NCAA Tournament notebook, Day 3: Arkansas survives Texas Tech, Florida falls to Oral Roberts, Illinois goes down
It took a little longer than expected, but my bracket is now, officially, toast. My champion, Illinois, which I picked before the season to win it all, went out in a blaze of ineptitude on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the SEC went 1-1, with Arkansas holding on for a narrow win and Florida falling to 15-seed Oral Roberts in dramatic fashion. Now, the Hogs move on to the Sweet 16, and we’ll see if Alabama or LSU can join them today. Here’s the game info for the Tide and the Tigers:
- LSU vs. Michigan — 7:10 p.m. ET on CBS
- Alabama vs. Maryland — 8:45 p.m. ET on TNT
Those 2 SEC teams have a chance to make the Big Ten’s dramatic woes continue, but we will discuss the B1G more in a bit.
First, let’s break down some things that happened in each of the SEC’s 2 games on Sunday and then look elsewhere around the Round of 32 action:
Arkansas 68, Texas Tech 66
You want to know what a winning play is? This is a winning play from Arkansas freshman Devo Davis:
Like, honestly, look at this. The play of the game in my opinion. He denied McClung the ball off the missed free throw and then just face-guarded him until someone else had to try to make a play.
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) March 22, 2021
After a missed free throw, Davis found Texas Tech star Mac McClung and stuck to him like his life depended on it. He denied McClung the ball in the back court, throwing all of Tech’s plans out of whack. Why coach Chris Beard didn’t use his final timeout when the Red Raiders got the ball across halfcourt, I’ll never know.
I would have used the timeout and drawn something up to get McClung the ball. He’s the guy who isn’t afraid of the moment. Instead, Kyler Edwards had to try to make a play with time running out.
Edwards actually got a nice look for the game-tying shot, but Justin Smith did just enough to make it a difficult layup attempt. Smith was his usual dominant self, scoring a team-high 20 points to go with 6 rebounds.
Freshman Moses Moody was also spectacular, making tough shots when the Hogs needed him to be a star. He also answered a banked 3-pointer from a Texas Tech player with one of his own:
It’s been a long time since something like that has happened! Moody isn’t afraid of the moment. None of these Hogs are. That’s a great trait to have in March.
Now, we wait to see if the Hogs can be the ones to end Oral Roberts’ incredible run. Speaking of the Golden Eagles …
Oral Roberts 81, Florida 78
Where Arkansas held on down the stretch, the Gators didn’t. The Oral Roberts Cinderella run continues, as the 15-seed advances to take on the Razorbacks in the Sweet 16.
The Gators held a 67-56 lead midway through the second half, but that’s when the game plan fell apart. To hear coach Mike White tell it, the Gators were dealing with fatigue down the stretch, so he wanted to slow the pace down to prevent turnovers:
#Gators coach Mike White, asked about UF slowing it down, says "we were tired…you have to cover so much of the floor defensively…I thought that part of us slowing it down would help us settle in with the erratic mistakes we were making."
— Graham Hall (@GrahamHall_) March 22, 2021
Star PG Tre Mann said White told the Gators to exert all their energy on the defensive end:
#Gators PG Tre Mann on fatigue being a factor on defense: "Coach told us we had to exert all of our energy on the defensive end….We were supposed to give all our energy on defense, but we didn't give it all we had, and that's why we lost the game."
— Graham Hall (@GrahamHall_) March 22, 2021
I have a couple of problems with that approach. First of all, Oral Roberts stars Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas literally didn’t come out of the game. They each played 40 minutes and combined for 54 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. You think they weren’t tired?
Mann and Tyree Appleby led the Gators with 37 minutes played. No one else on Florida’s roster had more than 31 minutes. With your season on the line, you dig deep. Your best players need to give it all they’ve got. If the Gators would have won on Sunday, they wouldn’t have had to play again until Saturday. Sounds like plenty of time for rest.
My second problem? As Florida basketball guru Eric Fawcett pointed out on Twitter, White’s claim that he was trying to avoid turnovers by slowing the pace doesn’t fit with the numbers.
Per Fawcett, the Gators actually commit less turnovers when they go faster offensively:
It goes against popular convention in basketball (and it’s my favorite thing when numbers go against generalizations) but playing faster does not equal more turnovers. In fact, the deeper in the clock the Gators got this year, the more likely they were to turn it over.
— Eric Fawcett (@Efawcett7) March 22, 2021
Was White’s staff aware of that? If not, perhaps Fawcett should be brought on as an analyst.
Whatever the case, the Gators are going home. Now, they’ll have plenty of time to rest up. Meanwhile, Arkansas will need to be ready for Oral Roberts. Barring foul trouble, I’m guessing Abmas and Obanor will be ready to go for another 40 minutes (or 45, or 50 if the game goes to overtime) on Saturday.
Loyola-Chicago 71, Illinois 58
If I told you going into Sunday’s game that the Illini were the 1-seed and the Ramblers were the 8-seed, you would have thought I was crazy. Loyola-Chicago absolutely embarrassed its in-state big brother in front of a national TV audience.
The Illini had no problem embarrassing themselves, either. Down 8 with 8 minutes left, they did this stupid synchronized floor slap (a la Duke) and immediately gave up an open layup:
Illinois slaps the floor and then gives up a wide open layup.
Never slap the floor. pic.twitter.com/ieNYCNNOYX
— Connor Newcomb (@ConnorNewcomb_) March 21, 2021
Maybe put more effort into defense and less into showmanship? (Sorry, I’m probably just bitter because I picked the Illini to win it all.)
Still, it wasn’t a great day for the Illini, who were absolutely worked by the Ramblers. And, the Porter Moser-Brad Underwood coaching matchup was a mismatch from the opening tip. Heck, Sister Jean put together a better scouting report for Illinois than Underwood did for the Ramblers:
Sister Jean: The next Indiana basketball coach. https://t.co/pRelgUtSie
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) March 21, 2021
Now, Loyola-Chicago is off to the Sweet 16, and you can bet there are some big-name programs waiting for the Ramblers’ season to end so they can make a run at hiring Moser.
If I were Indiana, I would offer Moser anything he wants to get him to Bloomington:
If I’m Indiana, here are my negotiations with Porter Moser: pic.twitter.com/EDShfomikb
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) March 22, 2021
Will he actually leave? He has a pretty great thing going at Loyola-Chicago. And, of course, the Ramblers’ season isn’t done yet. We’ll see if they can make another run to the Final Four!
The Illinois loss was only the start of an awful day for the Big Ten …
Baylor 76, Wisconsin 63
Houston 63, Rutgers 60
This was always going to be a big ask for Wisconsin. Baylor has been 1 of the top 3 teams for most of the season. And, the Bears are getting their mojo back. But, the Badgers were never particularly close to threatening the Bears in this one.
Meanwhile, the opposite was true for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers actually held a 58-49 lead with 4:55 left in the second half. Then, Houston took the lead with a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left and never looked back.
For those keeping score at home, that’s an 0-3 day for the Big Ten. My esteemed colleague Dustin Schutte put it best, using The Office for an assist:
B1G entering March Madness vs. B1G after 3 days of March Madness pic.twitter.com/oH0Xg7V7j0
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) March 22, 2021
This bad day for the Big Ten comes after Purdue and Ohio State also suffered major upsets in Round 1:
The Big Ten had the first No. 1 seed (Illinois), No. 2 seed (Ohio State) and No. 4 seed (Purdue) to lose in #MarchMadness.
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) March 21, 2021
Ouch. Maybe the Big Ten was a tad overrated this year? We’ll find out today, as 2-seed Iowa (vs. 7-seed Oregon) joins Michigan and Maryland (mentioned above) in a quest to make sure the B1G doesn’t get shut out of the Sweet 16.
Could you imagine if that actually happened? What glorious Madness that would be!
Oregon State 80, Oklahoma State 70
Oregon State was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 this preseason. Now, the Beavers are heading to the Sweet 16!
Is Bill Walton an oracle? He just might be:
Bill Walton’s Final Four: USC, Colorado, Oregon State, Oregon (despite being in USC’s region), UCLA (despite that you can only have 4 teams in the final four).
— Dave Pasch (@DavePasch) March 14, 2021
The Pac-12 (AKA the Conference of Champions, as Walton loves to say) is now 7-0 in this tournament. UCLA (vs. Abilene Christian), USC (vs. Kansas), Oregon (vs. Iowa) and Colorado (vs. Florida State) have a chance to make it a perfect 11-0 today.
It’s going to be another great day of basketball, folks!