By: Carter Caldwell
Round two of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament began on March 17. Winners of the second round games advance to the Sweet Sixteen, bringing them one step closer to the National Championship. This year’s Midwestern Round of 32 provided easy wins for Duke and Clemson, who both were able to beat their opponents by more than twenty points (Clemson, a five seed, upset fourth-seeded Auburn by an incredible 31 points). However, the game between number one Kansas and number eight Seton Hall was significantly closer: Kansas escaped just four points ahead of their opponents, despite the valiant effort put forth by the Pirates. Even more shocking was the game between number 3 Michigan and number 11 Syracuse (who, as a reminder, had to win the play-in game as well as the Round of 64 game). The game, which was Michigan’s up until four minutes remained on the clock, was won by free throws, of which a combined total of 47 were shot throughout the game. In the end, Syracuse pulled off yet another upset win, with a final score of 55-53.
In the East, upsets were again scarce. Villanova and West Virginia easily toppled their respective opponents of Alabama and Marshall, while Texas Tech and Purdue struggled to fend off Florida and Butler. In the Texas Tech vs. Florida game, the teams fought a constant battle, but in the end the three seed (TTU) prevailed. Similarly, Butler and Purdue competed tenaciously, with both teams shooting about 50% on field goals, although it was Purdue’s edge in shooting from behind the three point line that won them the game. The West was a bit wild as well, where not only two Ohio teams knocked out, but Michigan also advanced. Nine-seed Florida State upset top-dog Xavier 75-70, scoring the winning five points (unanswered by Xavier) in the last minute. The Seminoles were not the only upset in the region, however, when Texas A&M pounded the defending champs from the University of North Carolina 86-65. The Aggies ran away with the game with about seven minutes left in the first half, showing no mercy and pulling down 50 rebounds, 43 of which were defensive. Although the Tar Heels committed less turnovers than the Aggies, they simply could not outshoot the seven-seed. In another sad turn of events for Ohioans, the Ohio State University lost to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a heartbreaking nail-biter finish that saw the Bulldogs pull away in the last five minutes. To rub salt in the wound, Michigan bested Houston, albeit closely, when Jordan Poole made a three point buzzer beater at the end of the game to win by one.
The real madness, however, was again in the South. There, the only game that was a given was Kentucky’s twenty point victory over Buffalo. In the wildly unexpected UMBC vs. Kansas State game, America’s underdog UMBC took an early lead, but could not get the shots to fall when they needed them to. Unfortunately, K State bested the Retrievers to move on to the Sweet Sixteen, where they would be joined by eleven-seed Loyola-Chicago following the Ramblers’ defeat of number three Tennessee. With five seconds left on the clock, Loyola-Chicago point guard Clayton Cluster made a two-point jumper to take the lead, which Tennessee’s Jordan Bone was unable to answer, making the Ramblers the second eleven seed to be in 2018’s Sweet Sixteen. To finish it all for Ohio, Nevada pulled off an outstanding comeback against the University of Cincinnati, outscoring the Bearcats 43-29 in the second half to come back from a 22 point deficit. The advancement of a 9, 5, 11, and 7 seed to the South’s Sweet Sixteen marks the first time in NCAA history that none of the region’s top four seeds qualified past the Round of 32.