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March 22, 2015

March Madness 2015: Wichita St. stuns Kansas, Michigan St. upsets Virginia, Duke rolls

Recapping Sunday's early NCAA Tournament games in the Round of 32

NCAA March Madness
032215_Wichita_AP Charlie Neibergall/AP

Wichita State's Evan Wessel

On Saturday, just one* of the four double-digit seeds in action advanced to the Sweet 16, leaving No. 11 Dayton tied with UCLA as the lowest remaining seeds in the tournament. 

*That win belonged to No. 11 UCLA, who beat No. 14 UAB in a game guaranteed to end with a longshot advancing to the tourney's second weekend.

But the big story of Saturday was top-seeded Villanova becoming the first No. 1 seed to be eliminated. The 71-68 loss came at the hands of North Carolina State, who barely squeaked in to the tournament by grabbing on of the last at-large bids. For Jay Wright's Wildcats, it marked the fifth straight tournament appearance -- 'Nova was No. 1 or 2 seed in three of those years -- in which they failed to survive the first weekend and advance to the Sweet 16. 

Here's a look at how they performed in March since making that Final Four run in 2009:

2015133-3NC State; Rd. of 32
2014229-5UConn; Rd. of 32
2013920-14UNC; Rd. of 64
2011921-12George Mason; Rd. of 64
2010225-8St. Mary's; Rd. of 32

The one thing that stands out is the teams they lost to. It wasn't like they lost to a bunch of juggernauts. With the exception of UConn last season -- they went on to win the whole thing -- all of teams that eliminated 'Nova failed to win another game in that year's tourney. Just something worth noting...

And before getting into Sunday's games, another leftover from Saturday night.

During his postgame press conference following his team's overtime win against Butler, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey opened up about what was a long, emotional day for him. On Saturday morning, Brey lost his mother, Betty, to a heart a attack. She was 84.

More from Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“I feel I should address at this time, I lost my mother this morning to a heart attack,” he announced at the start of his postgame press conference. “[Tonight] was kind of a tribute to her. It was really a special night.”
Betty Brey died in Orlando at the age of 84, according to the coach, although an internet search listed her birthdate as Nov. 23, 1931, which, if accurate, means the former U.S. Olympic swimmer was 83. She competed in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and later became a high school educator like Brey’s father, who is still alive.
“An unbelievable woman,” Brey said, “a woman ahead of her time and probably the real driving force behind everything I’ve done. So it was an interesting day, to say the least, and I felt I should at least address that. I think she was definitely with us down the stretch.” [via]

Here's the clip of Brey discussing the loss of his mother:

Brey, kept the news from his team until after the game, should have been in a celebratory mood Sunday. In addition to advancing to the Sweet 16, it was also his 56th birthday. Condolences to Brey and his family...

And now back to Sunday's action.

[NOTE: I'll just have the first four games of the day -- Virginia-MSU, Duke-SDSU, Wichita-Kansas, and Oklahoma-Dayton. Rich Hofmann has you covered with his recap of the four later games, right here.]

No. 7 Michigan St. upsets No. 2 Virginia

Never bet against Tom Izzo in March -- at least not until the second weekend of the tournament -- no matter what his team is seeded. With Michigan State's 60-54 upset win over Virginia, Izzo has now led his Spartans to at least the Sweet 16 in seven of the last eight years.

Perhaps Jay Wright can learn a little from Izzo, as the Spartans have only been a No. 1 or 2 seed twice in those eight years. His team's average seed over that span is 4.625, including this year's team which is seeded seventh. He's also done it twice as a five-seed. In fact, the only time they failed to reach the Sweet 16 was in 2011 as a 10-seed.

Izzo is now 20-7* in his last eight trips to the NCAA Tournament, and it's even harder to bet against him when he has a player like Travis Trice.

*Since he was hired at Michigan State in 1995, Izzo is an impressive 27-6 during the tourney's first weekend and 13-1 in the Round of 32.

Trice led all scorers with 23 points on Sunday after scoring 15 in his team's first game against Georgia. Against Virginia, who leads the nation in points allowed per game at 51.5, Trice was 7-for-15 from the field (including 4-for-8 from three).

But it was the Spartans defense, or the Cavaliers lack of offense, that really helped Michigan St. advance to their 13th Sweet 16 under Izzo. They held Virginia to just 29.8 percent shooting (17-for-57 from the field; 2-for-17 from three).

They'll face Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.

No. 1 Duke blows out No. 8 San Diego St.

Things didn't get off to a good start for the Aztecs on Sunday. And that was before the game even started. 

Coach Steve Fisher*, as well as some of his assistants and players, have been battling a stomach virus, which may have attributed to their slow start against Duke, who seemed to be feeling just fine as they rolled to a 68-49 win.

*Some trivia -- Fisher spent 15 seasons at Michigan, eight as the head coach, and faced off against Mike Krzyzewski and Duke in the 1992 National Championship game.

Like Virginia, San Diego State is a team known for its defense. They entered the game ranked second in the nation, behind only the aforementioned Cavaliers, holding opponents to just 53.5 points per game. In the first half against the Blue Devils, they surrendered 37 points to a Duke team that ranks fourth nationally in scoring at slightly over 80 points per game.

Something had to give, right? Unstoppable force, immovable object, etc.

Well, Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor, who scored 18 points* in the game's first 20 minutes on 9-of-12 shooting, was both immovable and unstoppable on Sunday. 

*That's already better than his 17.8 points per game average.

Wally World may be getting a bit ahead of himself there -- it's just too early to tell -- but to say he was dominant against San Diego State would be an understatement. His nine field goals in the first half were just one behind the entire Aztecs team, who shot just 10-of-32 as Duke jumped out to a 37-24 lead at the break.

Then again...

But it wasn't just Okafor that was making plays for Coach K on Sunday. And Zerbiak Scerbiak Sczerbiak Szczerbiak wasn't the only one making bold proclamations. 

After Duke forward Justice Winslow made the following play...

...Grant Hill, who was part of the CBS broadcast crew along with Bill Raftery and Jim Nantz, said this:

We get it. You went to Duke.

However, less than a day removed from watching No. 8 NC State eliminate Villanova, it was hard not to be impressed with the way Duke took care of business Sunday. Even when it looked like their opponent had some momentum and was poised to make a run, the Blue Devils had an answer.

Eventually that answer morphed into a knockout punch.

Like when San Diego State cut the deficit to seven, 44-37, after Malik Pope's three with 12:45 remaining. That capped off an 8-2 Aztecs' run, but it was the closest they would get the rest of the day. Duke's Quentin Cook replied with a three of his own, sparking a 22-4 run over the next 10 minutes that would extend their lead to 25 points late in the second half.

That's one hell of a KO.

Okafor finished with 26 points on 12-of-16 shooting to go with five rebounds and three blocks. Winslow had himself a day as well, finishing with 13 points (6-for-10 shooting), 12 rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocks. 

The 19-point win for Duke sets up a Sweet 16 matchup with Utah, who knocked off Georgetown on Saturday. Hopefully -- at least for Duke fans and those of you who picked them in your bracket -- they didn't catch whatever plagued the Aztecs on Sunday.

No. 7 Wichita St. upsets in-state rival No. 2 Kansas

These two schools, while geographically similar -- they're separated by about 160 miles -- couldn't be farther apart in terms of their on-court resumes.

One -- Wichita St. -- has made just two trips to the Final Four in its history (1965 and 2013) and went 25 years (1988-2012) with only one tourney appearance* to show for it.

*They made it in 2006, but lost to George Mason in the Sweet 16.

The other -- Kansas -- is a perennial powerhouse that has made the Tournament for 26 consecutive years dating back to 1990. During that period, they've made 17 trips to the Sweet 16, 10 to the Elite Eight, six to the Final Four, and four to the National Championship game, winning once (2008).

This was the first meeting between the two in-state rivals since 1993, when Kansas laid a 103-54 beatdown on the Shockers. Overall, the teams have played 14 teams prior to their Round of 32 matchup on Sunday, with the Jayhawks holding a 12-2 series lead. The last time Wichita St. beat Kansas was January 6, 1987.

Today, fans got a look at why Jayhawks coach Bill Self has been hesitant to put the Shockers on his team's schedule, as underdog Wichita State bounced Kansas, 78-65, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the sixth time* in school history.

*To compare, Kansas has been to that many Sweet 16s since 2007.

All five starters scored in double figures for coach Gregg Marshall and the Missouri Valley Conference champion Shockers, who shot 49 percent from the field and 50 percent (10-for-20) from three-point range. 

They'll take on Notre Dame in the Sweet 16, with the winner likely to play Kentucky -- the Wildcats will first have to get past West Virginia -- in the Elite Eight.

No. 3 Oklahoma survives No. 11 Dayton, 72-66

Dayton, the last remaining* double-digit seed with a chance to advance to the Sweet 16, lost a back and fourth game with Oklahoma, 72-66. For the Sooners, it's their first time advancing to the second weekend of the tournament since 2009, when Blake Griffin led them to the Elite Eight.

*No. 11 UCLA advanced on Saturday, but 14-seeds UAB and Georgia State lost.

Both Oklahoma and Dayton held leads of at least nine points in a game that saw the two teams combined to shoot 20-of-39 (51.3 percent) from three -- Dayton was 11-for-21 and Oklahoma was 9-for-18. But it was Buddy Hield's layup with 5:57 remaining that put the Sooners up for good at 57-56.

The Flyers wouldn't go quietly, however, and with 1:04 left to play and his team up 62-58, Hield made the play of the game -- this time on the defensive end -- to all but seal the victory for Oklahoma.

Take another look.

Hield struggled offensively* much of the game, but finished with 15 points and, more importantly, may have saved the Sooners' season with that one.

*The 6-foot-4 junior guard shot 4-for-13 from the field and just 1-for-6 from three. He also added a team-high five assists.

Oklahoma will face Michigan State in the Sweet 16.

Here's a look at Sunday's full slate of games. To check out the day's late games, head on over Rich Hofmann's recap, here.

Sunday's NCAA Tournament recap:

• No. 4 Louisville advanced past No. 5 N. Iowa, 66-53

• No. 4 Maryland bounced by No. 5 W. Virginia, 69-59

• No. 1 Wisconsin over No. 8 Oregon, 72-65

 No. 2 Gonzaga handled No. 7 Iowa, 87-68

• No. 3 Oklahoma held off No. 11 Dayton, 72-66

• No. 7 Wichita St. upset No. 2 Kansas, 78-65

• No. 1 Duke rolled past No. 8 San Diego St., 68-49

• No. 7 Michigan St. beat No. 2 Virginia, 60-64

And make sure to check out our updated bracket, here.