Arguably, the first two rounds of the 2016 NCAA Tournament have been the best ever. There was exciting play, incomprehensible blowouts, and phenomenal finishes in ever NCAA March Madness region. However, it could have been much sweeter for the Cinderella’s on Sunday.
After six double digit seeds won on Friday, only the No. 10 Syracuse Orange made it to the Sweet 16. Three more double digit seeds had great opportunities to earn Sweet 16 bids, but they all fell short in the final moments. The dramatic fashion in which the higher seeds won took an emotional toll on everyone involved.
No. 3 Texas A&M Aggies 92 No. 11 Northern Iowa Panthers 88 Double OT
College basketball saw the collapse of the century when Northern Iowa lost a 12-point lead in the final 40 seconds. Just a couple of days earlier, Paul Jesperson hit a game winner from half court. Last night, Jesperson and the Panthers couldn’t seal an easy victory.
The Panthers had the second round in hand, leaving Texas A&M on the ropes. In fact, the Aggies were flat out dominated in this game until the full court press was implemented. Turnover after turnover, the Aggies crept closer, and finally tied the game, sending it to overtime. Eventually, the Aggies won in double overtime, leaving the depleted Panthers dejected. The wrong team won and it doesn’t feel right.
No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners 85 No. 10 VCU Rams 81
Earlier in the day, the No.2 Oklahoma Sooners defeated the No. 10 VCU Rams 85-81. Normally, this contest would have been a candidate for the game of the day. Instead, it will be remembered by just another great performance by Buddy Hield.
Despite sitting the majority of the first half with two fouls, Hield exploded for 29 second half points, finishing with 36. According to Yahoo Sports, Hield found his shot just in time. The Sooners had a 13 point lead at the break, but the Rams roared back to take a lead midway through the second half. That’s when Hield cemented his stamp on the game. With the Sooners trailing, 65-63, Hield took over the game in a way no other player can. By the end, Hield scored 26 of the final 29 Sooners’ points, sending Oklahoma to the Sweet 16.
No. 1 Oregon Ducks 69 No. 8 St. Joseph Hawks 64
The No. 1 Oregon Ducks have been under the radar throughout the season. After blowing out Holy Cross in the opener, the Ducks were still an afterthought. With every other PAC-12 school losing, who would have been surprised if the Ducks were the first No. 1 seed to go out in the second round? Well, Oregon had their chance to fold. And St. Joes did everything in their power to earn a Sweet 16 berth.
Saying it was a game of runs is an understatement. Both teams answered the bell, but slight mistakes were the difference in the potential upset.
The Ducks turned a 32-30 lead into a 45-35 lead on Dillon Brooks’ 3-point basket. In the next four minutes, the Hawks used a 10-0 spurt to tie the game. With just over five minutes left, the Hawks had a 58-51 lead, and the Ducks were reeling. The entertaining team from the Pacific Northwest seemed headed for the same fate as their conference brethren. Unfortunately, for St. Joes, these Ducks had other plans for next weekend.
They ended the game on an 18-6 run, using a two 3-point shots by Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks to take the lead for good. A shot clock violation, and a turnover by DeAndre’ Bembry doomed the Hawks in the final minute, giving the Ducks the five point win.
The West is the only region to have the top four seeds advance to the Sweet 16. On Saturday, Duke defeated Yale, and they will face the Ducks Thursday. All four second round games were within seven points, so there should be some intense action in the Sweet 16 round.
Conferences: PAC-12, ACC, SEC, Big 12.