Winners and Losers from Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament
It didn't come with a dramatic finish like the Christian Laettner shot, and it wasn't a great game, but UMBC's win over Virginia on Friday night was one of those "remember where you were when you saw it" games that come along only so often in sports.
No. 16 seed UMBC dominated No. 1 overall seed Virginia to secure the new "greatest upset in college basketball history."
The 2018 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship will always be remembered for that, but there were plenty of other big winners and losers on Friday night, and another huge blow dealt to a high seed.
Winner: Bob Huggins
Any time Bob Huggins appears on camera, it's a win. That goes without saying. But is there any other coach—and I'm talking any coach—you can imagine having a little nap while he scouted a postseason game?
Nobody, and I mean nobody, is as bored by this whole spectacle as Bob Huggins, and it's just delightful.
Later in the day Huggins' team smoked Murray State 85-68 in one of the most impressive performances of the first round. The Mountaineers forced 16 turnovers and held Murray State to 41 percent shooting, shutting down any visions of 12-over-5 chaos.
This is Huggins' fourth NCAA tournament in a row. The Mountaineers made it to the Sweet 16 last season.
Loser: All of Us at the End of Wichita State vs. Marshall
The last minute of Wichita State vs. Marshall took more than 18 minutes to complete, thanks to what felt like an unending series of meetings between referee John Higgins and a television monitor. Higgins went to the tape three times in that final minute, spending the bulk of the time trying to figure out whether the ball went off the Thundering Herd or Shockers.
As a result, a debate broke out on Twitter about whether or not this was bad, and if so, just how bad. The ranks divided into the usual camps. There was, (1) "You have to make sure you get the calls right" vs. "I didn't come here to watch John Higgins watch a game I'm already watching."
Certainly it's within reason to use the technology available to correct easily correctable officiating errors, but is there some reason this process has to take so long? It's a whole ordeal. While the entire country has already seen the replay enough times to make the call a dozen times over, refs are still huddled up on the sideline doing whatever it is they're doing over there.
This needs to be addressed.
Winner: The SEC
Well, well, well, if it isn't the basketball league everybody loves to dump on, winning its first five games of the NCAA tournament. It isn't like the SEC sent a bunch of heavy favorites, either. The conference's top-seeded team is third-seeded Tennessee, which beat Wright State 73-47 on Thursday, followed by fourth-seeded Auburn and fifth-seeded Kentucky.
Texas A&M (No. 7 seed), Florida (No. 6), Alabama (No. 9), and Kentucky also won on Thursday, leaving Arkansas (No. 7) and Missouri (No. 8) to carry the conference on Friday.
The Razorbacks and Tigers both got blown out, but this still goes down as a big weekend for the SEC, especially in a year in which its traditional powers are a bit less powerful than usual.
Loser: Shaka Smart
Nobody say anything, but it's been seven years since Shaka Smart made it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. He dropped to 50-50 as coach of the Longhorns on Friday night when they lost to Nevada 87-83, he's about to lose his best prospect and it's fair to wonder in year three if Smart has the Texas program headed in any particular direction.
In 2015, Smart replaced Rick Barnes, who went 402-180 in 17 years at Texas, including three Big 12 titles and a Final Four.
The two seasons that preceded Barnes' firing, the Longhorns went 24-11 then 20-14. Smart went 20-13 his first year, and since then he's 30-37, beset by the same problems that allegedly held Barnes down: good recruits, sloppy teams.
If that's going to change, it probably needs to start quickly.
Marshall hadn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1987, and even that appearance was vacated. So the Thundering Herd's win over Wichita State on Friday went down as one of the biggest upsets of the first round, even though it feels like we just got done saying the same type of stuff about Wichita State.
Even though most would think of Marshall and Wichita State as mid-major programs, this was a 4-13 matchup, the sort that typically pits a strong major-conference team against a good mid-major team, usually one a little more experienced and a little less talented than the favorite.
Wichita State vs. Marshall looked like a different kind of matchup on paper, but you have to remember Wichita State had won at least one tournament game in each of the last five years and played in the Final Four in 2013. It's a program now, and it just suffered its first major tournament upset of the Gregg Marshall years, courtesy of Marshall.
The Purdue Boilermakers themselves aren't losers, but man did they suffer a big loss on Friday when big man Isaac Haas broke his elbow and ended his career during a 74-48 blowout of Cal State Fullerton.
Haas is 7'2", 290 pounds, averages around 15 points and six rebounds per game and is a senior. He was a critical player on a Purdue team that at mid-year looked like it could be the best in the country.
The Boilermakers have three other players who average at least 12 points per game, and they have 7'3" freshman Matt Haarms available off the bench. He averages 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds, but figures to play a larger role with Haas out.
Watching this happen to Haas calls to mind the 2000 season, when Kenyon Martin of top-seeded Cincinnati broke his leg the week before the NCAA Tournament.
Winner: Bruce Weber
When Marcus Foster transferred from Kansas State to Creighton after his sophomore season, it was easy to see it as a failing for head coach Bruce Weber. Foster was a second-team All-Big 12 player as a freshman, regressed as a sophomore and left the program after a 15-17 season.
Foster went on to have a prolific career at Creighton and led the Blue Jays this year with 20.3 points per game.
But Weber and the Wildcats got the better of Foster on Friday. He went 2-of-11, scoring five points in a 69-59 loss to a K-State team that was without its best player, forward Dean Wade.
It was a little-used freshman named Mike McGuirl who stole the show, scoring 17 points on 10 shots off the bench, sending Weber to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011 with Illinois.
Seventh-seeded Arkansas goes home with a 17-point loss to a Butler team that lost 13 games. The Razorbacks shot 36 percent from the field and 22 percent from three in a game Butler controlled almost all the way.
It was a thorough defeat, but if you've been following Arkansas all year, you probably aren't surprised. The Razorbacks got outscored and out-rebounded in SEC play, and they caught their share of beatdowns this year. North Carolina, Kentucky, Houston, LSU, Tennessee and Florida all beat Arkansas by 15 points or more.
Winner: The No. 16 Seed in All of Us
Athletes talk a lot about things "they said couldn't be done." Usually they're exaggerating, but a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed was something people really said couldn't be done.
No. 16 seeds were 0-132 entering this tournament, then suffered losses to Kansas, Xavier and Villanova.
There had been some close calls over the years, some games where the No. 16 got the No. 1 down early, started hitting threes or somehow or another made a game of it...for a little while. Until they succumbed to the size, the speed, the shooting or something.
That was never enough. It turned out if you wanted to take down No. 1, you had to bury it 20 points deep (74-54).
Nobody said UMBC was the best No. 16 seed of all time. Most people don't even know what it stands for.
Except for one thing.
Tough break for Virginia, but this is sports, which means for every epic winner there is an epic loser.
And today, that loser is Virginia, the biggest loser in the history of the NCAA tournament, and one of the biggest losers in the history of American sports.
Everybody knows No. 16 seeds had never won an NCAA tournament game, and were 0-3 against Kansas, Xavier and Villanova, all by double figures. Nobody imagined the streak would end with Virginia, the top overall seed in this tournament, entering the game 31-2.
From a narrative perspective, it hardly matters that it was a 20-point loss, but it warrants mentioning that Virginia didn't just get beat, it got pounded by a school that lost to Albany 83-39 in January.