NCAA Tournament 2018: Saturday's Second-Round Winners and Losers
The third day of the men's NCAA tournament saw Loyola-Chicago become the only real Cinderella story of the Big Dance. The 11th-seeded Ramblers took out third-seeded Tennessee on a late bouncing, rolling jumper by the Missouri Valley Player of the Year, Clayton Custer.
Otherwise, there were no major surprises in the final scores. Villanova beat Alabama, Kansas beat Seton Hall, Kentucky beat Buffalo, Duke beat Rhode Island, Texas Tech beat Florida and Michigan beat Houston. But the way the Wolverines prevailed surely stopped hearts around the country and broke a few down South.
For those looking for constant upsets, the first weekend has probably been a bit of a letdown. The upside is that the Sweet 16 should be filled with quality teams and interesting matchups—though it wouldn't hurt if UMBC beat Kansas State on Sunday.
Either way, these are the winners and losers from Day 3.
Rhode Island is a quality team, but the truth remains that for a squad like URI to beat a team like Duke, the team like URI is going to have to play one of its best games of the year.
That...did not happen.
The Blue Devils unloaded on the Rams, taking a 45-28 lead into halftime while Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski half-joked during the halftime interview about how the problem was that Rhode Island didn't make shots and Duke did.
That carried into the second half. The Rams shot 39.7 percent from the field, 36.8 percent from beyond the three-point line and 38.5 percent at the foul line, while Duke shot 56.9 percent from the floor and made 10 threes in its 87-62 win.
This was mildly redemptive for the Blue Devils, who lost in the second round to South Carolina last season.
Loser: Ohio State
Ohio State's second-round game with the Gonzaga Bulldogs wound up being close, which makes it all the more aggravating for the Buckeyes that they made it to the first media timeout without scoring and trailed by 13.
Ohio State won the next 36 minutes, cutting Gonzaga's lead to five with 15 seconds left, but that huge early hole proved too much to overcome.
The Buckeyes hadn't been to the tournament since 2015 but went 15-3 in Big Ten play, tying Purdue for second place in the league and earning a No. 5 seed.
As it turned out, Ohio State just couldn't stop Gonzaga. The Bulldogs shot 53.4 percent from the field and made nine three-pointers. Had they shot a little better than 19-of-31 from the foul line, this wouldn't have been much of a game.
Winner: Jordan Poole
"That guy has an overdose of swag," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Jordan Poole on the TBS broadcast.
It looked that way Saturday, when Poole, a freshman who had not scored in the second half, hit a guarded, off-balance three-pointer to beat Houston 64-63 and send Michigan to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.
Poole was a top-100 player coming out of high school in Milwaukee, per 247Sports, but he only averaged 13.1 minutes and 6.4 points per game for the Wolverines.
It was a tight contest all night, but Houston took a one-point lead with 44 seconds left, then went up by two with 25 seconds to go. Michigan missed a chance to tie the game with under 10 seconds left, and Houston got the rebound, apparently sealing the win.
But Devin Davis, a 67.1 percent foul shooter, missed two free throws, Houston didn't foul with a two-point lead and Poole made the Cougars pay.
Loser: 2 Rhode Island Fans
A pair of Rhode Island fans got ejected from the Rams' loss to Duke on Saturday. The reason, according to Blue Devils forward Wendell Carter Jr.'s mom, Kylia, is the fans called her a "b---h."
She explained the men had been drinking, offering that she had no problem with that, as she told her story to an ABC affiliate.
"What happened on the play was, Marvin [Bagley III] got called for a charge. And I said, 'Come on ref, that wasn't a charge.' And he looked at me and says, 'Yes it was, b---h," she said of one of the fans.
Carter Jr. hadn't heard about the incident until a reporter mentioned it to him in the locker room after the game. He said it was frustrating but not surprising.
Winner: Next Weekend
UMBC's historic win notwithstanding, the NCAA tournament's first three days haven't been the bloodbath they sometimes are for high seeds. And that bodes well for next week, when we'll for the most part get to see the best squads playing each other.
We lost Virginia and Arizona, two of the country's best teams and a couple of hot Final Four picks, but Duke, Kentucky, Villanova and Kansas all advanced to the Sweet 16.
The first-weekend upsets are what makes the NCAA tournament the spectacle it is, so to some it's a disappointment when we don't see many. On the flip side, the odds of great Elite Eight and Final Four games go up as the best continue to advance.
Loser: The Idea of Bill Self as a Choker
Bill Self's career at Kansas got off to a bit of a rough start where the NCAA tournament was concerned. After an Elite Eight run in his first year, Self's team lost in the opening round in 2005 and 2006, and the coach made the first Final Four of his career in 2008, winning the national title.
In the 10 years since, Kansas has three second-round losses, but it has been to six Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights and one Final Four.
This marks KU's third Sweet 16 in a row and Self's 13th since 2000, when he was at Tulsa.
Kansas has experienced its share of shocking NCAA tournament losses—that'll happen when you're one of the top seeds every year—but the idea that Kansas chokes in the Big Dance is outdated.
Winner: Hamidou Diallo
Entering the season, Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo was expected to be one of the country's most exciting freshmen. Although most analysts acknowledged Diallo had a good deal of work to do on his offensive game, there isn't anybody in the nation who's more athletic, making him something of an X-factor.
Diallo started the season hot but slipped during SEC play. He'd only scored in double figures twice since the end of January and went scoreless in two games against Tennessee.
Saturday against Buffalo, the country witnessed what all the recruiting analysts saw when Diallo was in high school: a guy who can make stunning chase-down blocks and tip dunks while filling up a box score. He finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and two blocks on 9-of-12 shooting as Kentucky won going away, 95-75.
This was a good day for Diallo's draft status. He was always going to be a one-and-done, but this helped answer some lingering questions.
Loser: Egor Koulechov
This poor guy. With his team trailing Texas Tech by three in the final minute of a second-round game, Florida's Egor Koulechov got a great look at a three-pointer with 54 seconds left, but some strange body mechanics resulted in an air-ball.
Koulechov would get a chance to make up for it on Florida's final possession. Again down by three, Florida stole Texas Tech's inbounds pass with 20 seconds left, and the ball again found a wide-open Koulechov, this time in the corner.
Instead of taking the three, Koulechov pump-faked a defender who had already fallen down, dribbled, stepped back and missed a contested three with nine seconds left. Florida got the offensive rebound and another good look at a three, but that missed as well and Texas Tech moved on with a 69-66 victory.
Koulechov was a 40.2 percent three-point shooter this year, averaging 13.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He had 12 points against the Red Raiders and went 5-of-13 from the field.
Winner: Clayton Custer
The 2018 NCAA tournament got a new hero Saturday night, when Loyola-Chicago's Clayton Custer's jumper hit the iron, then the backboard, then more iron and finally dropped to beat third-seeded Tennessee.
Custer, a junior from Overland Park, Kansas, was the Missouri Valley Player of the Year after averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 54.4 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent from the three-point line prior to conference tourney action.
In other words, he's a "traditional" point guard. He took just five shots against Tennessee on Saturday, but he made four of them, including the shot that sent Loyola-Chicago to its fourth Sweet 16 and its first since 1985.
There haven't been a great deal of late-game heroics in this tournament. Even UMBC's win over Virginia was somehow a blowout, leaving Custer's jumper as the most unforgettable image of the Big Dance ...
...until Michigan's Jordan Poole topped it a few hours later.
Loser: Not Pressuring the Ball
There is always something to second guess after a close loss in a big game. For Houston and coach Kelvin Sampson, that thing is the decision to not pressure the ball off the inbounds play against Michigan with 3.6 seconds left, up by two.
That was the situation the Cougars found themselves in Saturday against third-seeded Michigan. Leading 63-61 after a pair of missed free throws, all Houston needed to do was stop Michigan from racing up the floor and scoring.
Well, guess what happened.
The Wolverines inbounded the ball without any pressure on the inbounder, who completed an easy pass to mid-court, which allowed Jordan Poole to catch the ball on the wing with about 1.5 seconds left, releasing it a half second later and the buzzer sounding before his shot fell through to beat Houston, 64-63.