NCAA Tournament 2019: Saturday's Round 2 Winners and Losers
A longtime assistant got a historic win as a head coach, a record-breaking shooter had a record-bad night, a lost teammate got a meaningful tribute and a nation suffered from some obnoxious shoes.
It was a big third day of the NCAA men's tournament.
Kansas, Maryland and Villanova all went down. Gonzaga, Kentucky, Michigan and Michigan State all advanced.
The day's most captivating story was Fletcher Magee and Wofford's attempt to take out second-seeded Kentucky. The Terriers gave the Wildcats a game for all 40 minutes and somehow did that without much of anything from Magee, who set another NCAA record by missing 12 three-pointers without a make.
In the end, Kentucky advanced, but who else had a notable Saturday?
Winner: Tony Benford
There was no telling how LSU would react to the suspension of head coach Will Wade. Tigers assistant Tony Benford has been coaching since 1992, but his only head coaching job (North Texas) fell apart after five seasons and a 62-95 record.
So when Benford took over on March 8 for Wade, who was suspended indefinitely after reportedly getting caught on a wiretap and discussing player payments, it wouldn't have been a stretch to expect the Tigers to unravel because of the stress and distraction.
Instead, LSU looks as good as it has all season. The Tigers won the most exciting game of the tournament Saturday, beating Maryland 69-67 on a last-second layup by Tremont Waters.
This is LSU's first Sweet 16 appearance in 13 years and the first for Benford since he got there as an assistant at Marquette in 2012.
Loser: Any Chance for a Zion Williamson-Tacko Fall Rivalry
Duke and Central Florida will meet in the second round Sunday, which raises the possibility of a meeting at the rim between college basketball's biggest player, UCF's 7'6" Tacko Fall, and one of the best dunkers the sport has seen, Zion Williamson.
Both players were asked separately about the possibility that Williamson would put Fall on a poster, but neither took the bait.
"It's very hard [to dunk on me]," Fall told NCAA.com's Andy Katz on Friday night. "I won't allow it. I won't allow him to put me on one of his highlight tapes."
This bears the faint whiff of trash talk, but Williamson made a good point.
"What is he supposed to say?" Williamson told reporters Saturday. "Is he supposed to say I'm going to dunk on him? He said the right thing, but I'm not really focused on that."
Later Saturday, Fall tried to throw water on the whole thing.
"It's basketball," he told reporters. "I don't want it to be a freak show between Zion and I."
There are beatdowns, there are epic beatdowns and then there's what Purdue did to Villanova on Saturday. Considering this was a matchup between teams seeded third (Purdue) and sixth (Villanova), a competitive game was in order.
And that might have happened if Villanova had been able to guard Purdue...at all.
The Boilermakers, who ranked third in the Big Ten in scoring at 73.3 points per game, had 43 at halftime and just wouldn't stop scoring in the 87-61 win—largely thanks to Carsen Edwards' 42 points and nine three-pointers.
It was Edwards' biggest game of the year, but barely. He had 40 at Texas in December and 38 at Penn State in January.
Loser: Mark Turgeon
This was Mark Turgeon's eighth season at Maryland, and for the seventh time, the Terrapins failed to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Turgeon has had a mildly frustrating career. He became a big name by taking Wichita State to the Sweet 16 in 2006 and then went to four straight NCAA tournaments at Texas A&M, parlaying that into the Maryland job in 2011.
It looked like a good hire at the time, and it still does, but as the years pile up, it looks like Turgeon keeps running into some kind of invisible ceiling. In 21 seasons as a head coach, he has never made the Elite Eight.
Saturday presented a great opportunity. Thanks largely to a key switch to a zone defense by Turgeon, Maryland made a spirited comeback in the second half and tied LSU in the final minute. The game easily could have gone the other way—it just didn't.
That's the story of Turgeon's career.
Winner: LSU's Mission to Honor Wayde Sims
LSU's Wayde Sims was killed in a shooting the day before practice began this season, but according to Tremont Waters, Sims was with the Tigers as they played Maryland on Saturday.
"Our score was 44 at one point, and we all stopped in the huddle, looked up at the scoreboard and said '44' in the huddle," Sims told CBS after the game. "We just knew we needed to get this win for him."
Sims was known as the team's biggest prankster and one of its biggest sources of energy on the floor, averaging 5.6 points per game off the bench.
Loser: Our Collective Eyeballs
Michigan's pink shoes are the visual equivalent of a gnat that won't fly out of your ear. It's a terrible look. It's so bad it's hard to look at the screen for more than a few seconds, and yet the Wolverines continue to wear the pink shoes because they think it's good luck.
There's a flaw in this that goes beyond the obvious, however.
"I'm not a fan of the pink shoes because I got injured in pink shoes," Zavier Simpson told ESPN.com. "And anytime I get injured in some shoes, I don't wear them."
Michigan's 64-49 win over Florida wasn't much better to look at, as it had a leisurely pace, and both teams shot worse than 35 percent from three.
Winner: Brandon Clarke
Because of the conference Gonzaga plays in, it can sometimes be hard to say just how good Gonzaga's players are, relative to the country at large.
And then Brandon Clarke goes 15-of-18 from the floor and scores 36 points against Baylor, and the picture becomes clear.
Baylor outscored Gonzaga in the second half of Saturday's game, and for the most part defended the Bulldogs well. No other Bear made more than six shots, and Rui Hachimura went 2-of-6 for six points.
Baylor just couldn't do anything about Clarke, whose previous career high was 27.
Loser: Fletcher Magee
On Thursday, Wofford's sharpshooter set the NCAA career record for three-pointers and entered Saturday's game against Kentucky as his team's only real chance to upset the Wildcats.
Kentucky was determined not to let that happen, bothering Magee into a 0-of-12 three-point shooting performance that set another shooting record: Most three-point attempts without a make in tournament history.
"I just needed to hit a couple of shots," he told reporters. "We had the momentum sometimes and I had a big shot and it ended up not going in, but I've got to own up to it and swallow it. I went in there, I prepared like I always prepared. I did everything I've always done. I shot them how I always shoot them. They just didn't go in."
Wofford had the lead for most of the game, but midway through the second half Magee missed a rare wide-open look that would have put Wofford up two. Instead, Kentucky went on a run, the Big Blue Nation rose to its feet, and Wofford called timeout.
The game wasn't over yet, but you could see Wofford running out of steam just as Kentucky was building it, and Magee's record-breaking career came to a brick-filled end.
There was some hint this could happen. Wofford played Kansas and North Carolina this year, and in those games Magee was 3-of-25 from the three-point line.
Auburn beat the stuffing out off Kansas.
Everybody knew this wasn't a great Jayhawks team, but it's not like this was a bunch of chumps, either. This was a 26-9 group that beat Michigan State, Tennessee, Villanova, Texas Tech and Kansas State. And Auburn clobbered them. From the opening tip, it looked like Kansas didn't even belong on the same floor with Auburn, which did nothing but get steals and race up the court to make yet another three.
Beating Kansas is one thing, but beating Kansas by 26 points in a single half in something different. Auburn looked unbeatable.
The Tigers (28-9) have taken their lumps this year, but there aren't many bad losses on that resume. And if they can defend and shoot it like they did against Kansas, they'll be as good as anybody.
Loser: Ja Morant
Exciting times are ahead for Ja Morant, who is probably going to be taken in the top five of the NBA draft. But one-man teams from mid-major conferences have a certain ceiling, and Murray State found out exactly what that was on Saturday, losing to Florida State by 28 points.
If you're just looking at the box score, it looks like Morant was the only guy keeping Murray State from losing by 50. And that's true to some extent, but from the opening tip, it was obvious Florida State was content with Morant shooting three-pointers and generally dominating from a statistical standpoint, as long as everybody else was well-contained.
The game plan worked wonderfully. Morant scored 28—on 8-of-21 shooting—but Murray State was never really in the game.
Things might look different next year for Morant with some more talented NBA players next to him, but for now Florida State was way too much.