March 21, 2015
After a slate of Friday games that lacked the big upsets fans were treated to on the first day of the tournament, many of the remaining underdogs were back in action Saturday with trips to the Sweet 16 at stake.
Fans were guaranteed to see a double-digit seed advance to the second weekend thanks to a third-round game between No. 11 UCLA, who beat No. 6 SMU, and No. 14 UAB, who shocked No. 3 Iowa State on Thursday. And that was just the first game of the day.
There are two other double-digit seeds looking to advance, but both were facing much stiffer competition, especially D'Angelo Russell and No. 10 Ohio State, who face No. 2 Arizona. The other Cinderella in action on Saturday was No. 14 Georgia State, who faced No. 6 Xavier.
The big story of the day turned out to be Villanova. And that's never a good thing for a top-seeded team during the tourney's first weekend. You won't find anything about their 71-68 loss to NC State in the recap that follows. But Rich Hofmann has the full story, which you can get right here.
But here's a look at what else happened Saturday:
UCLA, a team many didn't think deserved to be in the field of 64 to begin with, became the first team to guarantee a spot playing in the NCAA Tournament's second weekend with a convincing 92-75 win over UAB.
For the Bruins, it was a much different style of play that carried them on Saturday. On Thursday, they rode the sharp shooting hand of Bryce Alford, son of coach Steve Alford. He was 9-for-11 from three-point range in their second-round win over Larry Brown's SMU squad. Against the Blazers, however, Alford played the role of set-up man, as forward Tony Parker led the way with 28 points. Alford added 22 points of his own on 3-for-5 shooting from outside, but it was his ball distribution that helped separate the two teams down the stretch.
Parker's career-high 28 points came on just 14 shots, 11 of which he made. He also added 12 rebounds, with four coming on the offensive side of the ball.
The Blazers were pressing Alford on the outside, trying to avoid the same fate suffered by SMU, but despite their best efforts, the coach's son was still able to find his shot, even if he needed to run the ol' elevator play, utilizing a double screen near the top of the key.
But where Alford really shined on Saturday was in dishing the ball off to Parker and Co. for easy buckets. It was so impressive that Parker took a lighthearted jab at his coach after the game:
Tony Parker: "Coach Alford didn't pass much so I think Bryce focuses on being a better passer than him." Coach: "Get him outta here." LOL— Yannis Koutroupis (@YannisNBA) March 21, 2015
And even ESPN's Skip Bayless came out to grace us with the kind of solid, in-depth analysis you've come to expect this time of year:
I have UCLA beating Gonzaga and losing to Duke. Love how Bryce Alford now running their show. Pass-1st PG who can score when it's time.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 21, 2015
The only problem with that is everything. Alford is not a pass-first point guard that can score when needed. Alford is the team's second-leading scorer at 15.4 points per game and averages 4.9 assists. He's also taken the second-most* shots of anyone on his team. But don't worry, Twitter came out in force to call out Bayless.
@RealSkipBayless obviously this is the first time you've seen Bryce Alford play basketball. Pass first my ass.— Victor Ringor (@n_consideration) March 21, 2015
Oh, and he averages close to seven three-point attempts per game. But I guess because he had a few pretty passes against UAB, he's the next Pete Maravich. He didn't score much either.
This one really hurt, if for no other reason than Georgia State was such a good story. They were easily the story of the first round, and it would have been nice to see coach Ron Hunter literally roll* his way into the Sweet 16.
Sure, they probably would have been blown out by Arizona in their next game, but the hype leading up to that game would have been nothing short of incredible.
Hunter, whose son R.J. is the team's best player, got some upgrades to his now famous chair prior to the game:
It seems like that has more to do with the safety of the players on the court, but isn't this more fun?
EXCLUSIVE: Georgia St coach Ron Hunter has arrived in a suit that should keep him safe from his own celebrations. pic.twitter.com/N5cDDFpm7f— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 21, 2015
He even got a pedicure...at the request of his wife.
Ron Hunter got a pedicure at his wife's request. This story just keeps getting better and better. pic.twitter.com/DT4tkJsOCO— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) March 21, 2015
As far as the actual basketball game goes, R.J. Hunter tried to keep his team in the game...
...but they were not able to complete the comeback like they were against Baylor. Xavier came away with a 75-67 win, which was the closest margin of victory among the first four games played on Saturday.
Muskateers coach Chris Mack's daughters certainly enjoyed the win:
And at least the Panthers they were able to get this in before their run came to an end:
After the game, Hunter said this was "the greatest week" of his life and the "greatest time I've ever had to be a father."
A good story comes to an end.
Ron and RJ Hunter will remember this moment forever. pic.twitter.com/q37mbpSQZG— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) March 22, 2015
And by the way... what happened to all those upsets?!
Saturday wasn't Naismith Award candidate D'Angelo Russell's best day.
Well known for his scoring ability, the Buckeyes freshman sensation struggled mightily against No. 2 Arizona, a team many think can make a Final Four run and potentially pose a threat to undefeated Kentucky. Russell finished with just nine points on 3-of-19 shooting.
That didn't stop him from making highlight reel plays:
But it was the T.J. McConnell show for the Wildcats, who -- along with Gabe York -- led all scorers with 19 points.
And despite holding Arizona to just 37.7 percent shooting from the field, well below their average of 48.9 percent*, Ohio State struggled offensively, shooting just 38.5 percent themselves. They were also just 5-for-19 from three, including 1-for-7 by Russell.
They -- especially Russell -- needed to be better if they wanted to have a chance. Not many predicted Ohio State to advance to the Sweet 16, so it would have been nice to get one last show from Russell before his team got bounced. I guess we'll have to wait until next season, when he will almost certainly be wearing a different uniform, an NBA uniform.
Ultimately, it was Sean Miller's Arizona squad advancing to the Sweet 16 with a 73-58 win. They'll face Xavier in the Sweet 16.
Sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 6-foot-7 Chester High grad, scored 11 points (3-for-12 shooting) and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for the Wildcats.
The final score may not be indicative of how close this game was early. At one point, it looked like the Bearcats actually stood a chance.
Kentucky, who at one point in the second half led just 32-30, ultimately pulled away in the second half and cruised to a 64-51 win to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16. Not even Lady Luck could help Cincinnati in this one:
I mean, how could she? Not when Kentucky runs 6-10, 6-11 and 7-0 in the front court and can do things like this:
Ashley Judd approves.
It wasn't just the two Utes that did Georgetown in on Saturday. It was significantly more than that.
Five players scored in double figures for Utah and another added nine as they upset the Hoyas, 75-64, to advance to the Sweet 16. Here's a look at the balanced attack for the Utes:
As a team, Utah shot 57.9 percent from the field -- compared to 46.3 percent for Georgetown -- and 57.1 percent (8-for-14) from three-point range. It's nearly impossible to beat a team playing as efficiently on offense as Utah did on Saturday night.
With just 38 field goal attempts, the Utes put up 75 points to go with only nine turnovers. They also got to the line 32 times, putting the Hoyas in foul* trouble.
It was Dakar Tucker's bucket with 6:39 left in the game that put the Utes up 55-53, a lead they would not surrender the rest of the way, despite only making three field goals the rest of the game. It was their free throw shooting that carried them down the stretch, hitting 13 of 20 in the games final four minutes and 39 seconds.
They'll face the winner of Sunday's game between Duke and San Diego State.
Don't forget you can get Rich's full game story and analysis, here.
Make sure to check out Rich's coverage of the two late games, which featured a pair of ACC teams advancing to the Sweet 16.