From its start on Tuesday with the First Four, the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament has not disappointed. Just like the tournaments of the past few years, this year’s edition provided plenty of upset action as the Second Round got underway on Thursday and Friday. Here’s a look at how the first weekend finished up.
No Surprises From Kentucky
Now 36-0, Kentucky proved that it is indeed the nation’s best with easy wins over No. 16 Hampton and following it up with a 64-51 victory over a pesky Cincinnati squad. The balance of the Wildcats was evident once again as sophomore guard Aaron Harrison led Kentucky with 13 points and 6-foot-10 freshman Trey Lyles added 11 and 11 rebounds. Head coach John Calipari watched as his defense held the Bearcats to just 31 percent shooting from the field. Kentucky advances to the Sweet 16 to face West Virginia/Maryland.
Georgia State Pulls Shocker
A number 14 seed, Georgia State pulled what was easily the biggest upset of the tournament with a 57-56 win over No. 3 Baylor. Panthers guard R.J. Hunter, the coach’s son, hit a 3-pointer from way beyond the arc in the final seconds to give Georgia State its first NCAA tourney win.
UCLA Advances To Sweet 16
It will most likely go down as the most controversial call of the tournament. In the final seconds of the Bruins second round game with SMU, UCLA’s Bryce Alford let go a 3-pointer from the left wing. The Mustangs Yanick Moreira leaped and touched the ball just as it was about to touch the rim. The officials called goaltending, the correct call, and the Bruins went on to win. Alford wound up with 27 points, hitting 9-of-11 3-pointers. UCLA then went on and crushed UAB, another 14th-seeded team that made the Round of 32. The Blazers beat No. 3 Iowa State 60-59 in the second round to advance. UCLA will face Gonzaga/Iowa in the Sweet 16.
No. 1 and No. 2 Seeds Ousted
All four No. 1 and No. 2 seeds won their opening games. None of the No. 1 seeds struggled as they all cruised to easy victories. Number two seeds Arizona and Kansas recorded easy wins, while Virginia and Gonzaga won by double digits facing challenges from Belmont and North Dakota State, respectively.
But, Saturday and Sunday were rough on the top seeds. For the sixth consecutive year, Villanova did make it past the Round of 32. The Wildcats fells victim to eighth-seeded N.C. State, 71-68. Ultimately, it was poor shooting that did Villanova in. Coach Jay Wright’s squad shot just 31 percent from the floor.
Many who predicted a Villanova-Virginia East Regional final will be greatly disappointed as the second-seeded Cavaliers also lost on Sunday. For the second straight season, Virginia was knocked out the tournament by Michigan State. Spartans guard Travis Trice scored 23 points to lead MSU to yet another Sweet 16.
The Midwest Region lost its No. 2 seed when Wichita State upset Kansas in convincing fashion, 78-65. The Jayhawks and head coach Bill Self have not scheduled the Shockers in years even though the two schools are separated by just 170 miles. The Shockers have now made the Sweet 16 in two of the past three seasons.
Interesting Sweet 16 Facts
For the first time since 1998, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, and North Carolina – some of the nation’s most storied college basketball programs – will all take part in the Sweet Sixteen. With 11 national championships, UCLA leads all of college basketball and Kentucky is closing in with eight. The Wildcats are also the winningest college basketball program of all time with 2,176 wins since beginning play in 1903. In fact, all four teams are among the top 10 winningest programs of all time. Each school’s winning percentage is at least 69 percent. Kentucky (2012), Duke (2010), and North Carolina (2009) have each won titles in the past six seasons. The Bruins, who made the Sweet Sixteen for the second consecutive season, last won a title in 1995 under head coach Jim Harrick.
With a 66-53 win over Northern Iowa, fourth-seeded Louisville advanced to the East Region semifinals. It will be the Cardinals 21st trip to a Sweet Sixteen and the program’s fourth consecutive, all under head coach Rick Pitino. The Cardinals, which won the national championship two seasons ago, are also among the winningest programs in the nation, winning 67 percent of their games all time. Pitino and company will have their hands full next weekend when they take on surprising N.C. State, which upset top seeded Villanova in the East Region.
Notre Dame And Michigan State
It’s the first trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 12 years for Notre Dame, who needed overtime to get past a pesky Butler squad. They will face another mid-major, Wichita State, that has plenty of NCAA tournament success. Michigan State, with its victory over Virginia, advanced to its seventh Sweet Sixteen in the past eight seasons. Never count out the Spartans and head coach Tom Izzo. They are 13-1 under Izzo when playing in the Round of 32.