NCAA Tournament 2016: Winners and Losers of Day 2
Day 2 of the NCAA tournament included a pair of close contests going to the wire Wednesday night in Dayton to complete the First Four portion of the tourney.
Neither of the games Wednesday was particularly pretty, although the second half of the nightcap—a 67-62 win for Michigan over Tulsa—was much more entertaining and better played than anything that came before it. Holy Cross, the only team in the tournament with a losing record, took the first game 59-55 over Southern.
No. 11 seed Michigan now advances to a first-round game against No. 6 seed Notre Dame in the East Region. No. 16 seed Holy Cross gets to travel to Spokane, Washington, for a first-round encounter against No. 1 seed Oregon in the West Region.
Sports personality Bill Simmons, a graduate of Holy Cross, took to Twitter to proclaim: "Six more wins!!!!!"
Although that's not likely to happen, here are the winners and losers from the night when the Crusaders at least got one.
Losers: Those Who Had to Watch the First Game
The first game Wednesday night was ugly. There is no other way to put it.
Perhaps it's what should have been expected from a pair of No. 16 seeds in Holy Cross and Southern. This was a close game, but not a well-played game.
Southern, for instance, seemed totally mystified by Holy Cross' 1-3-1 zone defense. Certainly the Crusaders' defensive intensity contributed to Southern's woeful 3-of-20 shooting from three-point range—but many of the Jaguars' problems were self-inflicted.
Here's an idea: pass the ball. The Jaguars didn't do enough of that against the Crusaders' zone, and that was nobody's fault but their own. The Jags had only 10 assists on their 22 field goals, oftentimes rushing up poor shots when reversing the ball when an extra pass could have made a difference.
Holy Cross made its share of mistakes, too, including freshman Karl Charles dribbling the ball off his own foot in the closing seconds when all he had to do was hold it to secure the win. Then again, Southern didn't have enough time to make anything out of that miscue because it had mismanaged the clock so badly in the final minute.
Winner: Holy Cross Guard Robert Champion
One player who did light it up in the opening game was Robert Champion—a 6'6'' Holy Cross junior guard.
And it wasn't just that Champion was 6-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-5 from three-point range, for a game-high 19 points. It was when Champion hit some of his shots.
After Southern tied it at 52 late in the game, Champion hit one of his threes to give the lead right back to the Crusaders. And after Southern's Adrian Rodgers hit a rare three to cut it to 57-55 with 23 seconds left, it was Champion who went to the line when Southern finally fouled after inexplicably letting nine seconds tick off the clock on the ensuing Holy Cross possession.
Champion calmly sank both free throws to make it 59-55 and seal the win with 14.4 seconds remaining. Simply put, he played...like a Champion.
Simmons even took to Twitter to call Champion "AN AMERICAN HERO." And yes, he did so in all caps for proper emphasis.
Loser: Conventional 3-Point Shooting
Southern's first three of the opening game—after 10 straight misses—came when Shawn Prudhomme was trying to tie one of his shoes as the pass came to him from teammate Adrian Rodgers. We could not make this up.
Prudhomme stopped attempting to tie his shoe, took in the pass and then finally made a three-point shot. Then he went right back to tying his shoe.
The next time Prudhomme attempted a three with both shoes tied tightly, he shot an air ball that was short by about three feet.
It was that kind of night.
The three-point shooting didn't get much better in the second game. Michigan, one of the top teams in the nation in terms of total three-pointers made on the season, missed 13 of its first 15 long-ball attempts and ended up winning despite going 6-of-25 (24 percent) on threes overall. Tulsa, which is not a great three-point-shooting team regardless, made only three of 15 attempts (20 percent).
Winner: The March Crusade of Holy Cross
Give Holy Cross and first-year coach Bill Carmody credit despite the general ugliness of Wednesday's victory.
You want to be playing your best basketball in March, but this is a little over the top.
The Crusaders entered the month and the Patriot League tournament with a 10-19 overall record, knowing they had to win four games in a row away from home just to get to Dayton for Wednesday night's game. They won at Loyola (Md.), at Bucknell in double overtime, at Army and at Lehigh to accomplish it.
Now they've made it five wins in a row. No matter how it looked, that's quite a turnaround and something worth cheering about.
It also was the school's first NCAA tournament victory since 1953. That's 63 years, folks.
Losers (sadly): Tulsa's Seniors
Tulsa came into the game with nine seniors on its roster.
When told of this before the game, according to the truTV broadcast, Michigan coach John Beilein said he wasn't sure if he had coached nine seniors in the last five years (research showed he had actually coached 11).
So it was a tough way for them to end their college careers, and they did not go down without a fight. After playing rather poorly in the first half, they attacked the rim much more aggressively in the second half and actually led 60-59 with one minute left to play.
One senior in particular who played his heart out was 6'4" guard Shaquille Harrison, who stuffed his stat sheet with a game-high 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field while also adding seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block.
Harrison may have been on the losing side, but he went out playing like a winner.
Winner: The Berlin Wall (aka Moritz Wagner of Michigan)
America got introduced to Michigan's Moritz Wagner in the first half of the Wolverines' game against Tulsa.
Wagner, a slender 6'10" freshman even after supposedly adding 15 pounds of muscle since arriving in Ann Arbor from Berlin, Germany, was rushed into action after Mark Donnal got into early foul trouble.
Wagner responded with three quick blocks that seemed to energize the Wolverines, helping them to a 28-20 halftime lead.
Keep in mind he had two blocks the entire season and played a total of 14 minutes over the final 11 regular-season games—including five when he didn't get in at all. Circumstances did require him to log 16 minutes in Michigan's upset win over Indiana in the Big Ten tournament, and he responded with nine points and two rebounds.
But this was the NCAA tournament. Wagner actually committed to Michigan after watching the team play against Kentucky in the 2014 Elite Eight. But he watched that game on television from Berlin. How did he feel about playing in his own NCAA tourney for the first time?
"Now that I'm actually here, it's ridiculous," Wagner told Brendan F. Quinn of MLive.com before Wednesday's game.
The Berlin Wall was ridiculous against Tulsa, finishing his night with four points, eight rebounds and four blocks. His dunk off a missed shot with 2:02 remaining even gave Michigan a 59-56 lead, as Coach John Beilein had the confidence to go with the big freshman down the stretch.
Loser: Tulsa Coach Frank Haith
Although Frank Haith had fairly successful—if sometimes tumultuous—coaching runs at Miami (Fla.) and Missouri before coming to Tulsa in 2014, Wednesday's loss continued a disturbing trend for Haith-coached teams.
This was his fourth trip to the NCAA tournament in 12 seasons, and he has only one win to show for it against what is now four losses. (His worst tournament loss came in his first year at Missouri in 2012 when his team, which had been ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation and entered the tournament with a 30-4 record, lost a round-of-64 game to No. 15 seed Norfolk State.)
The fact Tulsa was the very last entry selected to the 68-team tournament field in a season when Haith had nine seniors to work with indicates this group probably underachieved. And then to come out in the first half without the kind of fire that a veteran team fighting for its season should have was disturbing; it must fall in large part on the coach.
Why did it take a whole half for Tulsa to bring its best? By the time the Golden Hurricane finally got around to it, they were in a possession-by-possession fight for survival. They should have been able to take advantage of Michigan's horrendous three-point shooting.
Winners: Michigan's Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
On a night when the team's overall poor shooting led to a gut check, Michigan's Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were there to do what needed to be done.
Irvin hit the biggest shot of the game, hitting a rare three-pointer with 41.3 seconds left to give the Wolverines the lead for good, 62-60. He then grabbed a key defensive rebound after a Tulsa miss. He finished the game with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting.
Abdur-Rahkman tied Irvin for team-high scoring honors with 16, even though he made only five of 16 field-goal attempts and missed all three of his three-point attempts. That didn't matter as much because his real contribution came as a steady playmaker, while fellow guard Derrick Walton Jr. had to sit out long stretches because of foul trouble.
Abdur-Rahkman ended up playing 38 minutes without committing a single turnover.
"Tulsa played a great game defensively, really the whole game," Irvin told truTV in an interview immediately after the game. "We didn't get it going and hit many shots until late, but I was able to knock that one down. ... We knew it was going to be a dogfight. Seasons are on the line."
Joe Menzer is a Digital Content Producer for FoxSports.com and also hosts a weekly radio show on ESPN 730 AM in Charlotte, North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter @OneMenz.