NCAA Tournament Notebook, Day 5: We believe in the Beavers, Arkansas pulls off another escape and Baylor moves on
And we’re back!
It was certainly strange not having the Sweet 16 games tip off on Thursday, but hey, in this pandemic year, we’ll take what we can get. Saturday’s action was well worth the wait, with some major comebacks and some surprising results.
Oh, and we got 1 of the 2 SEC teams to the next round. Arkansas finally ended 15-seed Oral Roberts’ Cinderella run. Today, we’ll see if Alabama can advance over 11-seed UCLA.
But, before we get there, let’s take a look at some notes from Saturday’s 4 entertaining matchups:
Oregon State 65, Loyola-Chicago 58
When am I finally going to learn to stop counting the Beavers out? I thought Tennessee was going to beat them in Round 1. Nope. I thought Oklahoma State would make quick work of them in Round 2. Wrong.
Then, entering Saturday’s Sweet 16 game, I thought the Ramblers were going to smother Wayne Tinkle’s squad the way they dominated 1-seed Illinois on Sunday. Strike 3.
The Beavers controlled this game from the opening tipoff, never letting go. Oregon State did it with its defense, which was surprising considering Loyola-Chicago had one of the nation’s best defenses this season.
The Ramblers scored only 16 points in the first half before things opened up a bit more after the intermission. But, at the end of the game, the Beavers had held the Ramblers to 33.3% shooting (18-for-54), 21.7% from 3-point range (5-for-23) and 70.8% from the free-throw line (17-for 24).
Meanwhile, the Beavers shot 41.2% from the floor, 38.5% from 3-point range and 90% from the charity stripe. Simply put, the Beavers absolutely outplayed the Ramblers in every aspect offensively.
The Beavers seemed like they hit a lot more than 5 3s, but they only went 5-for-13 from beyond the arc. It probably just seemed like more of a barrage because of smooth shots like this:
Now, the Ramblers’ shot at a second Final Four berth in the last 3 tournaments is dead. But, the Beavers move on.
I’m officially a believer in the Beavers, which is probably the kiss of death for Oregon State fans, based on how wrong I’ve been about this team in the first 3 rounds.
Baylor 62, Villanova 51
That exhaling sound you hear is Baylor fans breathing a sigh of relief. The Wildcats controlled this game for 30 minutes before the Bears finally took over and looked like the 1-seed they are.
The Wildcats took a 30-23 lead into halftime. Then, with 10:28 left in the second half, the Bears pulled even with Villanova, tying it up at 41-41. They never looked back, cruising to the 11-point victory.
Star guard Jared Butler didn’t have his best game, scoring only 9 points. But, he remained fun to watch. Look at this incredible no-look pass to Davion Mitchell:
Mitchell was 1 of 2 Bears in double figures, scoring 14 points. The other? Adam Flagler, who had 16 points off the bench. This was the definition of a “survive and advance” game. The Bears held serve, though, and they’re still alive.
Now, they face a foe from the SEC …
Arkansas 72, Oral Roberts 70
I’ve been predicting all week that Devo Davis would be the key to Arkansas’s ability to advance. After being wrong about so many other things this tournament (cough, Illinois, cough), it was nice to nail this one.
Not only did Davis, the talented freshman, play just enough defense on Max Abmas, the nation’s leading scorer, on the final play — he also hit the game-winning shot for Arkansas on the prior possession:
Here’s another look at the defense played on Abmas on the final possession for the Golden Eagles:
Yes, that was a little close for comfort for Arkansas fans, but he did just enough to alter the shot and make sure it wasn’t a completely clean look. That’s a great play by Davis, who has been clutch all tournament long.
Now, the Hogs are on to their first Elite 8 since 1995, where they’ll have their hands full against 1-seed Baylor. No more lower seeds for the Razorbacks!
One thing we do know, though? Don’t count out the Hogs, even if they get down by 10 or more points:
Arkansas's win against Oral Roberts was their 10th double-digit comeback win this season.
Each of their last 5 wins have come after trailing by double-digits. pic.twitter.com/okM50bMeQ6
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 28, 2021
That’s an incredible stat, and it’s something that teams need to be able to do in March Madness. We’ll see if Arkansas can keep its incredible run going on Monday.
Houston 62, Syracuse 46
I have a theory about Syracuse and its 2-3 zone. I’m sure others have come up with this same theory, so I’m not going to try to claim it as groundbreaking or anything like that.
But, I think the reason Syracuse lives on the bubble in the regular season and then frequently goes on deep runs in March Madness is an issue of familiarity. ACC teams are used to the 2-3 zone. Heck, they’ve had 8 years against Jim Boeheim’s defenses to prepare. Before that, the Big East teams had 34 (yes, 34) years to get used to Boeheim’s schemes.
But, in March Madness, you’re playing teams who don’t have much time to prepare and aren’t used to facing such strict zone defenses. That can lead to the Orange pulling off some major upsets even though they were only a middle-of-the-road team in conference play.
The way you beat the zone, though, is you hit 3-pointers and get out in transition. Well, Houston did just enough of that on Saturday night to earn the win over the Orange and end another March run from a Boeheim-coached squad.
Another way to beat Syracuse’s zone? Play incredible defense of your own.
The Cougars did that on Saturday night, too, shutting down Syracuse’s leading scorer, Buddy Boeheim. Boeheim scored 12 points, but only went 1-for-8 from 3-point range.
It was a rough shooting night for everyone from deep, but managed a slightly better night. The Cougars hit 7 of 26 3-pointers. Syracuse only went 5-for-23 from beyond the arc.
The 46 points was the record for fewest points scored by the Orange in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Houston now gets to set a record for the most double-digit seeds faced in a single tourney.
The Cougars started with a win over 15-seed Cleveland State. Then, they beat 10-seed Rutgers. On Saturday, they took down 11-seed Syracuse. Now, 12-seed Oregon State waits for them on Monday night with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
How weird was that sentence? What a crazy tournament!