.

    Izzo knew that the younger Bennett was the same kind of coach as his father. Top-seeded Virginia had the leading scoring defense in the nation, allowing 55.7 points per game.

    Michigan State was able to play fearsome defense of its own and survive this tough matchup at Madison Square Garden. The Spartans came up with a 61-59 victory that left Izzo and his players drained.

    The Spartans contested every pass, dribble and shot in the game. They held the Cavaliers to 20-of-57 shooting from the field and they outplayed Virginia down the stretch. Branden Dawson scored a game-high 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead Michigan State.

UConn Makes It a Garden Party

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    Bill Wippert

    While many NCAA tournament games come down to which team can grind its opponent down with a nasty defensive effort, the Sweet 16 game between the UConn Huskies and the Iowa State Cyclones figured to be a fast-paced, offensive-minded game.

    The Cyclones were good as Dustin Hogue scored 34 points and teammate DeAndre Kane threw in 16. However, the Huskies were great as Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels combined for 62 points. UConn came away with an 81-76 victory to move on to the Elite Eight.

    The Huskies were in their comfort zone at Madison Square Garden. They connected on 26-of-50 shots from the floor, including 9-of-19 from beyond the three-point arc. 

    The excellent shooting allowed them to build a 61-45 lead in the second half before Iowa State staged a furious comeback. The Cyclones might have been able to steal the game, but UConn's superb free-throw shooting (20-of-22) prevented that from happening. 

Kentucky Comeback Ousts Defending Champions

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    Kentucky made a name for itself by beating Wichita State in the round of 32 and eliminating the previously undefeated Shockers from the tournament.

    The Wildcats were not content with that big victory. They took out their archrivals and defending champion Louisville Cardinals with a come-from-behind 74-69 victory in the Sweet 16.

    The Wildcats trailed by 13 points midway through the first half but managed to stay in contact. They made their big move late in the game when Aaron Harrison hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 39 seconds left in the game, and Julius Randle made clutch free throws to extend the lead. 

    Harrison led Kentucky with 15 points, while Randle got the job done on the boards with 12 rebounds. Kentucky will have a chance to move on to the Final Four if it can defeat Michigan in its Elite Eight game Sunday.

Wisconsin Rolls Past Baylor

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    Second-seeded Wisconsin had a peak performance in its Sweet 16 performance against previously red-hot Baylor.

    The Badgers have been known for their toughness and defense through the years, but head coach Bo Ryan may have the best offensive team he has had in his tenure at Madison.

    The Badgers rolled to a 79-62 victory over the Bears as Frank Kaminsky led the way with 19 points as he hit 8-of-11 shots from the field.

    Kaminsky's performance demonstrated how confident the Badgers were on the offensive end. They took advantage of open looks throughout the game and played the game at their preferred pace. Wisconsin made 26-of-50 shots from the field and simply ran away from the Bears. 

    Wisconsin's precise passing and aggressive playmaking ruined Baylor's zone defense, while the Badgers' defense kept Baylor from finding its comfort zone on offense. Baylor made just 2-of-15 three-point shots.