Winners and Losers from the First Day of the Sweet 16
Michigan couldn't buy a basket, Ryan Cline couldn't miss, and Chris Beard made himself a lot of money.
The first day of the Sweet 16 had two great games and a couple of duds. Purdue and Tennessee put on an overtime classic and Oregon and Virginia were neck and neck all night. Meanwhile, Texas Tech stomped Michigan like nobody else had all year, and Florida State just couldn't keep up with Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and Gonzaga.
And in the middle of it all, the last perfect bracket known to exist...was busted.
Welcome to reality.
After the humiliation of last year, when Virginia became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose a first-round game, everybody was looking to see if the Cavaliers would choke again this year.
It's a decided "nope."
Virginia got a good game from 12th-seeded Oregon, but it won the game the way Virginia always wins games. Oregon, which was on a 10-game winning streak, scored just 49 points on Virginia, succumbing as so many others have to the Cavaliers' defense and shooting.
Virginia is moving on to the Elite Eight, but just as importantly, it is moving on from last year.
Winner: Chris Beard
There might be a player or two who made themselves more future dollars this weekend than Chris Beard did, but that's it. Before this season, Beard signed a six-year contract extension with Texas Tech worth a little more than $19 million.
Well, the price just went up.
It's safe to say most outside observers don't expect Beard will be at Texas Tech for long. It has never been a destination job, and he'll be the hottest name in the game this offseason.
Whether Beard has any interest in leaving Lubbock is known only to him, really. But anyone hoping to pry him away is going to have to pony up—he's already getting an extra $750,000 if he's still at Texas Tech in 2020.
Loser: The Last Perfect Bracket
As far as anyone seems to be able to tell, a man named Gregg Nigl had the last perfect NCAA tournament bracket in the world. He had been on Good Morning America, the Today show and CNN. His voicemail has been full for days.
He was something like a celebrity...until Purdue beat Tennessee.
USA Today spent the evening with Nigl as he watched the game that busted his bracket.
"Honestly, I hope they come back and I hope Purdue doesn't win it," Nigl told USA Today. "But Purdue is a good team. I've seen them play a bunch this year."
A little too good for UT, anyway.
Winner: Brandon Clarke
For the majority of the season, most people have assumed Rui Hachimura is Gonzaga's best NBA prospect. But Clarke's play in the tournament has cast some doubt on that.
Clarke had 36 points in Gonzaga's second-round win last week, and he followed that with 15 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks against Florida State on Thursday. He averaged 17.0 points per game this year on 69.9 percent shooting, so it's not like this is coming out of nowhere.
But he seems to have hit another level recently. He made the most spectacular play of Thursday's game, running the length of the floor for a soaring putback dunk that put Gonzaga back up 11 after a Florida State run. On the next play, he swatted a shot that turned into another Gonzaga dunk.
Clarke was all over the place Thursday. If he wasn't scoring, he was blocking a shot or getting a rebound, looking fast and bouncy every step of the way.
At the under-eight timeout of the second half, the biggest question left to be resolved between Michigan and Texas Tech was whether the Wolverines would reach the 40-point mark.
Michigan had 16 at halftime, didn't get to 20 until almost five minutes had gone by in the second half and had 31 when a TV timeout stopped play with 7:45 to play and the Red Raiders leading by 25.
Texas Tech has one of the nation's elite defenses, Michigan hasn't been a great shooting team all year, and the Wolverines play at a relatively slow pace. Nobody was expecting a shootout, but this was flat-out embarrassing for a team that won 30 games this year and was ranked No. 2 for three weeks.
Loser: The Rims in Texas Tech-Michigan
The rims took a beating Thursday night as Texas Tech and Michigan launched an assault against them, using the basketball to batter the orange metal cylinders without mercy.
It was evident both teams were set on wearing down the rims in the first half so that they'd be loosened up for the crucial second half, when all the difference could be made by a favorable roll.
Michigan did the most damage, shooting 7-of-25 from the floor in the first half, including an 0-of-9 mark from the three-point line. But Texas Tech was barely better, missing 18 of 28 first-half shots.
Combined, the Red Raiders and Wolverines had 40 points at halftime.
These were two of the best defensive teams in the country during the regular season, so everybody expected a lower-scoring affair. But this was something else.
Texas Tech let up on the rims a little in the second half, but Michigan's assault continued. The Wolverines didn't reach 20 points until more than four minutes into the second half, by which time Texas Tech had built a big lead they couldn't overcome.
Winner: Carsen Edwards
It's no surprise to see Carsen Edwards put up a big scoring night, but his 29 points against Tennessee led Purdue once again in a game the Boilermakers needed every bucket.
This wasn't Edwards' greatest shooting night. He was 8-of-22 from the field and missed what would have been a game-winning free throw at the end of regulation (he was fouled on a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left and made two of three). But he made a back-breaking left-handed layup in overtime, and more importantly, he dominated the first half, leading Purdue to a big advantage Tennessee spent most of the second half trying to overcome.
Edwards seems like a senior, but he's only a junior. If he's back next year, the Boilermakers will have a senior point guard who's played in three NCAA tournaments, including an Elite Eight—and carried most of the load along the way.
Loser: Leonard Hamilton
Leonard Hamilton has been at Florida State for 17 years. He's gotten past the Sweet 16 just once, which was last year. There was a big opportunity here to elevate the program with back-to-back Elite Eight runs, but it fell short once again.
Within the scope of Florida State basketball history, Hamilton has had an OK run. The Seminoles went to six NCAA tournaments from 1988 to 2002, and after a slow start, Hamilton has been to seven since 2009.
So it's not that Hamilton stinks. It's just that another Elite Eight—and maybe a Final Four—could have further validated a long career.
Winner: Ryan Cline
Ryan Cline fouled out in overtime, but he got a standing ovation as he left the floor. He earned it. In a game full of great performances, Cline put on a shooting performance for the ages, scoring 22 of his 27 points in the second half and for a stretch single-handedly holding off Tennessee.
Cline went 10-of-13 from the field and 7-of-10 from the three-point line. These weren't open shots, either. These were long shots, off-balance shots, guarded shots. There was a step-back on Grant Williams to beat the shot clock. For a minute there it looked like Cline didn't even need to look at the rim before he shot. When people say a shooter is "unconscious," this is what they're talking about.
Carsen Edwards carried Purdue in the first half, but without Cline in the second, there's no way Purdue would still be alive.
Loser: Anyone Who Missed Purdue-Tennessee
Everybody loves a first-weekend upset, but the payoff for a first weekend without many of them is a game like Purdue-Tennessee on Thursday night. It was one of the best college basketball games of the year, with both teams making play after play, answering each other's answers, never going down without another tough shot, another dunk, one more offensive rebound.
If you missed it, you missed something better than a first-round upset. Nobody got upset here. Nobody played bad. It was just a classic battle between two talented veteran teams playing their best.
Purdue won the game, advancing to its first Elite Eight in 19 years, and a Tennessee team that was No. 1 for a month went home.