That solidified as the second round wrapped up, as No.7 seed Oregon knocked out No.2 seed Iowa. Then the No.11 seed from UCLA defeated Abilene Christian to become the third Pac-12 team destined for this weekend’s regional semifinals. USC brought the total to four by knocking out Kansas 85-51 in the final game of the second round.
The Big Ten landed nine teams on the field of 68 and the Pac-12 landed only five. Four of the Big Ten’s nine tournament teams were either No.1 or No.2, while the Pac-12’s highest seed was Colorado, who landed as a No.5 seed. Ironically, the Buffaloes were the only Pac-12 team to lose in the second round, relinquishing a 71-53 decision to Florida State on Monday.
Another surprising element of the Pac-12’s collective endurance in the Big Dance is that Arizona, one of the league’s most prominent basketball schools, suffered a self-imposed postseason ban this year. season that made her ineligible for the NCAA tournament. But even without the Wildcats, the Pac-12 turned out to be stronger than expected.
The Pac-12, with their 9-1 NCAA tournament record, are a big winner so far in this NCAA tournament, and the Big Ten are an obvious loser. Here are some of the other winners and losers from Tuesday’s action.
Winner: Michigan gets something back
The No.1 seed Michigan prevented the day from being a total loss for the Big Ten by running business in an 86-78 win over a courageous LSU team. The victory allowed the league to have a team in the Sweet 16. If there’s one that really deserves it from the Big Ten, it’s probably that Wolverines team. In just his second season at the helm of the program, coach Juwan Howard has assembled a deep and versatile squad that has totally surpassed his preseason expectations. The loss of chief executive Isaiah Livers could have deflated this team. Instead, they turn out to be a resilient group who play with confidence and discipline. A showdown with No.4 seed Florida State is the next step for this group.
Winner: Legendary Status of Leonard Hamilton
Speaking of those Seminoles, how about what Leonard Hamilton has been up to over the past four seasons. This team is heading for its third straight Sweet 16, and last year’s team had more than enough talent to do the same before the NCAA tournament was canceled. It’s never glamorous and there’s rarely a must-see superstar on his rosters, but Hamilton has a way to make the most of his roster. Monday’s defensive performance in a 71-53 win over a Colorado team that destroyed Georgetown on Saturday was masterful.
Loser: Alabama skeptics
Are there still people who decry Alabama’s 3-point heavy style as a fuzzy operation that won’t hold up in a single elimination tournament? Surviving mostly off their defense on their way to an SEC tournament title and in a first-round victory over Iona on Saturday, the No.2 seed Crimson Tide proved there was more to their game. mojo than shooting outside. And No.10 seed Maryland has learned the hard way how deadly Alabama can be when it does, in fact, hit outside shots. The Crimson Tide had 16 of 33 long distance attempts against the Terrapins in a dominant 96-77 victory. Next up for the Crimson Tide is a match with the No.11 UCLA seed. The Bruins have struggled to defend the 3-point line all season.
Winner: Isaiah Mobley steps up
Don’t forget that USC freshman star Evan Mobley is the younger brother of another very capable tall man who also plays for the Trojans. Big brother Isaac recalled that in Kansas on Monday as USC capped the second-round game with an 85-51 over Kansas. Young Mobley scored 14 of his 17 points in the first period as the Trojans opened up a 40-21 lead over the Jayhawks. The next step for USC is a Sweet 16 showdown with conference foe Oregon, which the Trojans defeated 72-58 on February 22.
Winner: Oregon starts over
The Ducks have competed in seven NCAA tournaments under coach Dana Altman and have now won at least one game each time. Following Monday’s impressive 95-80 win over Iowa, the Ducks are heading to their fifth Sweet 16 under Altman. This is a transfer heavy group that is freezing offensively, and Monday’s offensive explosion really opened our eyes to what the cap could be for this team. Some will want an asterisk next to everything Oregon accomplishes in the NCAA tournament as it came out of the first round due to VCU’s COVID-19 issues. But there was nothing illegitimate about the way he beat Iowa on Monday.
Winner: historic performance for the underdogs
This year’s Sweet 16 seeds total 94, the highest in NCAA tournament history. The previous record seed total was 89 in 1986. On Monday, seed # 11 UCLA joined seed # 15 Oral Roberts, seed # 12 Oregon State, seed # 11 UCLA, and seed # 11 Syracuse in the Sweet 16, which begins on Saturday.
Loser: Iowa NCAA tournament struggles continue
It was supposed to be the year for Iowa, but instead it ended with another dose of NCAA tournament disappointment for a program that planned – at the very least – to make its debut. Sweet 16 since 1999. The Hawkeyes have spent 10 weeks at this. season ranked in the top five of the Top 25 AP, and the pain of a premature exit will only be magnified by the fact that it feels like an era is ending. Star center Luka Garza was just as phenomenal as expected this season, but the program’s all-time top scorer leaves without a conference title or significant playoff success on an otherwise legendary college resume.
Winner: Gonzaga’s perfect season stays alive
Despite an eight-point deficit in the opening minutes against a spirited Oklahoma team, No.1 seed Gonzaga on Monday hit the turbo like only Gonzaga can, advancing to the Sweet 16 with an 87- win. 71. Behind a career-high 30 points from Drew Timme, the Bulldogs (28-0) managed to turn his eight-point hole into a dozen half-point lead and they never gave up on him from there . It’s a solid win for the program, giving Gonzaga their sixth straight appearance in Sweet 16. But also one for a historically formidable team who have now won 27 of their 28 games by double-digit margin.
Winner: UCLA demolishes Abilene Christian
Uh, in Texas? Do you want to explain yourself? Abilene Christian was one of the best stories of the first round with her, and Monday was a reminder of how unlikely that outcome was. The No.11 UCLA seed roared past the 67-47 Wildcats and the Sweet 16 with no noticeable issues. The Bruins ‘relatively easy victory made Texas’ failed performance all the more disconcerting. How did the Big 12 Tournament champions led by a trio of veteran guards produce such a dismal performance against Abilene Christian?
Winner: Creighton looks good
Few teams have the ability to alternate between excellent and mediocre like Creighton. But a quality version of the No.5 seed, the Bluejays, showed up on Monday in a 72-58 victory over No.13 seed Ohio. Massive distraction over the past month surrounding coach Greg McDermott’s controversy admitting the use of a racist-insensitive analogy, making the Sweet 16 is an impressive accomplishment. It’s actually the first time Creighton has come this far under McDermott, who is in his 11th season with the program. Then comes the brutal challenge of playing No.1 seed Gonzaga in Sweet 16. But depending on which version of that team comes up, they might be able to test the Zags.
Ohio forward Ben Vander Plas was probably not compared to former Duke Zion star Williamson very often during his career, but there was a striking similarity between the two on Monday. Vander Plas played most of the second half of the Bobcats’ loss to Creighton in mismatched shoes after his right shoe exploded Williamson style. There was nothing particularly unusual about the way Vander Plas landed on his right foot, but the sneaker gave way and the junior in the red shirt was forced to quit the game and find new shoes.