March Madness went on and went, well, angry on Saturday on the first day of Round 2 action to kickstart the weekend. A day after Purdue was knocked to the door with No. 1 by Fairleigh Dickinson, No. 16, a second No. 1 was wrapped – and it was a big one as reigning champion Kansas fell to No. 8 in Arkansas in a bang. The Jayhawks led or tied for nearly 114 seconds of the 2,400 played over two halves of action, but that didn’t happen as the clock struck out in a 72–71 loss thanks to a series of Razorbacks free throws in crunch time.
And get this: that wasn’t even the most surprising result of the day.
No. 15 seed Princeton punching his ticket to the Sweet 16 was, in terms of point spread, the real shock of Saturday’s slate. Princeton beat No. 7 seed Missouri 78-63 to become the fourth 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 in tournament history, giving us our first official Cinderella story of the year. The Sweet 16 berth marked Princeton’s first in 56 years (!!) – 18 years before the tournament’s expansion – and gave the Ivy League its first team to dance in the Sweet 16 since Cornell did it in 2010.
That’s just a sliver of the goods delivered on Saturday as we were halfway through round two. The rest – in winner and loser mode – is described below.
Let’s dive in.
Winner: Alabama Looks Unstoppable vs. Maryland
No. 1 overall seed Alabama by all accounts played the role of the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament in a dominant, runaway 73-51 victory over No. 8 seed Maryland. The Tide has been on teams in SEC play all season and they did the same against the Terps, defeating them 45-28 in the second half to take some distance en route to a Sweet 16 berth. Freshman star Brandon Miller contributed 19 points after being held scoreless in the first round and Jahvon Quinerly led all scorers with 22 points. The win moved Alabama into the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons under coach Nate Oats, having failed to do so in 16 years leading up to 2021.
Loser: Reigning champion Kansas deflects early
Vegas knows it, folks. Vegas always knows. That could be the takeaway here from No. 1 seed Kansas in the second round Saturday against No. 8 seed Arkansas. The Jayhawks were the shortest favorite for a No. 1 seed in the second round in nearly three decades—favored by just 3.5 points without the services of Hall of Fame coach Bill Self—and it ended with a season-ending 72–71 against Arkansas in a stunner. The loss guaranteed that at least two No. 1 seeds would not see the second weekend of the Big Dance after No. 1 seed Purdue on Friday fell to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in the first roundin what is the largest upset in the tournament’s history.
“It was a tough game. A battle,” said KU interim coach Norm Roberts. “It was hard not having Coach here. But we don’t make excuses. We have to get in line and get it done, and we fell a little short today.”
Winner: Houston puts away the upset Auburn
In about as close to a road game as you can get in an NCAA Tournament second-round game, No. 1 seed Houston moved from No. 64 won. The Cougars appeared to be on shaky ground going into the second round with Marcus Sasser dealing with a groin injury and Jamal Shead playing through a knee injury, but they bent their depth big time with Tramon Mark turning in a career-high 26 points . lead them to victory.
Playing tight against Houston deep into the second half, Auburn had a lead that grew to as much as 10 into the game, but, as they have done several times this season, they ran out of steam late and succumbed to several big Houston runs that helped put the game on ice. With the No. 1 seed Purdue losing on Friday and the No. 1 seed Kansas losing on Saturday, the Cougars—betting favorites to win it all by entering the tournament—survived and went on to see their chances of winning it all get even better .
Winner: Injured UCLA keeps rolling
Without injured defensive star Jaylen Clark and with big man Adem Bona dealing with a shoulder injury, No. 2 seed UCLA held on to the Sweet 16 with an impressive 68-63 victory over No. 7 seed Northwestern thanks to a elite defensive action late . The Bruins held Northwestern to 2-of-12 shooting to finish the game and got some big performances from the stars, with Jaime Jaquez Jr. which she carried with 24 points and eight boards. Amari Bailey stayed hot with 14 points and six dimes and David Singleton also hit some big shots late before twisting his ankle.
The No. 13 Furman bid to become this year’s Cinderella story struck midnight Saturday as No. 5 San Diego State dominated the Paladins from start to finish in a 75-52 victory to advance to the Sweet 16. The Aztecs started slow, but roared to a 14-point lead at halftime that grew to a whopping 26 points in the second half as they entered the regional semifinals. Furman was a feel-good story in the first round after knocking out No. 4 seed Virginia, but it struggled against SDSU’s devastating defense, making nine turnovers and firing a pitiful 16-of-50 from the field. The Paladins also struggled to slow down SDSU’s balanced offensive offense, with four Aztecs – led by Micah Parrish’s 16 points – finishing in double digits in the afternoon.
“We prepared well, we knew they were good, and then we played a really good game on both ends of the floor today,” said SDSU coach Brian Dutcher after the game. “We hang our hats on defence. That’s what we do every game. If we get the chance to start taking shots and play well offensively, then we’re very good.”
Loser: Duke fails to find form in loss to Vols
Tennessee trailed in the season’s long streak, losing point guard Zakai Zeigler, while Duke entered Saturday with a 10-game winning streak as one of — if not the – hottest team in college basketball. So check it out: the Vols smoked the Blue Devils 65-52 to advance to the Sweet 16 in a game that wasn’t so late.
Tennessee’s stifling defense got the better of Duke and his talented roster by limiting Duke to a season-low 52 points in the win. The Vols forced 15 turnovers and converted it into 18 points in their column, which was basically the difference in the game.
“We like offense, we like high-scoring, entertaining basketball, but clearly the defensive fortitude and effort and execution by Tennessee, complemented by timely and good offense. [was the difference]’ said CBS Sports analyst Clark Kellogg.
Vols wing Olivier Nkamhoua was the breakout star of the session after overcoming a 4-point first half to explode for 23 points – including a stretch where he scored 13 in a row – in the second half. He finished with 27 points, five boards and one heckuva highlight reel finish to cap off a sensational day.
Winner: Princeton Keeps Its Cool vs. Mizzou
No. 7 seed Missouri forced 10 or more turnovers in every game this season. Until Saturday. No. 15 seed Princeton turned it around just nine times against Mizzou’s relentless pressure en route to a dominant 78-63 victory over his SEC foe. With the win, Princeton became just the fourth Ivy League team to reach the Sweet 16 in the modern era and the first since Cornell in 2010. Equally impressive was how Princeton dominated on the glass with a 19–2 lead in repechage points. After beating Arizona and knocking out Mizzou on Thursday, Princeton hardly feels like an underdog anymore. The Tigers are a confident, fundamentally sound bunch marching into the Sweet 16.
Winner: No. 2 seed Texas ends Penn State’s season
A dream run to the Big Ten Tournament title game and a first-round NCAA Tournament victory for Penn State came to an end in Round 2 vs. No. 2 seed Texas as the 10th-seeded Nittany Lions fell 71–66. Penn State hung on to the end, briefly leading in the final minutes, but Texas—which hit its first ticket to the Sweet 16 since 2008—turned on cruise control to make six of its last six field goal attempts to separate the stretch .
“I thought our guys came in and competed at a really high level,” said UT coach Rodney Terry. “This has been a very resilient group all year. Basketball is a game of running. I think this team has been doing this at a very high level since January 1.”