On the heels of four bracket-shattering upsets in the first two days, the second round of the men’s NCAA Tournament was hardly short on madness.
Loyola Chicago pulled off the stunner of this year’s tournament by ousting No. 1 seed Illinois on Sunday, but it would be incorrect to consider the No. 8 seed Ramblers a Cinderella at this point. They played far more like a Final Four threat – and even a national title threat – after dispatching the heavily favored Illini.
Oral Roberts, the mid-major that shocked Ohio State in the first round, proved it’s no one-upset wonder by storming back to knock off Florida and advance to the Sweet 16 – just the second No. 15 seed ever to do so.
Then there were the What Ifs. Texas Tech crumbled down the stretch to lose vs. Arkansas and Rutgers blew a lead to let Houston escape. Overall, the Big Ten has struggled mightily, with six of its nine teams going home before the second weekend. All three are in action Monday.
Which teams advance to the tournament’s second weekend and earn Sweet 16 trips? A look at the biggest winners and losers from Sunday’s eight second-round games:
Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles (18-10) took down the Gators by following the same blueprint they used to shock the Buckeyes in the first round: fueling off the 1-2 punch of Max Abmas (26 points, seven assists) and Kevin Obanor (28 points, 11 rebounds, four steals). Oral Roberts’ stars were brilliant in the win, but it was a role player – DeShang Weaver – who drained the decisive three-pointer with 2:10 remaining. Now, this No. 15 seed is heading to the Sweet 16
Loyola Chicago. The Ramblers (26-4) executed their game plan to perfection in a 71-58 upset, controlling the game’s tempo from the get-go and building up a sizable lead that No. 1 seed Illinois could never dent. Cameron Krutwig (19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) was the key catalyst, as per usual, for Loyola. The senior big man made several early buckets and spot-on passes to instill confidence in this group, and then his leadership kept the Ramblers in front as the Illini tried to counter-punch.
OPINION:Moser has Loyola-Chicago busting brackets again, but this time it’s no surprise
Arkansas. The No. 3 seeded Razorbacks (24-6) overcame a late rally by No. 6 seed Texas Tech to hang on for a 68-66 win. This is a huge victory for the program and coach Eric Musselman, who in a short time has taken another team to the Sweet 16 after lifting Nevada there in 2018. Arkansas has now beaten a serious Cinderella candidate in Colgate and a Final Four dark-horse in the Red Raiders. On Sunday, Justin Smith, Davonte Davis and Moses Moody combined for 50 of the team’s 68 points. This team is as hot as any in the tourney, having won 11 of 12.
Baylor. The No. 1 seed in the South region fended off Wisconsin’s upset bid in a 76-63 win over the No. 9 seed Badgers, which gave Baylor (23-2) a decent second-round test heading into the Sweet 16. The victory illustrated how deep coach Scott Drew’s team is. While usual offensive leaders Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell paced the Bears with 16 points apiece, Matthew Mayer’s 17 points off the bench was a difference-maker in this hard-fought victory against a well-coached Wisconsin team.
Syracuse. The No. 11 seeded Orange (18-9) fought off a late rally by No. 3 West Virginia to pull off the upset 75-72, as coach Jim Boeheim has another double-digit seed in the Sweet 16 (he took a No. 10 seed to the Final Four in 2016). While ‘Cuse almost blew a double-digit second-half lead, it found a way to scrap out the victory by making clutch buckets in crunch time. Buddy Boeheim continues to generate offense, finishing with 25 points on 6-for-13 shooting from three vs. WVU after dropping 30 points in a first-round upset of San Diego State.
Villanova. The Wildcats were a trendy pick to lose in the first round to Winthrop and then the same narrative carried over against North Texas. Yet here Villanova is, without its best player Collin Gillespie (out for the season with an MCL injury) and they’re Sweet 16-bound. Coach Jay Wright has proved doubters wrong and against North Texas the program’s winning culture was on full display. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (18 points, six rebounds, six assists) paved the way for an 84-61 wi
RESULTS AND SCHEDULE:From the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament
Illinois. The Fighting Illini (24-7) were arguably the hottest team in the NCAA Tournament, having won 15 of 16, including the Big Ten Tournament, and boasting two All-Americans in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. But none of that mattered once coach Brad Underwood’s talented team hit the brick wall constructed by Loyola Chicago coach Porter Moser. The Ramblers’ pace offset a high-octane Illinois offense and Dosunmu especially was out of rhythm, committing six turnovers and scoring just six points. It’s a bitter end to an otherwise remarkable season. This team had national title potential.
Rutgers. The No. 2 seeded Scarlet Knights (16-12) led by double digits with 10 minutes remaining in the second half and looked like they had the upper hand against No. 2 Houston. But the Cougars came storming back to win 63-60 and send a distraught Rutgers team home. Geo Baker’s costly turnover in the game’s final minute mixed with an acrobatic three-point play by Tramon Mark was enough to seal this team’s fate after playing itself off the bubble with a chance to te Sweet 16 on the line.
The Big Ten. With Wisconsin’s loss to Baylor and Rutgers loss to Houston, six of the nine teams from the country’s best conference (per NET score) are now home, including No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Purdue. No. 1 seed Michigan, No. 2 seed Iowa and No. 10 seed Maryland are the only teams still standing from the league.
Oklahoma State. The Cowboys (21-9) came up short in a 80-70 upset to No. 12 seed Oregon State. That result effectively ends Cade Cunningham’s career, as the 6-8 first-team All-American guard is expected to be picked No. 1 in June’s NBA draft. Oklahoma State practically trailed all game against the Beavers and looked much less like the No. 4 seed. This was a team that was built to get to the Final Four, but, ultimately, OSU ran into a red-hot Oregon State team.
Texas Tech.The Red Raiders (18-11) had their chances after storming back to make it a down-to-the-wire finish vs. Arkansas. Mac McClung missed a potential game-tying free throw with 1:15 left, and Terrence Shannon Jr. missed a point-blank layup that would’ve given Tech the lead with 37 seconds left. Ultimately, 19 turnovers hurt the Red Raiders. It’s a sour ending for a Chris Beard group that had the potential to far outplay its No. 6 seed and even get to the Final Four.
West Virginia. Coach Bob Huggins had one of his most gifted offensive teams, but the signature Mountaineers defense was absent – costing WVU a spot in the Sweet 16 despite being a No. 3 seed. Sean McNeil’s 23 points almost got the Mountaineers back into it with a late second-half rally, but it wasn’t enough.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.